Archive for May, 2009

Good Stuff on Speed and Agility (age related)

I got this content from the following blog:

Recently, I received a good question from a club director that I think may be of interest to a number of coaches across the nation working with youth players.

Does US Youth Soccer have any literature/guidelines regarding at what age it is appropriate for players to start speed and agility training?

I do not have a paper which speaks directly to this topic. However we do know from our colleagues in exercise physiology that there’s no point to speed training until the body is mature enough to respond to the training. This means after the child has reached Peak Height Velocity (PHV). Endurance or speed training becomes effective at 12 to 18 months after PHV, which is about 13 years, 6 months for boys and 11 years, 6 months for girls. Significant results are realized for boys at about 15 years of age and for girls at about 14 years of age and vary with each individual’s physical development.

One practical solution is to use the onset of PHV as a reference point for the design of optimal individual programs with relation to ‘critical’ or ‘sensitive’ periods of trainability during the maturation process. Prior to the onset of PHV, boys and girls can train together and chronological age can be used to determine training, competition and recovery programs.
The average age for the onset of PHV is twelve and fourteen years for females and males respectively. The onset of PHV is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, including climate, cultural influences and social environment.
The onset of PHV is a reference point that provides valuable information for training the players’ energy systems and central nervous system, regardless of chronological age. Using simple measurements, PHV can be monitored and training can be related and optimized to exploit the critical periods of trainability. This approach can enhance the development of short and long-term individually optimized training, competition and recovery programs such as the optimal window of accelerated adaptation to stamina (endurance), strength, speed, skill and suppleness training – or the five S’s of training and performance. It should be pointed out that all energy systems are always trainable, but during the so-called ‘critical’ periods accelerated adaptation will take place if the proper volume, intensity and frequency of exercise are implemented.

What are important to train in childhood are balance, agility, and coordination through a movement education approach. You can also begin to work on form (correct body posture and controlled movement) beginning at U-10. Teaching proper running and jumping mechanics is far more important in the U-10 and U-12 age groups than the speed of a sprint or the height of a jump. Those factors will show up once the child reaches adolescence. Biologically adolescence ranges from age 15 to 23, with each player coming into and finishing adolescence at their own rate. Here are some facts on speed training once they have reached late puberty or early adolescence.

· Pure speed- the ability to cover the distance between two points in the shortest amount of time.
· Technical speed- the ability to perform skills at speed.
· Mental speed- ability of the player to be aware of all factors, conditions and options inside and outside of the game.

At any level, speed separates the outstanding players from the average… So, soccer speed training sessions should play a major role in your training. Speed in soccer can be quite complex. It certainly entails more than just running fast. When you talk about speed in the game, here are some of the attributes that will make for better players…

• Quick speed off the mark
• Quick acceleration over 10-15 yards
• Good speed endurance
• Speed in possession of the ball
• Quickness of feet or agility
• The ability to quickly change direction
• The ability to execute skills quickly
• Last but not least… speed of thought

You can see from the above that good 100 yard sprinters don’t necessarily have the attributes to be quick soccer players. And by the same token some players who are not typically fast runners can excel in soccer if they have sharp feet and quick speed of thought. Remember that old phrase…’The first 10 yards are in your head.’

Absolute speed or the ability to run fast is determined by a number of factors – the obvious one being genetics. But if a player has been blessed with less than favorable sprinting genes don’t worry too much. A good soccer speed training program will improve the efficiency of the muscle fibers (if not the type or amount of them) and that will make players faster. So, one goal of your soccer speed training schedule should be to increase their sprinting power – particularly their acceleration and speed off the mark. Soccer players rarely sprint more than 50 yards in a straight line.

A second, and equally important, goal is to increase your speed endurance. Speed endurance training significantly improves physical recovery after a bout of repetitive sprints. The body’s ability to remove lactic acid increases which can make such a difference to a player’s game.

Thirdly, a soccer speed training program should improve agility, foot speed and reaction time. Exercises to improve agility don’t tend to be physically taxing. The emphasis is on short, sharp movements of a high quality.

Finally, incorporating a ball into some of the speed and agility drills is important to make all those gains in speed transferable to the field of play.

As for speed of thought, that’s one that we can begin to train at U-6 through game-like activities and using guided discovery in the coaching method. Coaches need to attend the National Youth License coaching course to learn more in these areas.


May 20, 2009 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Soccer is a lifetime sport

I got this in an email from the Utah State Soccer Technical Director, Greg Maas. He recently attended the US Youth Soccer Association conference in San Jose where the NSCAA Technical Director, Jeff Tipping had this to say about soccer as a lifetime sport:

“My take on youth development involves developing a soccer
culture….something which all of the player development organizations can
work together on. One of the issues I would have referred to in this
regard is age bracketing at the older “youth” age groups:

1. Age bracketing at the post 16 year old age bracket. It has always been
my view that you learn best from playing against better & older
players…..yet, due to our age bracketing we have players who only play
against players their own age….for life! We have college graduates who
have never played against a 35 year old until they graduate from college.
Being excluded from adult soccer is an issue with the Premier League &
other international Academies – which was the topic you asked me to speak
on. The second point goes with it.

2. Lack of adult teams at the pinnacle of the American club pyramid. The
vast majority of our clubs are like a headless body….youth teams with no
senior teams at the top. I think one of the indications of a healthy soccer
culture is the presence of large numbers of adult leagues & although that
is not exactly your mission i t should be a focal point in player
development as it gives younger players a goal, helps create a soccer
culture &, possibly, serves as an excellent modeling experience for young
players. This leads me to the third point.

3. Modeling. A huge aspect of player development is modeling….watching
older players play & mimicking them. This is particularly important in the
9-14 year age group. We all know our kids don’t watch enough soccer & part
of the reason is because younger players don’t get the habit of watching
soccer from older players. There seems to be a huge dividing line between
“Youth” players & “Senior” players & they rarely seem to mix. This is a
great pity & a significant aberration compared to other countries.”

I could not agree more! One major component missing from today’s clubs is the adult league. Why should it be that only our kids play for a club? Why can’t our clubs have an adult league. All European clubs have this component in all major sports. Why not America? Are we too busy? Are we too lazy? Do we think that soccer is just a kid’s sport?

I think it is, again, a mindset that we think “Well, I support my kid in soccer. I’m too busy/old/tired, etc. to play the game myself.” Bullshit! Get out on that field and show your kids that you can play! They will look up to you and respect you just for trying! A lot of the kids on my team come to watch me play indoor soccer. Whether it is comic relief for them (“come watch coach make a fool of himself”) or they come to cheer me on, I don’t care. They are coming out and seeing that I am, at least, trying to do what I am teaching them how to do. And a lot of them help me by giving me coaching tips just like I would give them when they are playing. It builds camaraderie between us and helps them understand what it is like trying to coach a player and helps me understand what they have to go through on the field.

I will be submitting my ideas to my club for a formal adult league. Maybe we will have to change our charter to include adult teams. But it is something that needs to be done to create a culture of soccer in America.

May 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

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