Charlton Education and Welfare Assistant, Ladoki Toya, balances powertlifting and looking after the Addicks' future stars.
She recently earned bronze at the All England Women’s Powerlifting Championship. The competition, which took place in late August at Moulton College in Northamptonshire, was delayed a year owing to COVID, with Ladoki having qualified in 2019 after finishing second in her respective weight class at the Greater London Championship.
And with the event being pushed back came a new series of challenges to Ladoki, who, fortunately, was able to train during lockdown with a barbell, rack and pull-up bar drilled to her house and 200 kilograms worth of plates, dumbbells and kettlebells.
“I had to cut into this weight class (under 63 kilograms) because I put on a tiny bit of weight due to COVID like everybody else!” she jokes. “I increased my training to six days a week and I was cycling on a spin bike two days out of the seven in the week. I’ve been training consistently for about five years now.
“I’d started lifting consistently at the gym and I enjoyed the feeling of getting stronger. I then realised, through Instagram really, that there was a whole community of women and girls who were lifting heavy. I found out that there was this thing called powerlifting and I thought, ‘let me give it a go’. I built up my lifts, I did quite well and I think I’d done about three or four competitions before I did the All England’s.
“In terms of the weight training that I do, I train four days a week with two hour sessions,” she adds. “I make sure that I do all of the lifts - the squat, bench press and deadlift - plus other movements, so I might build up my back by doing pull-ups, rows etc. You must obviously train those three lifts across the week, I do that four times a week. Strict diet, nutrition, hydration and sleep are important for recovery and building strength.”
The three discipline event sees competitors perform three attempts for each discipline - a squat, a bench press and a deadlift - with Ladoki lifting a total of 345 kilograms to earn bronze, finishing just 2.5 kilograms shy of silver.
“I got third place in the under 63 weight class - I weighed in at 62.6 kilos,” explains Ladoki. “I got a squat of 122.5 kilograms, a bench press of 67.5 kilograms, which is more than my bodyweight, and a deadlift of 155 kilograms.
“I had a lot of support from Tony Stevens who coached me on the day,” she continues. “He is a legend and a three time former IPF World Champion. I split training between a commercial gym and Crystal Palace Powerlifting Club, which has calibrated weight, and that’s where I met Tony. He knows his stuff and gave me the confidence boost I needed on the day... I just wish I listened to him when he said I should go for a higher deadlift attempt!
“I’m stronger than all of the Charlton Academy coaches!” adds Ladoki. “I am though really, they have admitted it!
“I’m pleased with how well it went on the day. It’s sometimes difficult to balance it with my busy day job and family life but my colleagues have been so interested in my training and really supportive. My hard work has delivered.”
Ladoki has worked within the club’s esteemed Academy since January 2015, operating in the Education and Welfare team to help support players in balancing their education and football commitments, while also developing strong relationships with schools and families to enable high quality education support.
“I came in to assist the Education and Welfare department, however my role has grown really,” explains Ladoki, who now leads the under-9s to under-16s in education, coordinating and managing both the full-time model and the hybrid school release.
“We have a hybrid programme whereby boys that are under-15 and under-16 have increased contact with the under-18s, so we have a three-way liaison between the schools and their families because they come out during the afternoons so they miss some school.
“We have to ensure that they don’t fall behind, so we have to have good liaison with the schools. That involves getting all their school reports, speaking to their school teachers about how well they’re doing, looking at their target grades.
“If they are falling behind a bit then we will make arrangements for them to go back into school, spend a bit more time with school and then come back with us once they’ve achieved those target grades. It’s not just focussed on football, the education is just as important to us,” she stresses.
“I don’t just get to know the boys on an educational level, I really take an interest in what they do out on the pitch. I get to know them personally, I get to know their families a lot - I’ve been invited to christenings and stuff. I really get a strong connection, a strong relationship with families over time and watch some of them grow from babies into first-team players!
“I see them through the Academy and I get to know them more on a personal level. I think that’s an important part of my role - the holistic side rather than just the performance-related side. Sometimes, because I have that sort of relationship with them, they’re able to come to me in times of need, whereby sometimes there’s things that they might not necessarily like to talk to their coaches about, so I provide the balance really.”
Charlton fans can support the academy by signing up to the Valley Gold scheme. Valley Gold enables fans to support the clubs academy in unearthing the talents of tomorrow, as well as giving them the chance to win cash prizes.