For Parents, Science

Article – “Billy Beane Can’t Get Enough of Soccer After Revolutionizing Baseball” from theguardian.com

Below is a link to an excellent article written by Sean Ingle, and posted to http://www.theguardian.com back in October of 2014.  The article discusses Billy Beane, the revolutionary baseball coach and manager, famous for his role in transforming the Oakland Athletics baseball club into perennial contenders in Major League Baseball, despite having the league’s 3rd lowest annual payroll.  In the 2003 best-selling book “Moneyball”, author Michael Lewis made Beane a household name, and his book also brought to light and made famous Beane’s methods of team and player analysis, all of which are based on standardized, objective statistical performance analysis.  In this article, Ingle discusses Bean’e new found fascination with soccer, and how he may be looking to get involved as a “Director of Soccer” with an English Premier League club in the coming years.

I have been working as a sports scientist and fitness coach in soccer at virtually all levels of the game in this country for the past 10 years.  In that time, I have become a strong advocate of the use of standardized, objective performance analysis in the identification and selection of talented soccer players.   If coaches and teams, especially at the higher levels (Provincial, National, and Professional Academy) do not use standardized, objective measurements to assess, track, monitor and evaluate player performance, then they will never be able to ensure that their decisions regarding player identification and selection are truly accurate and unbiased.  They will also likely never be able to maximize the development of the talented players they are working with, because they will be unable to truly objectively evaluate their players’ performance, and to give valuable, constructive feedback to players to allow them to learn and improve.

It is for these reasons that the article I have re-posted below stood out to me so much.  If Beane and his methods can permeate professional European soccer, then perhaps soon after the same methods will start to take hold here in Canada.  Here is a quote from Billy Beane himself, used at the end of the article, which nicely sums up the value of objective performance analysis:

“Numbers are essentially just facts…and ultimately every sport is about numbers. How many points you get, how many wins you get – all numbers. It’s like watching a card‑counter in Vegas playing blackjack. Once you have learned how to count cards, why would you ever go back to doing it on a hunch?”

The ultimate goal of standards-based youth soccer programs, including leagues like the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL), Soccer-Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC), the Canadian Academy of Futbol (CAF), as well as the Ontario Provincial Programs, Canadian National Youth Teams, and professional academies like the Toronto FC Academy, should be to identify who the most talented players are, and then to maximize the development of soccer talent in these players.  In my opinion, the introduction of standardized, objective methods of player and team performance analysis into these leagues and programs is the only way to ensure that this goal is achieved.

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

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/oct/17/billy-beane-soccer-baseball-oakland

 

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Uncategorized

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #15: Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog (and the final edition for the 2015)! In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss the use of home training programs including the Soccer Fitness Gols mobile fitness app, to stay in shape during the up-coming December / Holiday break.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!

For Parents

Article “Canada’s Continuing Struggles to Develop Talented Soccer Players” by Jason Devos, posted on TSN.ca

Below is a link to an excellent article written by Jason De Vos, and posted on http://www.tsn.ca on December 1st, 2015.  As the title suggests, this article discusses some of De Vos’ opinions about why we have not been able to develop “talented” soccer players in Canada over the past several decades.

Among the reasons De Vos lists for our inability to develop talented players are:

  • “from as young as six or seven years of age, players are routinely grouped based on their ability”
  • “we do not have an assessment-based coaching qualification for coaches who are working with youth players”
  • “we have far too many players given the number of trained and experienced coaches we have”
  • “talented young players are courted and recruited from the time they take their very first steps in competitive soccer”
  • “when a season comes to its conclusion, many coaches use the off-season to upgrade their players – they discard the weaker players on their team and recruit stronger ones from other clubs”

These are all, of course, valid concerns, and problems that need to be solved if we are to develop more talented soccer players in this country.

Probably the best point De Vos makes in this article, however, is one that really resonated with me when I read it (probably because I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work at the university, professional club academy, and Canadian National Youth Team levels, which he refers to, in the past few years of my career).  He says very succinctly:

“winning championships and trophies doesn’t matter. Ask any university coach, professional club academy coach or national youth team coach to list the 10 most important factors they look for when they are trying to identify prospective players, and I guarantee you that not one of them will put trophies won on their list.”

When I think back to conversations I had with the different head coaches I worked with in these environments, I can literally recall several examples of them making this exact same point to me.  De Vos summarizes his position with a call to action; that the adults involved in youth soccer in Canada (parents and coaches) need first and foremost to be teachers of the game.  Only if we completely stop emphasizing the pursuit of championships in youth soccer, can we truly focus on the development of essential soccer skills.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did, and of course I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

http://www.tsn.ca/canada-s-continuing-struggles-to-develop-talented-soccer-players-1.402636

Fitness, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #14: Friday, December 11th, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss the upcoming December / Holiday break, how it should be treated as a break from soccer but not a break from exercise, and provide suggestions for youth players to help them stay active and maintain their fitness during this time.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!

Uncategorized

Is Synthetic Turf Really More Dangerous than Natural Grass?

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team decided to withdraw today from their scheduled friendly match versus Trinidad and Tobago in Aloha, Hawaii.  The official reason cited for the cancellation was “dangerous field conditions” and. after seeing the picture above (originally posted by ESPN reporter and former US Women’s National Team star and World Cup winner Julie Foudy on Twitter this afternoon), it’s hard to argue with that sentiment.

The controversy surrounding today’s cancelled match, however, has seemed to re-kindle complaints regarding the use of artificial turf in soccer in general and women’s soccer in particular, that were very much commonplace earlier this year at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.  In that tournament, all 53 matches were played on synthetic turf fields.  Several of the participating players and teams, including members of the Canadian and United States Women’s National Teams, were very vocal in their criticism of FIFA for sanctioning and allowing a major international women’s soccer tournament to be played on synthetic turf.  Among their valid points was that there has never been – and likely never will be – an international men’s soccer tournament played on anything but natural grass.

Much of the debate surrounding the efficacy of the use of synthetic turf fields in soccer has come about as a result of opinions that they are unsafe and place players at a higher risk of injury.  In an article published today by Julie Kliegman of http://www.theweek.com, she states that the United States Women’s players have “taken issue” with playing on synthetic turf fields because they are “considered more dangerous for players than natural grass.”  Recent scientific evidence, however, has suggested that these concerns about the safety – or lack thereof – of synthetic turf surfaces may be unfounded.

Several different independent scientific literature reviews have concluded that there are no differences in incidence and/or risk of injury in soccer between synthetic and natural grass surfaces.  Firstly, in a paper titled “The effect of playing surface on injury rate: a review of the current literature” in 2010, Dragoo & Braun concluded that “despite differences in injury type, the rate of injury on third-generation and natural grass surfaces appears to be comparable.”  More recently, a 2013 paper titled “a review of football injuries on third and fourth generation artificial turfs compared with natural turfs” conducted by Williams et. al. concluded that “studies have provided strong evidence for comparable rates of injury between new generation artificial turfs and natural turfs.”  Finally, a 2015 review by Balazs et. al. focusing specifically on knee injuries titled “Risk of anterior cruciate ligament injury in athletes on synthetic playing surfaces: a systematic review” found that “while high-quality studies support an increased rate of ACL injury on synthetic playing surfaces in American football, there is no apparent increased risk in soccer.”  Furthermore, a number of different soccer-specific research studies, including those by Aoki et. al. (2010), Bjorneboe et. al. (2010, Almutawa et. al. (2014), and Kristenson et. al. (2015) all found no significant difference in injury rates, or risk of injury, between artificial and natural soccer playing surfaces.

Poor quality fields and unsafe field playing surfaces, whether they are synthetic or natural, are certainly a valid concern for any competitive soccer player or team, male or female.  Singling out synthetic turf surfaces, however, as being “more dangerous” than natural grass surfaces, does not make sense based on present scientific evidence.  While more research is needed before any definitive conclusions about the safety of artificial playing surfaces can be made, right now it seems as though there are no differences in safety between artificial and natural playing surfaces for soccer players.

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

Fitness, Science, Technology

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #13: Friday, December 4th, 2015

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, I will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, I discuss how, at the Soccer Fitness Training Centre, we use our high speed running treadmills in combination with Dartfish camera-based software to do running gait analysis with our athletes.

I Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please feel free to post thoughts/comments!