Fitness, Science

Running Doesn’t Suck | T Nation

I am re-blogging a link to an excellent article, written by Max Shank and posted to http://www.t-nation.com, called “Running Deosn’t Suck.”

Of course, I agree with this statement, and I think that the article makes some very good and valid scientific arguments as to why running does not suck.

I’d love to know your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Running Doesn’t Suck | T Nation.

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Article – “Opinion: 4 Problems in Youth Sports Today” from KSL.com

Below is a link to an article written by Brittany Jones, posted on http://www.ksl.com, a Utah-based news website.  The article, titled “4 Problems in Youth Sports Today,” could just as easily been titled “4 Problems in Youth Soccer Today.”  Personally, I think problem #3 (“specializing children too young”) is the most interesting topic, as there are a few different schools of thought about this subject.  I hope you enjoy the article, and would like to hear your thoughts.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1009&sid=34326118

Fitness, Nutrition, Science

Does Staying Hydrated Really Improve Performance?

Recently, in my Advanced Exercise Physiology class, I was given the assignment of writing a paper about the effectiveness of hydration on both the prevention of heat illnesses, as well as improvements in physical performance.  As I went through the relevant literature, I quickly noticed that there seemed to be dozens – if not hundreds – of papers published about how hydration can prevent mild and severe heat illnesses, ranging from simple dehydration to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Finding information about the effects of optimal hydration on athletic and sports performance was a bit more difficult, but some pretty clear evidence does exist.    For example, Walsh et. al. (1994) demonstrated the performance benefits associated with remaining fully hydrated during exercise. They had subjects cycle for one hour at 70% of VO2 peak before exercising to exhaustion at 90% of VO2 peak, a task that required about 6-10 minutes to complete. When the subjects were allowed to dehydrate by only 1.8% of their body weight, they lasted slightly more than six minutes before becoming fatigued. When they remained fully hydrated by ingesting fluid at regular intervals throughout the hour of steady-state cycling, they were able to cycle for almost 10 minutes, a large and significant improvement in performance.

Similar effects have been seen with studies done on competitive runners.  Casa et. al. (2010) examined physiological and performance variables among trail distance runners when running in the heat.  Their study measured these variables among 2 groups of elite trail distance runners during both a sub-maximal and maximal race trial in the heat.  One group of runners was well hydrated, and the other was dehydrated, during both the sub-maximal and maximal trials.  The results of the study demonstrated decreased body mass and body water loss, lower core body temperature, better running economy, and faster running times over time trials, in hydrated distance runners versus dehydrated distance runners.  The researchers surmised that “even a small decrement in hydration status impaired physiologic function and performance while trail running in the heat.”

The “take-home” message for soccer coaches and fitness coaches is that proper hydration will not only prevent heat illness, but it will also allow players to maximize their physical performance.  Improvements in running economy, as well as in aerobic and anaerobic endurance, should translate directly into better soccer performance on the pitch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the converstion started.

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24000 coaches and counting!!

Here is an excellent article from http://www.KidzFutbol.com. It is a long read, but contains a very informative and well written summary and comparison of the youth futbol (soccer) developmental systems in Spain versus here in Canada. What I found particularly striking was the presented ratios in Spain (as well as in other European countries) of UEFA B/A Licesned coaches to the number of youth players registered (versus the same ratio of Canadian B/A Licensed coaches to players here in Canada), as well as the very demanding curriculum of the coaching course in Spain.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

A look into Youth Futbol

10477328_10152813144535056_4142523240788623433_o We talk about the many shortfalls of Canadian futbol, from the lack of culture in the game, to no professional league to aspire to, to no futbol outside futbol. What this means is the lack of unstructured play for kids on their own. This is happening more and more because of the constant demands on children and probably the biggest downfall that we talk about are the lack of high quality coaches. We always say we should have the best coaches at the grassroots level to develop these kids properly and often these coaches are at High Performance age groups when it is sometimes too late. Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 5.06.03 PM In my short time in Spain or Catalonia depending who you ask :),  I have come to realize everybody is an ‘expert’  in futbol. It’s their national game and last I checked they had almost 24000 and counting UEFA A, B or Pro coaches…

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Science

Why the OSA’s “Technical Benchmark Exercises” are a Good Idea

With the advent of the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) in 2013, some unique challenges have arisen for coaches working in the league, as well as in the top tier soccer programs in Ontario (Regional, Provincial, and National teams).  Because the OPDL has been set up as a standards-based, “high performance” league in Ontario, and because the high performance player pathway in the province will now involve players being selected into the Regional/Provincial and National programs directly from the league, the identification and monitoring of talented players in the OPDL is of paramount importance.  One unique step that the Ontario Soccer Association has taken which can be of use to help coaches in the talent identification process is the introduction in 2014 of their “Technical Benchmark Exercises”.  Created for use with U12 and U13 players, these exercises comprise a standardized, objective method of technical skill assessment that can be administered by a coach to a team of up to 24 players, in less than 2 hours (1 practice session).  These exercises were not created with talent identification in mind, but I believe they can be useful to help identify talent because they are standardized and objective.  It should be noted that in the OSA’s description of these exercises, they state that the exercises:

“are geared towards motivating players to spend time on their own, improve their ball control, short range passing, speed and agility with the ball, and, the use of their instep for driven balls and shooting. A player that controls the ball is a player that helps control the tempo of the game and contributes to the team’s tactical abilities.”

Among the technical abilities assessed are:

  • Head juggling
  • Ball mastery
  • Dribbling and turning
  • Controlled running with the ball
  • Passing and receiving
  • Power shooting
  • Driven long balls
  • (GK’s only) Hand ball distribution

As a sport scientist, I like the idea of standardized measurement of ability.  At Soccer Fitness, everything we do is standardized, including all our soccer-specific fitness assessments, the workloads/intensities of our training sessions, and even our rest and recovery protocols.  The advantages of a standardized technical skills assessment protocol like the one the OSA has developed is that it will prevent coaches’ subjective opinions (and possible bias) from influencing the decisions they make about players’ abilities.  Also of great value is the establishment of “baseline” scores and standards/norms for the test scores.  These standards and norms can help all players and coaches to set goals and try to beat their previous scores, and eventually (once enough data has been collected) they can also be used to establish technical standards for the OPDL and the higher level programs into which players from the OPDL will be selected.

In their official document, the OSA also states that the goals of their Technical Benchmark Exercises are to:

  1. Measure fundamental technical skills at the Youth National Team level
  2. Measure fundamental technical skills at the Club level
  3. Use results as feedback to players on skills to improve
  4. Encourage players to spend time on their own mastering the ball
  5. Test players thee (3) times a year; to provide feedback and personal reward for measurable improvement.

Of course, the process of talent identification cannot simply rely on the measurement of technical skills.  Coaches must be able to assess many different abilities, some of which are difficult or even impossible to objectively measure, including tactical/positional play, game intelligence, decision making ability, and personality/attitude.  The OSA’s establishment of Technical Benchmark Exercises, however, will provide coaches and players with a useful tool with which they can objectively measure their technical skills, and the exercises should be helpful for coaches to identify talented young players from the high performance pathways in Ontario.  Below is a link the the PDF file of the Technical Benchmark Exercises from the Ontario Soccer Association’s website:

http://www.ontariosoccer.net/Portals/11/ltpd/opdl/OPDL%20Player%20-%20Technical%20Benchmark%20Excercises.pdf

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

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Article “The 4 Biggest Problems in Youth Sports Today” from changingthegameproject.com

Below is a link to an article from http://www.changingthegameroject.com, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite websites! This article presents issues that many people involved in youth soccer here in this country should be able to relate to.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

http://changingthegameproject.com/4-the-biggest-problems-in-youth-sports-today/?inf_contact_key=8b7cc735450e2598bbab0734db183dbe39e34e0442b5952264683b73fd5c009e

Matches, Science

Article – How Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney Think on the Field, by Simon Kuper

Below is a link to an excellent article written by Simon Kuper, a soccer journalist, blogger for ESPN.com and co-author of the famous book ‘soccernomics.’  In this article he explains that the greatest reason why exceptional players like Messi and Rooney are able to play the game better than others has nothing to do with their technical or physical abilities.  It is their speed of thought – the ability to make decisions quicker than other players – that sets them apart on the pitch.

The article contains examples and interviews with several other great players and coaches, including Diego Maradona, Danny Blind, Klaus-Jann Huntelaar and Carlos Queiroz,  I think any players, parents or coaches will find this article interesting as well as practically useful.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

http://www.espnfc.us/blog/espn-fc-united-blog/68/post/2367302/lionel-messi-and-wayne-rooney-show-us-that-football-is-a-thinking-game-simon-kuper