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Rising tennis star appoints Power strength and nutrition coach

Port Adelaide's strength coach and performance nutritionist Andrew Rondinelli has joined tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis [picture: portadelaidefc.com.au/Kane Chenoweth]
Port Adelaide's strength coach and performance nutritionist Andrew Rondinelli has joined tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis [picture: portadelaidefc.com.au/Kane Chenoweth]

AFTER six years at Alberton, Port Adelaide’s strength coach and performance nutritionist Andrew Rondinelli is packing his bags and leaving the Power.

His new destination is the world tennis circuit as the head strength and conditioning coach for Adelaide-based tennis tyro (and Port ambassador) Thanasi Kokkinakis.

There he will spend half of the year on tour as part of Kokkinakis’s coaching and performance team, with the rest of the year spent back home  in Adelaide.

It’s been a long time coming for Rondinelli, who was first introduced to the emerging tennis star in Dubai through Adelaide’s former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, a close mate of the Power’s forwards coach Tyson Edwards.

Through that connection, Kokkinakis’s coach Todd Langman worked closely with Rondinelli after the Power’s first trip to Dubai.

That allowed Rondinelli to observe the youngster play alongside names like Roger Federer, in turn aiding his own development with Port Adelaide.

Now he’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime, and takes it with the blessing of the Power’s coaching team.

“I had the opportunity to stay an extra four days to watch Thanasi and Roger Federer train as part of my professional development,” Rondinelli told portadelaidefc.com.au.

"From there I was able to develop a relationship with Thanasi’s team and his coach and it’s grown from there.”

Rondinelli has done just about every job inside the Power’s high performance team since his first season with the club in 2010.

Working on strength and conditioning with the club’s first year players, managing high performance data, strength training through to his current helming of the Power’s performance nutrition program, his broad suite of skills will come in handy when managing the strength, diet and recovery needs of one athlete.

He’ll be solely responsible for Kokkinakis’s performance, which after eight years working in the AFL system (he worked at Carlton prior to joining the Power) will be a significant change from the tight-knit environment of multiple professionals working under Port Adelaide’s high performance manager Darren Burgess.

While Kokkinakis has gained a member of a highly-regarded fitness development team to hone his own performance, the loss of Rondinelli to the world tennis tour remains a string in the bow of the Port Adelaide professional body.

“Employer of choice” and “world’s best practice” are ideals that Port Adelaide’s chairman David Koch has been preaching since coming on board as head of the club at the end of 2013.

Port has seen two senior assistant coaches appointed to head coaching positions in the last two years and the development of an elite sports performance academic program with the University of South Australia.

It experience that Rondinelli says will contribute significantly to the way he manages Kokkinakis’s performance.

“AFL is probably top-of-the-table in regards to sports science, and working under Darren and [head of sports science] Stuart Graham has taught me a lot of skills that I’ll be bringing along to tennis,” Rondinelli said.

“Tennis is generally considered a little ‘old school’ so hopefully my experience at Port can help develop Thanasi a little bit more in some of those areas.

“Being at Port and working with six or seven other guys in the high performance team and in the industry generally is really good – it’s hard to leave – but something I’m really looking forward to and have had heaps of support from inside the club to do.”

High performance is practical magic

While outsiders might consider the development of elite fitness practices to be a complex art, Rondinelli says the principles of high performance are very simple.

His philosophy, which will take effect when he officially joins Kokkinakis in October, is built around getting the basics right.

The fundamentals of fitness – diet and nutrition, recovery and training intensity – lay the critical foundation from which elite level practices can make tiny gains.

“High training intensity, recovery, proper sleep and proper nutrition between games – if you can do those things correctly, you can start worry about more scientific training and monitoring methods,” he says.

“Do the basics really well, if you can’t do them well there’s no point in doing anything else.”

“I’m working for a good bloke”

Whereas Rondinelli answers directly to Port’s high performance manager, and through him its senior coaching panel to manage athlete performance, from October his boss will also be the athlete.

“Thanasi is my boss, and he and his coach will work out where he needs to improve and then it will be for me to decide the methods he needs to develop himself," he says.

“He’s a really good kid, really down to earth.

“When I’ve worked with him before, he’s been really keen to improve in every way he can.

“Helps that he’s a Port man as well, we’ll be watching games on the iPad together.”