Soccer is physically demanding. It involves repeated high-intensity activities such as running, tackling, jumping, and turning. Professional players make close to 1100 intensity changes and cover a distance of almost 7 miles during a game.Fitness training improves a player’s ability to endure the physical demands of soccer and maintain their technical abilities. Regardless of age or ability, every soccer player can benefit from a fitness training program.
Let’s take a minute to breakdown what happens in a game….
The graph shows us how far players run for each 15 minutes of the game. As you can see, we start by running a lot, pick it up again before half time, then gradually slow down throughout the second half. If we got fitter, imagine what would happen to the chart above…
This one breaks down what a player does in each game. As you can see, in 90 minutes, they spend about 10 minutes standing still, 32 walking, 24 jogging, and only 60 seconds sprinting. The blue line shows the total distance for each activity, so for the 32 minutes of walking, the player covered just over 2 miles. The same graph divided into males and females is also interesting. Males tend to do more Standing, walking, and sprinting, while females prefer to to jogging and moving at moderate speed. Also males do about four times more running backwards than women.
Finally, this graph shows how much distance players cover depending on their position. As you can see, midfielders move considerably more than anyone else for all of the periods of the game. In the first 15 minutes they average 1.3 miles. Defenders start well and then drop off around the middle before picking up their game again at the end. This is most worrying because forwards (their biggest threat) play hard for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
So do we really need fitness as part of soccer practices for youth players? The graph above shows the performance of players who were told to run during an intermittent field test. As you can see, with no training, the players still all improved consistently. The group aged 24 were all professional soccer players, showing that it is unlikely that fitness training has any real benefit in the long term.
However, in the short term, it can be proven that fitness is part of what decides who is first to the ball. Developing explosivity and stamina can determine the outcome of the game.