The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.
Today’s Tip of the Day is about fitness testing. Many fitness coaches, regardless of the level they work at, are pressed for time. Coaches typically want to use as much of their team’s training time as possible on technical and tactical training, so finding even 1 full day to devote completely to fitness testing can sometimes be challenging. The type of test that is required in high performance environments is one that can accurately assess players’ physical ability in the least amount of time possible. In sports science, a fitness assessment should always meet the following criteria:
- It must be valid (it must actually measure what it is said to measure)
- It must be reliable (it must only use equipment/tools that are reliable and will work consistently)
- It must be repeatable (the administration of the test should be consistent from one tester to the next)
Considering all of these criteria, the one test that all fitness coaches should use for soccer is the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test. Originally developed by researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, this test comprises a 2 x 20 metre shuttle run, done at progressively increasing speeds, with a 10-second break between each shuttle (the 10-second break is constant and does not change throughout the test). Players must perform the shuttle runs in time with audio beep signals, and they are given 1 warning if they do not run across the 20 metre line in time with the beep (the 2nd time this occurs, the test is over). A score (stage reached), as well as the total distance covered in the test, is recorded by the testers. There are 2 different Levels (Level 1, and Level 2) of the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (Level 1 starts at a lower speed, and is thus used for females, and males under the age of 15).
A number of research studies over the past 10 years have been done on the Yo-Yo tests, and they have stood up as being valid, reliable, and repeatable. Most importantly for soccer fitness coaches, the Yo-Yo tests have been shown to be the best predictors of the total amount of high intensity running a player can do in a game. Simply put, a player who covers more distance in the Yo-Yo test has the capacity to cover more distance at high intensity (typically defined as running speeds of 23km/hour or greater in females, and 28km/hour or higher in males) in a game. The tests are also very sensitive to training, so that if a player trains properly, they should see improvements in their Yo-Yo test score. Finally, the Yo-Yo tests are also the most convenient choice, because an entire team can be tested at the same time, on the pitch, and even the fittest players will not last more than 15-20 minutes during either of the tests.
I have used the Yo-Yo tests with all the athletes I have worked with over the past 8 years, including club, college/university, Provincial/National teams, and professional academies and first teams, both here in Canada and abroad. They have been an invaluable tool for me to assess players’ fitness; to establish standards and norms; to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of training programs; and to provide quick and useful information to the coaches I have worked with.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.