VISTA — The San Diego Loyal might be new to the region but the public can expect to see a familiar face on the sidelines: longtime North County physical therapist Annemarie Alf.
Alf, who owns Olympus Movement Performance in Vista, this month was named the performance director for the USL professional men’s soccer team, a Division II league, that will play its inaugural season next year.
“We are really excited to be able to bring this level of soccer to San Diego,” said Alf, who resides in Carlsbad. “We hope that the energy of Torero Stadium (at the University of San Diego) will be loud and fun. We are looking to make a playoff run in 2020.”
Alf, who graduated from the University of St. Augustine with a doctorate in physical therapy, has a lengthy career. She’s worked with athletes of all ages for nearly two decades, including players from the San Diego Sockers and most recently, the Chinese gymnastics team that will soon head to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. She said her background has allowed her to prepare for her new position with the San Diego Loyal.
“We are thrilled to have Olympus Movement Performance, and specifically Annemarie, lead our club on the performance side,” said National Soccer Hall of Famer Landon Donovan, who will serve as the team’s manager and executive vice president of operations. “Annemarie is dedicated and passionate and, having seen her work with professional athletes, I know she is the right person for this job. We are incredibly lucky to have her as such a critical part of our staff.”
Alf — who is a national champion waterski jumper, Crossfit athlete and Ironman finisher — said she has several goals for the 25 athletes during their season, including keeping them healthy so they are able to perform at their “highest level.”
“We will focus and prepare athletes on all levels of performance from nutrition, rehab to recovery, and of course, implementation strength and speed programs,” Alf said. “We’ll also help manage and oversee the athletes’ workload data to help mitigate injury risk. We will work closely with their daily, weekly, and monthly data to help us create optimal training plans both on and off the field.”
But, the role of performance director will come with its challenges, Alf said.
“USL is very long season with preseason starting in January and post season could take us all the way thru mid-November,” Alf said. “We will have a very holistic system in place that many of these athletes have never had before so educating them on the importance of all aspects performance-related will be our biggest challenge.”
Alf said she’ll work with the team to create an “environment, in which our San Diego Loyal athletes will have access to every piece of the performance model.”
“A lot of soccer players have come from backgrounds that didn’t include a full performance, strength, sports rehab and nutrition staff,” Alf said. “They’ve maybe grown up just playing soccer and have had no experience in the weight room or how to recover properly or more importantly, how to fuel their bodies from a hydration or food standpoint.”
Despite her big plans with the new soccer team, Alf said she’ll still be active at Olympus Movement Performance in Vista where she works with athletes of all ages. She also plans to continue to offer full services including sports rehabilitation, functional medicine and nutrition guidance with the help of her staff.
For now, the Buffalo, New York, native said she’s excited to join the San Diego Loyal to the region.
“We have some lofty goals for the team in the coming years,” Alf said. “This will be a championship-winning team. We are hopeful that maybe in the coming years we will have the opportunity to move up into the Major League Soccer level.”
Alf said she also hopes to inspire younger athletes to approach their lives in a holistic way, the way the San Diego Loyal team will be taught.
“I would love to see all our local younger club team athletes implement the same holistic system that we will bring to the San Diego Loyal,” Alf said. “Strength and performance training with the proper nutrition and hydration are the keys to a young athlete’s success as a soccer player and also to remain injury free. Our long-term goals are to have successful results with the SD Loyal on and off the field, but to reach into the community of the younger soccer athletes as well.”