Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents

It’s Time to STOP “Holiday” Soccer Camps! Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #67: 12/31/2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Holiday season!

In keeping with the Holiday theme, this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog discusses the prevalence of “Holiday” soccer camps that run throughout the December/January Christmas break, and whether or not it is worthwhile for young soccer players to participate in these camps during their time off from school and their regular soccer schedules.

I hope you like the video and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents, Science

Coaches – Don’t Make This Mistake When Teaching Kicking Technique

By: Abdullah Zafar

Picture this: your team has won a free kick on the edge of the box and your dead ball specialist lines up the perfect shot. You expect the ball in the back of the net but instead it ends up flying high over the crossbar.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

If your answer was “they didn’t keep their body over the ball” then you’re on the right track BUT what you observed was just a side effect and not the root cause of the poor technique.

In fact, not only does leaning back not necessarily mean the ball will launch high into the air, numerous studies have also shown that maximum power is generated in this way.  Leaning back when striking the ball maximizes the range of motion and muscle recruitment of the kicking leg.

Think about it, in which scenario would you feel more powerful when striking: when you plant your foot directly under your body or slightly in front?  The fact is, planting your foot in front of your body creates a bigger distance for the kicking foot to travel and build speed, resulting in a more powerful strike.

Leaning to produce more power is definitely a plus, but a powerful shot is useless if there is no accuracy, so how does lean affect accuracy?  As a matter of fact, there are only three factors which contribute to the flight path of the ball:

  • foot orientation during ball contact
  • foot speed during ball contact
  • area of foot-to-ball contact.

Notice the common theme here? All three factors depend solely on the instant of foot-to-ball contact (not whether you lean back or not).

To explore further, foot orientation means how the foot is positioned when striking (e.g. ankle locked, toes pointed down) and determines how much energy is transferred from the foot to the ball.  Foot speed is simply how fast the foot is moving and determines the resulting speed of the ball.

Finally, and most importantly for accuracy, the area of foot-to-ball contact refers to the area on the ball that the foot strikes (e.g. dead center, above/below center, right/left side of ball).

It may seem obvious, but think about playing a ground pass straight ahead versus to the left or right. The only consideration when playing that pass is that the ball is hit dead center for it to move straight forward or hit on the left/right to pass it sideways.  The same idea would apply when talking about the ball in the vertical direction: hitting the ball below center lifts it into the air while hitting the ball dead center keeps it level.


So, what is the best way for coaches to take all of this information and correct their players’ kicking technique?

Instead of saying “body over the ball”, it would be more effective to say “plant your foot beside the ball”.  What then happens is that the arc of the kicking foot naturally contacts the ball closer to its center.  If the foot was planted behind the ball, the kicking foot would “reach” forward, contacting the ball below its center causing it to lift into the air.

Coincidentally, reaching forward with the leg means leaning back more with the body, which is where the concept of “body over the ball” originally came from.  While this concept was a certainly a good start, a more thorough analysis would indicate that leaning back wasn’t the main issue but misplacing the plant foot was.

Ultimately as coaches, this example should encourage us to examine the information we are giving our players and ensure it is as accurate as possible.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback!

Abdullah Zafar is currently studying mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto, as well as working at Soccer Fitness Inc. as a strength & conditioning coach and research associate in biomechanics. For more from Abdullah, you can follow his soccer & physics content on Instagram @abdul.zaf, or check out his research work at:


Fitness, For Coaches, Science

Coaching Courses Didn’t Kill Coaching. Lack of Knowledge Killed Coaching

The trouble with the internet is that it allows anyone to say anything, about anything, regardless of their credibility or expertise.

To make matters worse, if somebody says something on the internet that is popular, they are bound to generate a reaction in which others agree with what has been said, regardless of whether what was said is factually true or not.

Lack of objectivity in the dissemination of information online can lead to the rise in popularity of ideas and opinions which have no factual basis in science or objective truth, and unfortunately, this was the case with a recent article written and published on the blog,, titled “How Coaching Courses Killed Coaching.”

Here is a link to the full article:

Its main points can be summarised as follows:

  • 90% of the material presented in coaching courses is available on the internet, and most of it is available for free (so there is no need for coaches to pay for or attend courses in which present information that can be attained for free elsewhere).
  • When coaches at a National high performance coaching workshop were asked the question “what are the key qualities a successful coach must have?” they responded with: ““commitment,” “dedication,” “vision,” “passion,” “empathy,” “creativity,” “compassion,” “connection” (the point being, they did not list knowledge of any particular coaching or sports science topic among the key qualities coaches must possess).
  • Prior to the advent of the internet, coaching courses were full of sports science because this information was difficult to access; now, with the relative ease of access of information relating to sports science, presenting this information in coaching courses is a waste of time and is “killing coaching”
  • Coaching courses must instead focus on teaching coaches how to “create positive, enjoyable, interesting and engaging sports experiences for them – based on their, i.e. the kids’ and the parents’ specific needs”

Once again, it must be stated that these opinions, while they may be popular, are simply not rooted in objective, scientific facts.

Below are three reasons why coaching courses – including and especially those which present and teach  sports science – did not kill coaching, and how to objectively argue with those who ascribe to this popular – albeit incorrect – theory.

  1. Just because coaches listed “commitment, dedication, vision, passion etc..” as the most important qualities for a coach to possess, doesn’t mean that these qualities are truly the most important.

In any profession, including coaching, the most important quality that coaches MUST strive for is knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching.  Without knowledge, a coach could be highly committed, but he or she would still be presenting incorrect information to his or her players; without knowledge, a coach could be the most passionate person in the world, but he or she would still be presenting information that may be misleading or harmful to the development of his or her players.

You get the point.

Imagine, for instance, that medical schools, rather than prioritizing that aspiring doctors demonstrate their knowledge and competence in biology, physiology, etc. instead prioritized personality traits and the ability to communicate effectively with patients.  Of course, such abilities are important – and they ought to be taught in medical school – but to think that anyone in the medical profession would dismiss the teaching of scientific information in medical school is a “waste of time” simply because this information is available for free on the internet, is ludicrous.

And it isn’t any less ludicrous if it happens in coaching courses.

This isn’t to say that commitment, passion etc. aren’t important qualities for a coach to possess – they most certainly are.  The key point is that coaches must use their commitment and passion to drive their acquisition of knowledge, which is the only way for a coach to truly maximize the development of athletes under their charge.

  1. Just because sports science information is available for free online, doesn’t mean that coaches will use this information. 

And, furthermore, it doesn’t mean that this freely available information will lead to coaches actually improving their knowledge of the subject matter.

Think about this logically for one second.  If we accept the idea that, simply because information about a topic is available for free online, there is no need to present or teach this information in educational courses or schools, then why, since the advent of the internet, have we not seen the development of hundreds of millions of “experts” in all areas of scientific study?

The answer: most people do not learn or acquire knowledge simply by reading articles on the internet.  People – coaches included – learn in a variety of ways, including by listening to knowledgeable teachers and instructors, by writing and taking notes, by communicating and interacting with others, and by participating in activities related to the subject matter they are learning about.

Knowledge of the relevant subject matter – which is the most important quality a coach must have for them to effectively teach this subject matter to players – is thus best acquired in an environment in which these different forms of learning are made available.

Any of you who attended a college, university or any other type of technical school to gain knowledge or learn a particular skill or trade, ask yourself the following question:

“Would I really have learned this material and developed my expertise in this subject matter in the same way and to the same degree, had I not attended school and simply read about these topics on the internet?”

I think you will likely find that the answer to this question is “no.”

  1. Just because knowledge – the “technical” side of coaching – and passion – the “personal/ psychological” side of coaching – are both important, doesn’t mean that coaching courses cannot instill and develop both attributes – and others – simultaneously.

In fact, the best coaching courses do!

I would venture to say that, if coaches who attend coaching courses which present sports science are coming away from these courses disappointed or disinterested in the content that was presented – or, as the author of the article seems to suggest, disinterested in coaching altogether – the problem is not that this subject matter is not interesting or relevant to them; the problem is much more likely to be that the instructors of these courses lacked passion, dedication, creativity, empathy – the “personal/psychological” qualities that would have made them better teachers of the subject matter in the first place.

A good teacher or course instructor should be able to get coaches to become passionate about all aspects of their sport – including sports science – and to teach coaches how best to transfer this passion about the subject matter to their athletes.

Furthermore, a good coaching course should be able to combine the technical and scientific content of the course with content related to the “personal/psychological” side of coaching – in other words, to teach coaches how to be knowledgeable AND passionate at the same time.

The reality is that soccer, like all other sports, is first and foremost a sport.  Moreover, as a sport, soccer is also a form of exercise.  Thus, coaches who plan training for soccer – or any other sport – are in fact planning exercise, and planning any form of exercise requires a strong knowledge of exercise science; knowledge which is best attained by enrolling in coaching courses.

Ultimately, they way to objectively assess the success or failure of any sports coaching methodology – and thus, any coaching course curriculum – is whether or not the countries or sports programs utilizing them have found that they have actually lead to improved sports performance; that is, when we look at countries or National teams who succeed at the highest level in soccer, are their coaches the most knowledgeable, the most passionate, or both?

I’d like to leave you to decide.  Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback below!

Fitness, For Coaches, Injuries, Matches

How Canadian College and University Soccer Is STILL Hurting Young Soccer Players – And What Can Be Done to Change It

It’s hard to believe, but I originally wrote a very similar article to the one you are about to read, exactly 2 years ago (in early November, 2015).  Much to my disappointment, since that time nothing has changed in the Ontario and Canadian inter-university soccer competitive schedules.

The original article, which was published here on our Blog as well as in Inside Soccer Magazine and on the Red Nation Online website, discussed some of the problems associated with the current university soccer schedules here in Ontario and Canada – primarily the fact that too many games were being played without sufficient time off in between games.

Unfortunately, as noted above – and as you will see from continuing to read below – nothing has changed.  Despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating the significantly increased risks of injury for players who play 2 or more 90+ minute soccer matches per week and/or have less than 2 full days off in between matches, Canadian College and University Soccer is still hurting young soccer players with the same antiquated, congested schedule of 1.5-2 matches per week.

Below is a revised version of my original article, updated to include all OCAA, CCAA, OUA, and U-Sports competitive regular season and post-season schedules for the 2017 men’s soccer seasons.  I hope you enjoy reading it and I also hope it might motivate those of you in the soccer community to seek out ways in which changes can be made for the safety and protection of young soccer players nation-wide.

It’s also hard to believe, but we are now approaching the first week of November, 2017.  For college and university soccer players, if you’re lucky enough to still be playing by this time of year, it means you have progressed deep into the play-offs and are very close to qualifying for the National Championships, which are typically finished by November 15th.

In college and university soccer, the play-offs and National Championships are microcosms of the competitive season, with multiple 90+ minute matches scheduled over a very short period of time, including several instances of back-to-back matches, as well as periods of time with 3 games played over just 4 days.  As an example, take a look at this year’s CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association) and U-Sports (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) men’s National Championship tournament schedules:

  • CCAA Men’s Soccer:
    • Match 1: Wednesday, November 8th
    • Match 2 (Semi-Finals): Friday, November 10th
    • Match 3 (Bronze and Gold Medal Matches): Saturday, November 11th
  • U-Sports Men’s Soccer:
    • Match 1: Thursday, November 9th
    • Match 2 (Semi-Finals): Saturday, November 11th
    • Match 3: (Bronze and Gold Medal Matches): Sunday, November 12th

Of course, in order to get to the National Championships, teams need to have qualified from the play-offs, which are scheduled in a very similar way.  Typically, the first play-off matches in college and university soccer begin between 3-6 days after the conclusion of the regular season.  In Ontario, the play-offs finish with the OCAA (Ontario Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships, and the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) Final Four, both of which comprise multiple 90+ minute matches played over a 2-3 day timespan.  Below is a summary of these schedules for men’s soccer in 2017:

  • OCAA Men’s Soccer Championships:
    • Match 1 (Quarter-Finals): Thursday, October 26th
    • Match 2 (Semi-Finals): Friday, October 27th
    • Match 3 (Bronze and Gold Medal Matches): Saturday, October 28th
  • OUA Men’s Soccer Final Four:
    • Match 1 (Semi-Finals): Saturday, November 3rd
    • Match 2 (Bronze and Gold Medal Matches): Sunday, November 4th

Working backwards even further, it is critical to note that, in order to qualify for the play-offs in Ontario college and university soccer, teams must endure the OCAA and OUA competitive seasons, both of which pack two and sometimes even three 90 minute matches per week, every week, from the beginning of September until the end of October.  Here is what the 2017 OCAA and OUA competitive schedules looked like:

  • OCAA Men’s Soccer competitive season:
    • 10 matches played from Saturday, September 6th to Wednesday, October 16th
    • Total of 10 matches in 6 weeks = 1.6 matches per week
  • OUA Men’s Soccer competitive season:
    • 16 matches played from Saturday, August 26th to Saturday, October 21st
    • Total of 16 matches in 8 weeks = 2.0 matches per week

I cannot help but wonder why, in the year 2017, we are still subjecting young student-athletes to this type of competitive schedule.  Virtually all of the scientific research done on the intensity and loading in soccer has indicated that a minimum of 24-48 hours is needed in order for players to optimally recover from a 90 minute match.

Furthermore, most if not all of the world’s leading authorities in soccer-specific sports science have recommended that players do not play more than one match per week in their competitive seasons.  This is because when players do play more than one 90+ minute match per week, they will experience both a significant decrease in muscular strength, speed, power, and endurance, as well as a significantly increased risk of over-training and injury due to inadequate repair and recovery from muscle damage caused during the match.

Compounding the problem for college and university soccer is that the great majority of the players are in school between the ages of 18-22, and their bodies are not fully physically and physiologically developed and thus are at an even greater risk of injury.

Several of the world’s most prominent soccer coaches and fitness coaches, including Jens Bangsbo of the University of Copenhagen, Raymond Verheijen of the World Football Academy, and Jurgen Klinsmann, former Head Coach of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, have been critical of college and professional competitive leagues that require players to play more than one 90+ minute match per week.

In fact, Klinsmann was one of the harshest critics of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) soccer schedule (which also comprises an average of 2 matches per week), criticism which eventually led to a proposed change to a full academic year schedule (September to May) that took effect in 2016-2017 season.

If the rest of the world (including the Americans, who are traditionally resistant to change) has been able to structure their competitive soccer seasons so that they average a maximum of 1 match per week, there is no reason for Canada not to follow suit.

Competing in college and university soccer in Canada is a unique and rewarding experience.  For the great majority of young players who do not advance into the Canadian National Teams and/or into professional soccer, competing at the college and/or university level represents the highest competitive level they will reach in their careers.

If the CCAA and U-Sports are truly concerned with the long-term development and overall health of the young soccer players competing in their leagues, they should seriously consider revising their competitive schedules, to lengthen the season and/or to decrease the total number of matches played to a maximum of 1 match per week.

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

Fitness, For Coaches, Injuries, Matches

How Canadian University Soccer is STILL Hurting Young Soccer Players – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Bog #57: 10/28/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss the congested schedule of the regular season and play-offs in Ontario and Canadian university soccer, and the inherent problems associated with making adult players consistently play more than 1 competitive, 90+ minute match per week.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents

How NOT to Defend Leo Messi – UEFA Champions League Analysis – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #55: 9/27/2017

Hi Everyone,

It’s that time of year again – the start of the 2017/2018 UEFA Champions League!

As such, in this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss the recent group match between Barcelona and Juventus (a rematch of the 2016-17 Semi-Final), and how in this match (as opposed to the Semi-Final matches this past spring), Juventus was uncharacteristically shaky in their defence. Of particular interest was centre back Benatia, who made two crucial mistakes as the “covering” defender during dribbling runs by Leo Messi that led to Barcelona’s first and third goals.

I hope you like the video and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents

Talent can be Developed ANYWHERE – Even on a Small Tropical Island – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #54: 9/23/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss my recent trip to Maui, Hawaii, and the work I did there with the Valley Isle Soccer Academy, the largest soccer academy on the island.  Despite numbering less than 150 players and, of course, hailing from an island with a total population of only 150,000 people, Valley Isle has managed to develop top level talent, including one player who secured a place with the Portland Timbers’ MLS Academy, and another who earned a trial at training camp with the United States National Girls U15 Team.

The take-home message here?  That talent can be developed ANYWHERE – even on a small tropical island!

I hope you enjoy the video and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments.

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents

Talent can be Developed Anywhere – Even on a Small Tropical Island

Located in the heart of Maui – one of the Hawaiian Islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a population of just under 150,000 people – the Valley Isle Soccer Academy is, as stated on their website, “Maui’s only professionally organized training academy for competitive youth soccer”.

Founded in 2012 by former F.K. Jagodina (Serbian professional youth academy) and West Virginia Wesleyan College player Aleksander Filipovic, along with his wife, former New Zealand Women’s U20 National Team and York University player and an old schoolmate of mine, Rebecca Filipovic, the Academy is now home to over 5 competitive teams with 150 full-time registered players.

After being hired to work with the Academy earlier this month, to provide my Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course to their coaches, fitness assessments for their players, and a nutrition presentation – for the players and their parents, I was not really sure what to expect.

I had full confidence that the quality of coaching the Academy players were receiving under the guidance of Aleks and Rebecca would be excellent, but I could not say that I had the same confidence that the players’ technical and tactical abilities would be at the same standard.

After all, Maui is a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no real soccer history or culture to speak of, and of course it is also part of the United States, a country in which soccer has not yet fully developed or flourished – even on the densely populated mainland.

Following my weeklong employment with the Academy, however, I can now happily say that I was wrong about the level of soccer talent on Maui – the players’ technical and tactical abilities and overall soccer talent far exceeded my expectations.

During their training sessions and inter-squad games throughout the week, the young male and female players from Hawaii showed poise and confidence on the ball, as well as a solid tactical understanding of the concepts taught to them by Aleks and the other Coaching Staff.

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If not for the weather and scenery, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a youth team from a major North American metropolitan area – like New York, Los Angeles, or even Toronto – and not a small Hawaiian island with no professional or even university Varsity soccer teams to it name.

Apparently, I am not the only one who has noticed the soccer talent on display at Valley Isle.

Notable recent Academy success stories include Caetlyn Johannes, who recently headed back to her third training camp with the United States U15 Girls National Team, and Tommy Musto, who has accepted a place in the Portland Timbers’ Youth Academy U14 Boys team in Portland, Oregon, feeder system for the Timbers’ senior professional soccer team that competes in Major League Soccer.

What is the secret to the success of the Valley Isle Soccer Academy in developing talented young soccer players?  In reality, it is no secret at all – simply the combination of knowledgeable, experienced coaches working consistently with young players who have a passion for the game and are eager to learn.

I’ve written before about the importance of coach education and the role it plays in player development – both from a physical perspective as well as a talent development perspective – and never has this importance been more evident to me than during my time on Maui.

Aleks, Rebecca and their team have proven that even players without the advantage of participating in highly competitive, densely populated youth leagues and tournaments – as is the case in Maui – can develop and progress into the elite levels of play in the continent, including youth National Teams and professional Youth Academy programs.

They have also proven that talented soccer players are not born; they are made, through a combination of hard work, qualified instruction, a love of the game and a little bit of luck along the way.

Perhaps, in Canada, where all too often it seems as though we make excuses as to why we do not develop top level soccer players, we could take a lesson from the Valley Isle Soccer Academy, that talent can be developed anywhere – even on a small tropical island.

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

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents, Science

Coaching IS Fitness Training – Why Coaches Should Take the Soccer Fitness Trainer`s Course

I began learning how to coach around the same time I began learning about sport science, when I got a job coaching a YMCA boys’ soccer team almost 17 years ago, while I was also an undergraduate student in Toronto.  Even at that time, the synergy between what I was learning about coaching – how to plan and implement practices for my team – and kinesiology – the scientific theory behind how to exercise and play sports like soccer – seemed very obvious to me.

After all, anyone who has played the game of soccer at any level will realize almost instantaneously following kick-off that the sport demands a high level of fitness, including speed, agility, strength, power and endurance.

Equally apparent to any soccer player is the reality that the high technical and tactical demands of the game become ever-more challenging when you are not fit enough to keep up.

Thus, if you agree with these objective facts and follow the logic, any form of soccer training or soccer practice must include a well-planned physical component, to ensure that players adapt to the high physical demands of the game and are able to execute the necessary technical and tactical skills while under fatigue in competition.

Fast-forward to 2017, and it seems as though this synergy – the objective reality that in soccer, the physical part of the game is directly connected to the game, something which was always so obvious to me even as a 20-year old beginner coach and undergraduate student – is not necessarily as obvious to many other Canadian and American soccer coaches.

In North America, even some of the highest-level coach licensing courses devote very little time to educating coaches about sports science, let alone requiring them to learn and understand how to plan and periodise the physical part of their training sessions throughout a season.

Unfortunately, the by-product of the lack of emphasis placed in coach licensing programs on teaching coaches about the physical side of the game is that most North American soccer coaches are not aware of, and/or able to plan and implement appropriate physical fitness testing and training programs with their teams.

Even more unfortunately, the players who play for these coaches will often go through their amateur youth careers either under-training – where they train too little or their training is not intense enough to achieve any sustained improvements in physical fitness – or over-training – where their training load, intensity and volume is too high and they either get hurt, or burn-out and lose interest in the sport altogether.

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It was with all of this information in mind that I decided to develop the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course.  This truly one-of-a-kind Course, which has now been accredited for continuing education credits by Ontario Soccer, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and CanFitPro, is aimed at soccer coaches with an interest in fitness training, as well as fitness coaches with an interest in soccer.

More importantly, it also fills the aforementioned gap that presently exists in the North American coach licensing system, regarding the physical component of soccer and how to train for it.

Comprising 20 hours of both on-field and in-class instruction from industry leaders in sports science and performance training, our Course  teaches the latest, evidence-based theory and methodology of soccer-specific fitness testing, training and monitoring, and provides dozens of exclusive practical examples of training sessions I have used personally in my time working at the highest levels of the game, including the Canadian Women’s National Teams, the Toronto FC Academy Teams, and Canadian SC, a professional soccer club in Uruguay.

Participants in the Course will come away with a clear picture of exactly how to plan and implement a year-round fitness program that is guaranteed to improve players’ performance and reduce their chances of getting injured.

We are now hosting live Courses run through Soccer Fitness at Trio Sportsplex (October 13th-15th, 2017), and through Ontario Soccer at the Ontario Soccer Centre (October 21st-22nd, 2017), as well as a new 100% Online Course, available now through our unique Course Craft online education platform.   If you’re interested, we encourage you to visit our website,, for more information and registration details.

Ultimately, if Canadian and American coaches are to maximise the development and performance of their players, they must start with the realisation that coaching IS fitness, and fitness is and must be an essential component of each and every training session.

As one recent coach who attended earlier this year explained:   “Any coach who is dedicated to their own professional development and who cares about their athletes needs to take the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course.”

Richard-Denmark Presentation

I`d love to hear your thoughts about this article.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started!

Fitness, For Coaches, Science

Don’t be THIS Kind of Strength and Conditioning Coach! Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #53: 9/4/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss the need for fitness and strength / conditioning coaches who work in soccer, to be more than just “repetition counters” in their day-to-day work. If you do work in soccer, you need to build upon the “conditioning” piece of “strength and conditioning”, and integrate the work you do into the planning of all soccer training.

I hope you like the video and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, Matches

How a Real Professional Soccer Club Does Soccer Fitness Training: Paolo Pacione and the Miami FC – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #52: 8/25/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this week’s edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I summarise the week o August 7th-13th, 2017, which I spent sitting in and observing training with the Miami FC and their Fitness Coach (a long-time friend and colleague) Paolo Pacione. I also provide some recommendations for Canadian fitness coaches and soccer coaches, based on what I observed from Pacione and the Miami FC, as to how best to integrate fitness training into soccer training sessions.
Hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post thoughts and comments!

Credit: The Miami FC
Fitness, For Coaches, Matches

How The Pro’s Incorporate Fitness into Soccer Training – Paolo Pacione and the Miami FC

(Photo credit: The Miami FC).

On the week of August 7th-13th, 2017, I visited my old friend and colleague Paolo Pacione, who has been the Head of Fitness and Performance at the Miami FC of the North American Soccer League for the past 2 years.

Pacione has had an extensive background working at the highest levels of the game in North America – including the Toronto Lynx of the A-League, various clubs in the Canadian Professional Soccer League, the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams, and the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer – and internationally, having worked with Faenza Calcio, a professional club in Italy.

He and the staff at the Miami FC, including Head Coach Alessandro Nesta, were gracious enough to allow me to sit in on an entire week of their training, leading up to their home game versus the Indy Eleven on Saturday, August 12th.

One thing I saw during training that week which was very interesting to me – primarily because it is so rare in Canada, even in the higher levels of the game in which I have worked over the past few years – was that at the Miami FC, the Fitness Coach was integrated into, and had a hand in planning, all aspects of the team’s training – not just the “physical” part of the sessions.

This means that Pacione works as part of the Coaching Staff – through a collaborative process in which Head Coach Nesta – who met Pacione in his final season of professional soccer, when Paolo was the Fitness Coach of Montreal Impact – draws upon the knowledge and experience of all of his supporting staff in order to optimise the planning of training, from the first minute of the warm-up to the final minute of the small- or large-sided games.

Why is the integration of the Fitness Coach into the planning of all training so important?  Simply put, it is the only way to ensure the optimal training environment for players, and thus the only way to ensure optimal performance of players in training and game play.

I’ve written about this topic before, including as a means of explaining the rationale behind the creation of my Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Courses, which teach Canadian amateur club/academy soccer coaches how to plan and implement physical fitness training into their sessions in the absence of a professional fitness coach (a reality for the majority of amateur clubs and academies in Canada).


In the elite Canadian soccer environments, including university Varsity teams, Provincial and National Teams, and professional Academies and First Teams, coaches should not be expected to plan and implement fitness training on their own, nor should this work be passed off onto Athletic Therapists or other staff, as is unfortunately too often the case.

Professional Fitness Coaches must be an integral part of the Coaching Staff in these environments if we truly wish to optimise player development at the youth level, and player performance at the adult level.

How can we be sure that this model is effective?  In professional soccer, results are what matter most.  And in the case of the Miami FC, the results speak for themselves.  The club, in only their second full season in the North American Soccer League, finished the 2017 Spring Season in first place, with 36 points from 16 matches – a full 10 points ahead of their closest rivals the San Francisco Deltas – and securing a play-off spot for this coming November.

After a slow start to the 2017 Fall Season, to date the teams sits tied with Puerto Rico FC for first place in the league, with 9 points from 5 matches.

The Miami FC also had a successful run all the way to the Quarterfinals of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup – the oldest national soccer competition in the United States open to all professional clubs in the country – During which they secured victories over Major League Soccer clubs Orlando City SC in the Fourth Round, and Atlanta United in the Round of 16.

In addition to the results on the pitch, the professional, positive, “winning” environment created by the Coaching Staff was clearly evident to me as I observed the team’s training all week.  The players were respectful, hard-working, eager to learn and very responsive to the instruction and training they received, all of which was of the highest quality.  Team morale could not have been higher than it was during the final training session prior to their match on the 12th – always a good sign.

They ended up winning convincingly, by a score of 3 to 1.


Credit for the team’s success must be given at least in part to the synergy that exists between the Coaching Staff, at the centre of which is Fitness Coach Pacione.  He has developed an efficient working relationship with the rest of the Coaching Staff at the Miami FC, built on trust and mutual respect of each person’s unique knowledge, experience and abilities.

Many Canadian coaches and fitness coaches presently working in high performance environments could stand to learn a thing or two from the example set by Pacione and the Miami FC.  If we are truly serious about optimising player development and player performance in these environments, we need to find, train, and empower Fitness Coaches, and fully integrate them into their respective team’s Coaching Staff.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about this article.  Please drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, For Parents, Nutrition, Science

Soccer Players – 3 Reasons You DON’T NEED Nutritional Supplements! Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #51: 8/17/2017

Hi Everyone,

Do you use nutritional supplements?  Have you considered using them?  In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss some of the science behind nutritional supplements, and provide 3 reasons why soccer players should NOT use them as part of their diet and daily routine.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, Injuries, Science

Explaining Our Research – Part 2 – Preventing Knee Injuries and Improving Performance in Female Soccer Players

One of the best things about attending the 5th World Conference on Science and Soccer was the opportunity to share and discuss my research with other academics, sports scientists and fitness coaches.  In this series of short articles, I will summarise and discuss each of the three different research projects that our team from Soccer Fitness Inc. presented at the Conference.

The second study I am reviewing is titled “A comparison of hip neuromuscular strengthening and high intensity interval training on knee abduction angle in elite youth female soccer players”, which sought to compare the effectiveness of two different types of training – an ACL prevention program and a speed endurance / running program – on markers of physical performance and injury risk in female soccer players.

Something very unique about this research is that our proposal for this study was submitted through the University of Guelph, in part so that the school could purchase and use a state-of-the-art 3D motion capture system that includes 3D cameras, software, and a treadmill with force plates.  The pre- and post-training assessments performed in this study (to examine changes in knee injury risk in the players) included the use of this new equipment.

We recruited players from 3 different elite female youth soccer teams (Under-15 age category) to participate in this study, and randomly assigned all players into 3 groups:

  1. ACL-prevention training group (“Knee Training” or “KT” group)
  2. Speed endurance training group (“Treadmill Training” or “TT” group)
  3. Control group (“CT” group)

Prior to the training programs, all players underwent physical fitness testing including the following assessments:

  • Linear running speed (10, 20, and 35 metres)
  • Vertical jump
  • Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (a test of endurance and high intensity running ability)
  • Assessment of knee abduction angle using the Qualysis 3D motion capture system, during running, and single-/double-leg drop jump movements

The two training-based groups performed 6-week, 2 training sessions per-week programs at the Soccer Fitness Training Centre.  Following these 6-week training regimes, players underwent the same fitness assessments, and differences/comparisons between the pre- and post-training test results were examined.

Results of this study provided some interesting and useful information for youth soccer coaches and fitness coaches.  The KT group (which performed a 6-week ACL prevention program that included plyometrics, strength training, and balance training) experienced a significant reduction in knee abduction angle of 8% in the single-leg squat test, and 10% in the drop jump test.  This represents a significantly reduced risk of ACL injury for Under-15 aged female soccer players, who happen to be in the highest risk category for such injuries.

The TT group experienced a significant improvement in their Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test scores, with an average increased distance covered of over 320 metres.  Since the average distance of a sprint or high intensity run in soccer is only 10 metres, this means that the players in our study improved their capacity to perform an extra 30-35 sprints or fast runs per game.  Thus, the use of a treadmill-based speed endurance training program with Under-15 aged female players was shown to be effective at improving high intensity running ability – which has been shown in the past to be a key predictor of performance in female soccer players in this and older age categories.

So what does this all mean for coaches and fitness coaches working with young female soccer players? The ideal fitness training program for female players should include exercises designed to reduce the risk of ACL injury (the most prevalent type of injury in female soccer players) and other to improve high intensity running ability (the best predictor of performance in female soccer players).

In our study, we identified two separate 6-week training programs, each of which was effective in achieving one of these two training objectives.  Thus, it may be possible that a combination of the two training programs used in our study – that is, an ACL prevention program including plyometrics, strength training, and balance training, plus a speed endurance training program performed using a high speed/high incline running treadmill – would be the ideal choice to use with Under-15 aged female soccer players.

More research, examining the effectiveness’s of combined injury prevention and performance enhancement training programs like the ones used in our study, is warranted in order to determine what exactly the best practices are for elite female players.  At Soccer Fitness Inc., we are looking forward to conducting some such research and attempting to answer this question.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  As always, please feel free to post your thoughts or comments below.

Fitness, For Parents, Science

How to Prevent ACL Injuries AND Improve Soccer Performance – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #46: 7/3/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I provide a summary of some of our recent research that was prevented at the 5th World Conference on Science and Soccer in Rennes, France (May 31-June 2, 2017). The study discussed in this video compared an ACL prevention program with a speed endurance program, and highlighted the effectiveness of these programs in female soccer players.  The results show that with a properly designed combined running and strengthening program, you can improve performance and prevent injuries at the same time.

Hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, Science

How Canadian Professional Soccer Academies Can Be Better – Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #45: 6/26/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss the results of some my our recent research that was presented at the 5th World Conference on Science and Soccer, comparing fitness assessment results from a Canadian and Uruguayan professional youth academy. Some potential explanations for the results, plus recommendations for coaches and academy directors, are also provided. \

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, Science

Explaining Our Research – Part 1 – Comparing Canadian and Uruguayan Professional Academy Fitness Scores:

One of the best things about attending the 5th World Conference on Science and Soccer was the opportunity to share and discuss my research with other academics, sports scientists and fitness coaches.  In this series of short articles, I will summarise and discuss each of the three different research projects that our team from Soccer Fitness Inc. and Sport Performance Analytics Inc. presented at the Conference.

The first study we will review is titled “A Comparison of Speed and High Intensity Running Abilities Between Canadian and Uruguayan Professional Academy Players”, which sought to examine any differences that may exist in physical ability, between players from two different professional academies (one being the Toronto FC Academy, and the other being the academy from Canadian SC Uruguay, a professional club in the Uruguayan 2nd Division).

We analysed fitness assessment scores from linear running speed tests (time taken to run 0-10, 0-20, n 0-35 metres) as well as the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Tests, among academy teams in age groups ranging from Under-14 to Under-21.  Comparisons were made within each age category for Canadian and Uruguayan players, and between Canadian and Uruguayan players for each age category.

After performing a statistical analysis of the data, we found some surprising information.

Canadian professional academy players were faster and had better endurance than their Uruguayan counterparts, in all of the following age categories: U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19 but NOT in the U21 age category.  In that particular category, the Uruguayans had both faster sprint times (indicating better speed), and a higher distance covered in the Yo-Yo test (indicating better endurance).

Even more surprising was that Canadian academy players in the U21 age category had slower speed times and a lower Yo-Yo score than Canadian U19 players.

The root causes of these difference s in speed and high intensity running ability between Canadian and Uruguayan professional academy players are not clear, but based on the discussion and conclusions from our research, we have identified some proposed explanations.  They are listed below.

Why are Canadian players faster and fitter than Uruguayan players from U14-U19?

There are two potential explanations for this.  Firstly, that there may be a greater focus on speed and high intensity running training in North American professional soccer teams (including Canadian clubs like Toronto FC) than there is in South American teams.  I have personally only had minimal experience in South America, having worked in Uruguay on two separate occasions, but I did get the feeling there that their focus among youth training was on the development of technical skill and tactical knowledge and understanding of the game, rather than on physical training.

This may be representative of a broader cultural difference between North and South America and their sports training philosophies, and it is a topic that warrants further research.

Second, it may be possible that a selection bias exists in Canada, towards players who are bigger, stronger and faster.  Determining whether or not a selection bias actually exists would be difficult, because coaching and scouting talent is a largely subjective process and it is difficult to make direct comparisons between youth soccer players.

If, however, all players in a particular professional youth academy or high performance environment (such as the Toronto FC Academy) had their relative or developmental age determined, then more accurate comparisons between youth players could be made.  If a bias id exists, this would be the best way to identify it and of course to try to eliminate it.

It stands to reason that all high performance youth soccer programs in Canada, including the youth Provincial and National Teams programs, as well as MLS academies, should look to perform regular assessments of the growth and development of their players, try to identify early or late physical developers, and adjust their selection an identification processes accordingly.

Why are Uruguayan players faster and fitter than Canadian players in the U21 category?  And why are Canadian U19 players faster and fitter than Canadian U21 players?

I have grouped these two questions together because, in my opinion, the possible answer is the same for both of them.  First of all it must be noted that there I no physiological reason why an elite male U19 payer should have better speed or endurance than an elite male U21 player – on the contrary, males in  professional training environment should develop their peak running speed and endurance between the ages of 20-25, when testosterone levels are highest.

With that being said, the potential explanation for the drop-off in speed and high intensity running ability seen in Canadian U21 payers may be explained as follows:  it may be possible that Canadian players in elite youth programs like the Toronto FC Academy lose their motivation to stay in shape and continue to train hard once they realise that they are not going to progress immediately into professional soccer through the first team of their Major League Soccer (MLS) or other professional club.

Because, at present, there are no domestic professional options available to Canadian players outside of the three MLS clubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, (as well as FC Edmonton of the NASL and Ottawa Fury of the USL) talented young players from professional academies who do not progress into their clubs’ senior teams will likely end up attending an American or Canadian college or university (and playing on the Varsity soccer team for their school) or competing in one of the local domestic semi-professional leagues, such as Ontario League One or the Canadian Soccer League (CSL).

Unfortunately, neither the American or Canadian collegiate soccer systems, nor Ontario League One or the CSL, are sufficiently competitive to prepare players for the physical demands of professional soccer, and the end result is that players in these environments are simply not fit enough to meet the standards of professional training and match play.  Furthermore, the lack of more options for domestic professional soccer in Canada is likely causing many young players to lose their motivation to stay in shape and train as hard as they can, even within their amateur university or semi-professional environment.

In Uruguay, on the other hand, players in the U21 age category who have not yet progressed directly into a professional club are still likely to be highly motivated, due to the numerous professional options available to them.  Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo, with a population of just over 1.5 million people, is home to a staggering 34 professional soccer clubs in their three divisions of their national professional league.  If a player is not successful in one club, he can simply seek out a trial with another one, sometimes just a few kilometres away.

The discrepancy in physical ability between Canadian and Uruguayan U21 players and the drop-off in physical ability between Canadian U19 and U21 players both highlight the need for Canada to have its own domestic professional soccer league, which would provide young talented players with more options to continue to train and play at a high level across the country.  The new Canadian Premier League, set to kick-off with a shortened inaugural season in the fall of 2018, may be the perfect solution to this problem.

Data such as that presented in our study highlights the need for some reform to our Canadian professional soccer structure and systems.  Firstly, elite or professional Canadian youth programs need to include assessments of growth and development of their players in order to prevent potential selection biases to occur.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, we need to form our own, domestic, Canadian professional soccer league, to ensure that talented young players who do not progress directly into the MLS, NASL or USL are still afforded opportunities to play professional soccer, and maintain the motivation required to train hard and stay in shape throughout early adulthood.

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


Fitness, For Coaches, Science

Canadian Soccer Coaches: To Be Better We MUST Be More Humble! Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #44: 6/18/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I discuss my recent experience attending and presenting research at the 5th World Conference on Science and Soccer in Rennes, France (May 31-June 2, 2017).  More specifically, I explain my thoughts about how the lack of Canadian soccer coaches and fitness coaches at this and other conferences highlights a problem within Canadian soccer that needs to be addressed.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents, Matches

Youth Soccer Players – Start Doing These 2 Things Weekly to Make Yourself a Better Player TODAY! Gols Video Blog #43: 5/28/2017

Hi Everyone,

With the UEFA Champions League Final approaching, this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog discusses 2 things all young soccer players can start doing every week (starting with the week of the Final match) that will help them become a better player immediately.

Hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, Matches

How NOT to Defend Deep – UEFA Champions League Analysis – Gols Video Blog #41: 5/15/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, we discuss the recent UEFA Champions League semi-final match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Atletico used their usual strategy of defending deep in this match, however they were uncharacteristically sloppy at the back.  They frequently left too much space between the payers in the back line, and also in between the defensive and midfield lines, which left them exposed and ultimately led to the concession of 3 goals.

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

Fitness, For Coaches, For Parents

Three Ways to Objectively Assess Talent and Player Performance in Canadian Youth Soccer

On the first day of my FIFA 11+ Instructor Training Certification course in 2016, Matias Eiles, a FIFA Instructor and Coach Educator with the German Football Federation, told us that in his country, they have 1 National Team, but 80 million “National Team Coaches”.  While he seemed to be hinting that this problem – whereby literally everyone in the country considers themselves to be a “soccer expert” – was unique to Germany, upon hearing it I instantly felt that the same sentiment could easily be expressed here in Canada.

Everywhere you go in this country, you will find soccer coaches, parents, players and fans expressing their dissatisfaction with the lack of success of our Canadian Men’s National Team, as well as providing their opinions about what needs to change if we are to improve and become more competitive with the rest of the world.

Youth soccer coaches working in our amateur clubs and academies, in particular, will shoulder much of this burden, because they are the ones responsible for providing young soccer players with the foundation of technical skill, tactical knowledge, fitness, and mental toughness that will be required of them if and when they progress on to the international level.  While it may be fairly easy to point out what is wrong with the Canadian soccer system, developing strategies which individual soccer coaches can use in their day-to-day work that may be able to solve these problems is inherently more difficult.

How can our youth soccer coaches do a better job of preparing players for higher levels of play?  In my opinion, we must start with the development of objective standards, to which all coaches can be held accountable, and by which their players’ and team’s performance can be measured and compared to that of their peers.

Developing objective standards for player and team performance must be preceded by the development of objective assessments of different measures of performance.  After enough data has been collected, standards and norms for different levels of play can be determined.  This is the way we at Soccer Fitness have approached fitness assessment data, and over the past 10 years we have developed valid, reliable standards and norms for elite levels of play in male and female youth soccer that include the Ontario Provincial Boys and Girls Teams, the Canadian National U17 Teams, and the Toronto FC Academy teams.

So how can coaches objectively measure and assess player and team performance?  At higher levels of play, equipment and technology such as global positioning satellite (GPS), as well as advanced video analysis software programs, are used to assess performance, but these methods may not be practical or affordable to amateur soccer clubs and academies.

Our Canadian amateur soccer environment requires quick, simple, and efficient assessment methods. Below are three of my suggestions.

  1. Have coaches assess the performance of each of their own players, as well as that of their opponents, during every competitive league game.

This requires nothing more than a simple spread sheet (similar to the game sheets already distributed by game officials to both teams prior to the start of every game) including a list of rows with players’ names/jersey numbers on them, and a column beside each name in which their assessment score can be written.  For simplicity, I would suggest using a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing the lowest score and 5 representing the highest score.  Admittedly, this would be a subjective performance rating open to bias towards the subjective opinion of the reporting coach, however, having coaches assess the performance of their opposition as well as their own players will help to eliminate any subjective bias that may occur in these assessments.  Individual players’ performances can then be assessed and tracked over the course of the season, and any trends that may emerge from this data can then be dealt with accordingly.

  1. Have assistant coaches or team managers collect standardised statistics during competitive league game play.

Among the most relevant and easy to capture statistics to collect during each game are:

  • Successful / unsuccessful pass attempts
  • Performance/execution of set pays (goal kicks, throw-ins, corner kicks and free kicks)
  • Successful / unsuccessful build-up play and attacking attempts

Standardising the methods for this data collection would certainly take some work, but if we expect coaches to be able to accurately measure and track their team’s performance during and between games without collecting any data, then we are working under the assumption that coaches can assess performance purely by memory and by their own subjective opinions of what took place in each game.  The reality is that this is a skill not possessed even by the best coaches working in professional and international soccer, let alone the average Canadian amateur club or academy coach.  Collecting data in this way will also serve to get all teams’ assistant coaches and/or managers much more involved in the game, a notable secondary benefit.

  1. Have all competitive leagues store and share the data taken from these assessments, in order to track player and team performance.

Once again, this is something that will take a concentrated effort from coaches and league administrators alike if it is to work.  But competitive leagues already have systems in place to account for game scores, goal scorers, referee decisions like yellow and red cards, etc.  These same systems would simply need to be adapted and updated to include the data taken from team coaches’ subjective (player ratings) and objective (game statistics) reports.

Ultimately, if we expect the performance of Canadian amateur club and academy soccer players and teams to improve, then we need to know what “improved performance” actually looks like.  We need systems in place that will allow us to objectively measure players’ and teams’ performance, to track this performance over time and develop age- and gender-specific standards and norms, and to compare subsequent players’ and teams’ performance against these objective standards.

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

Fitness, For Parents, Science

Why Soccer Players Should NEVER, EVER do CrossFit – Gols Video Blog #36: 4/10/2017

Hi Everyone,

In this edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, we discuss CrossFit, a training program that has become popular amongst adolescents and young adults in the past 10 years, and whether or not soccer players should consider incorporating it into their training routines.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments below!


Fitness, Science, Technology

Coaches – Why You NEED to Start Monitoring Training Load/Intensity NOW – Gols Video Blog #32: 3/14/2017

Hi Everyone,

this week in the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog, I am discussing the importance of coaches and fitness coaches monitoring the training load and intensity of their training sessions and games.  I also discuss the use of a simple tool, the Borg 0-10 Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale (provided below) which is a cost-effective way for any coach at any level to keep track of these metrics.  Simply put, if you do not monitor how hard your athletes are working and their physical responses to the stress of training and games, then you are simply guessing when planning future training sessions – and to me, this is not acceptable for high performance sports!

I hope you enjoy the Blog and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts/comments!


Fitness, For Parents

STOP Finding Excuses Not to Train! Gols Video Blog #29: 2/21/2017

In the past few weeks we have had some bad weather in Toronto, including freezing rain and dozens of centimetres of snow.

A consequence of this weather for soccer teams and other training programs like ours was that many people decided not to show up to their regularly scheduled training sessions.

In this week’s Video Blog, we discuss the problems with this course of action, and why soccer players who want to progress to higher levels of play should stop finding excuses not to train, including bad weather.

I hope you like it and as always, please feel free to post comments and feedback.

Fitness, Science

Speed Endurance Training – The BEST Way to Train for Soccer-Specific Fitness

Soccer is a sport which requires a unique combination of anaerobic and aerobic fitness.

That is, elite level soccer players must possess speed and jumping power, as well as aerobic endurance and recovery, similar to elite track and field athletes.

The sport also requires a significant amount of very specific movements, including accelerating/decelerating, cutting and turning, backwards and lateral movements, plus of course  all of the technical movements involving the ball.

With all of these unique physical requirements, designing physical training programs for soccer players can be a difficult task.  After all, focusing too much training time on speed and power training can negate improvements in aerobic fitness, and too much time spent on improving aerobic fitness can cause a decrease in speed and power.

One unique way to target the two different energy systems (anaerobic and aerobic) used in the sport simultaneously, while also providing a specific and relevant stimulus to the muscular system through soccer-specific movements, is to use on-field speed endurance training.

The aim of speed endurance training involves prolong the amount of time an athlete can maintain a very high level of exercise intensity.  In soccer, this would mean prolonging the time a player can run, sprint, and change directions at high speeds, while maintaining control of movement and executing a tactical objective.

Training for speed endurance presents a challenge to the anaerobic energy system (which must provide energy to the body to allow it to maintain the high level of exercise intensity over this time-frame) and the aerobic energy system, which is responsible for helping the body recover between bouts of high intensity exercise.

In general, the total time of the work periods for speed endurance training can vary from as little as 10 seconds, to as much as 60 seconds (the longer the time of the work period, the greater the challenge to the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, and the more recovery time needed between repetitions).

Speed endurance can be further divided into “speed endurance production training” – using a 15-30 second work periods and a work-to-rest ratio of between 1:4-1:6 – and “speed endurance maintenance training” – using a similar 15-30 second work period but a significantly smaller rest period, often with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2-1:3.

Perhaps the most beneficial feature of speed endurance training is that the total number of repetitions of its high intensity work periods can range from as little as three, to as many as eight repetitions, meaning that the total training volume (total amount of time running/training) is very low – as little as two-three minutes.  This low training volume is especially valuable to elite level soccer players, as it should significantly decrease the risks of training-related overuse injuries.

Several recent research studies, including Iaia & Bangsbo (2010), Iaia et. al. (2009), Skovgaard et. al. (2016), and Iaia et. al. (2015) have demonstrated that speed endurance training can elicit significant improvements in markers of anaerobic and aerobic fitness in running athletes and soccer players.

While some of the studies cited in this article used running workouts, others have achieved similar results with soccer-specific speed endurance training, comprising drills or small-sided soccer games.  A key advantage of using soccer drills or small-sided games as a means of speed endurance training is that the work done by the payers – including shorter sprints, movements in multiple directions, decelerations and changes of direction, and of course the use of the ball – is as specific to the actual sport of soccer as possible.  Theoretically, this increased specificity should lead to better improvements in overall performance on the pitch.

Some examples of soccer-specific speed endurance training sessions, utilising a 15-30 second high intensity work period with the ball, are:

  • Repeated 2 x 20-30 metre shuttle run with a deceleration and one-touch pass at the end of each run
  • 1 versus 1 game played over a long (30-40 metre) and narrow (10 metre) field
  • 2 versus 2 game played over a short field (20 metres x 30 metres)
  • “pressing exercise” involving groups of 4, 5 or 6 players applying high pressure to the team in possession of the ball, on ½ of a full size field

In order to ensure that the intensity of the work periods is high enough, specific goals/targets, as well as “punishments” can be included in these exercises and games.  For example, in the first example (the shuttle run) a specific number of passes can be used as a target for the players who are performing the shuttle run.  This number can get progressively higher in subsequent training sessions.  In the small-sided games (1 versus 1 and 2 versus 2) the teams who fail to win or fail to generate shots on target can be “punished” with a small amount of push-ups during rest periods.

Soccer coaches and fitness coaches should strongly consider adding speed endurance training into their routines, both in pre-season, as well as during the competitive season.  The combination of stimuli to both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, plus the ability to maximise specificity by using soccer-specific exercises and games, in combination with a low training volume, make speed endurance training an excellent tool or coaches at all levels.

Of course, the examples given above are just some of literally hundreds of different ways in which soccer coaches and fitness coaches can utilise speed endurance training with their players and teams.  If delivered properly, speed endurance training can maximise improvements in players’ speed and endurance, while at the same time minimising their training volume, affording coaches more time to plan and execute the rest of their technical and tactical training.

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



Iaia, F.M. & Bangsbo, J. (2010).  Speed endurance training is a powerful stimulus for physiological adaptations and performance improvements of athletes.  Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Sports Science, 2: 11-23.

Iaia, F.M., Fiorenza, M., Perri, E., Alberti, G., Millett, G.P., Bangsbo, J. (2015).  The effect of two speed endurance training regimes on performance of soccer players.  PLOS ONE, September 2015, 1-16.

Iaia, F.M., Hellsten, Y., Nielsen, J.J., Fernstrom, M., Sahlin, K., Bangsbo, J. (2009).  Four weeks of speed endurance training reduces energy expenditure during exercise and maintains muscle oxidative capacity despite a reduction in training volume.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 106(1): 73-80.

Skovgaard, C., Almquist, N.M., Bangsbo, J. (2016).  Effect of increased and maintained frequency of speed endurance training on performance and muscle adaptations in runners.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 160(1): 36-42.

Fitness, For Parents, Science

What to do During the December Break – Gols Video Blog #27: 12/12/2016

It’s that time of year again!

December that is – when almost all youth soccer clubs and academies give their players “time off” from their regularly scheduled training and games.

But what exactly should soccer players be doing during this time off?  Is it meant to be a break from all forms of exercise, or just a break from soccer?

In this edition of our Video Blog, I provide my recommendations for what soccer players can do during the December break – how they can maintain and/or improve their fitness and ensure they enter the next year’s soccer season fit, healthy, and ready to perform at their best.

Below is a link to the video.  I hope you enjoy it and as always, please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

Fitness, Science

How Best to Improve Endurance for Soccer

I have been obsessed with trying to find the perfect way to train for soccer since I was in high school, and I haven’t been in high school since 1999.

Over the almost 20 years which have passed since then, my obsession has provided me with the opportunity to start my own business; to work with some of the best soccer players in Canada as well as professional players/teams in other countries; to conduct and publish research; and, most recently, to create courses designed to teach other coaches and fitness coaches how to train their players and teams.

In the midst of the work mentioned above, I have also spent a considerable amount of time developing and administering fitness training programs, both on the field, in the weight room, and in my own facility, the Soccer Fitness Training Centre.  One key commonality that has been an integral part of all of the different training programs I have developed and used has remained the same: that the training methodology, as well as the exercises used, must be scientifically proven and evidence-based.

It is with this thought in mind that I have decided to share some evidence in support of what is probably the best and most efficient way for soccer players to train – high intensity aerobic interval training.

High intensity aerobic interval training involves the use of short-duration (between 5-10 seconds, up to 2-3 minutes), high-intensity exercise (usually higher than 80% of maximum heart rate or maximal oxygen consumption), with variable rest periods in between (work-to-rest ratios ranging from 3:1 to 1:5).

Recent research has indicated that high intensity aerobic interval training can improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance, reduce body fat, and induce other improvements in overall health.  Among the proven positive benefits of aerobic high intensity interval training is:

  • Reduction in cardiovascular risk factors (Tjona et. Al, 2009)
  • Improved insulin activity (Barbraj et. Al, 2009)
  • Reduction in body fat percentage (Trapp et. Al, 2008)
  • Improved maximal oxygen uptake and peak power output (Gibala & MeGee, 2008)
  • Greater improvements in cardiovascular performance as compared to longer, continuous training (Bacon et. Al, 2013)

Key to the effectiveness of this type of training is the fact that the higher heart rate which can be achieved through short, high intensity bursts of exercise raises the number of calories burned per-minute and per-workout, and also increases post-exercise oxygen consumption, causing even more calories to be burned when workouts are finished.

As a matter of fact, one important finding of the study by Bacon et. Al (2013) mentioned above was that even people considered “non-responders” to lower intensity cardiovascular were training (meaning that they did not improve their cardiovascular fitness following low/moderate intensity aerobic exercise) were only able to “respond” – to show improvements in their aerobic fitness – with high intensity aerobic interval training.

Soccer players, because they participate in a sport that requires a similar activity pattern of short-duration, high intensity running and sprinting, can stand to benefit greatly from this high intensity aerobic interval training.

In addition to improvements in aerobic and anaerobic endurance, peak power output, and body composition, however, the most valuable aspect of high intensity aerobic interval training is perhaps that it can be completed in a very small amount of time (many of the studies cited above have used or examined the effects of training protocols ranging from a minimum of 5 minutes to just over 20 minutes).

This means that soccer coaches can improve their team’s aerobic performance with as little as 5 minutes of total training time, 2 days per week.  Of course, any extra training time that is saved can then be devoted to team technical and tactical training, which can further improve both individual and team performance in the long run.

Evidence in support of the effectiveness of high intensity aerobic interval training, both for athletes as well as for the general population, is very clear.  Soccer coaches and fitness coaches working with soccer players should consider adding this type of training into their routines, in order to get the greatest possible results in the least amount of time.

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

Fitness, Uncategorized

Should Soccer Players do Power Cleans?

Olympic lifting – specifically, the power clean exercise – is widely becoming a very popular method of training for both individual and team sport athletes.

The power clean exercise is an exercise which increases power and strength and works the legs (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calf) as well as the lower back (erector spinae) and shoulder muscles (deltoids, biceps). It is an exercise wherein the individual sets up in a squat position, lifts the weight up and uses momentum to get the bar up to shoulder level.

Some controversy exists over whether or not these lifts and movements should be incorporated into soccer players’ training routines.  Those in favor of using them will point out how the lifts can improve running speed and jump height, both of which are essential to optimal performance in soccer.

Those against using them will probably say that the lifts take too long to learn, and too much time out of a players’ training routine, which could otherwise be spent on the field, doing specific conditioning exercises which are more important and specific to the sport.

A recent study by Karsten et. Al (2016) which was published March 25th of this year assessed the effect strength training had on a variety of running tests including the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test, which mimics the sprinting/activity pattern common in soccer games. A high score in this test indicates greater aerobic capacity, which has a strong correlation to lowered fatigue levels and better athletic performance among soccer players.

The researchers divided two recreational soccer teams composed of thirteen players into two groups; one performed only soccer specific training drills while the other did the same drills in combination with a strength training regimen over a 6 week period.

The strength training group trained both upper and lower body through a variety of exercises ranging from 60-75% 1RM. The study determined that the group who trained with resistance in combination with soccer-specific training outran the no-strength group in the Yo-Yo Test and other cardiovascular performance tests. The report found a 2.9% increase in cardiovascular performance following the 6-week training program.

Researchers attributed this increase in players’ cardiovascular capacity to the strength training component of their training. Power comes from having a high level of strength, therefore improving strength will allow for faster sprint times, as well as an increase in aerobic capacity when the running is done at high intensities (such as in the Yo-Yo Test, as well as in soccer games).

It would appear that, based on the evidence, including power cleans and other resistance exercises into a soccer player’s training routine will help to optimise speed and high intensity running ability, which in turn will improve on-field performance.

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

Fitness, Science

3 Things Canadians Can Learn From Uruguayan Youth Soccer

I enjoyed my first opportunity to work in professional soccer this year, when I was hired as Fitness Coach for Canadian SC Uruguay, a professional soccer club in the Uruguayan Segunda (2nd Division).  I was fortunate to have been given this opportunity by Canadians SC’s head coach, Rafael Carbajal, an Uruguayan Canadian who had previously been working with the Canadian Men’s National Team.

Canadian SC is just one of over 30 professional soccer clubs from Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city and a hotbed for talent development in the country.  As a matter of fact, the nation of Uruguay as a whole, with a population of just over 3 million people, has been excelling at player development for over 100 years, and can perhaps be considered the most successful soccer nation in the world, per-capita.

Ask any Uruguayan to back up this claim, and they will be happy to oblige.  They might start by pointing out that their nation has won 4 – not 2, but 4 World Championships – the first two being the 1924 and 1928 Olympic titles which are generally regarded to have been the top soccer competition in the world prior to the first-ever FIFA World Cup in 1930 (which they also hosted and won), as well as the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where they upset the hosts in the final in Rio De Janeiro in one of the most famous soccer matches ever to be played.

Uruguay also has the distinction of being the most successful nation ever in the Copa America, the South American Championship tournament held every four years.  With 15 Copa America titles – the most recent of which came in 2011 – Uruguay has eclipsed even the continent’s giants Argentina (14 titles) and Brazil (8 titles).

All of this success has been achieved despite a tiny population and relatively small domestic professional league.  In fact, there is no other country in the world, per capita, that has come even close to achieving the international success that Uruguay has, and the Uruguayans seem to relish their role as soccer “underdogs”, a topic which I have written about in my blog before:

As a Canadian fitness coach, the experience of working in top level soccer in a country like Uruguay was invaluable for me.  During my time there, I couldn’t help but think about the stark contrasts that exist between Uruguayan and Canadian soccer.  Although I worked exclusively with the first team (adults) at Canadian SC, I also got to spend a lot of time working with and learning from the club’s youth academy coaches and fitness coaches – who work with teams from the U14-U19 age groups – and it is in these age groups where the main differences between Uruguayan and Canadian soccer are most prominent.

While there have been improvements in the Canadian youth soccer system over the past 15-20 years, we have not been able to keep pace with other nations – not just the more successful European and South American nations but even those in our own CONCACAF region – and as a result, we have not been successful in developing top class adult players to feed our national teams.

Three main aspects of Uruguayan youth soccer in particular stuck out the most as being very different from what we presently have in Canada, and they are a big reason why this was such a great learning experience for me.  Below is a summary of the three things Canadians can learn from Uruguayan youth soccer.

  1. We need to develop a soccer culture where babies, toddlers and young children are better exposed to the game.


In Uruguay, as in almost any other country in the world, all the little kids want to be professional soccer players when they grow up.

Why do they want this?  Because from the moment they are able to see, they see soccer.  From the moment they are able to hear, they hear soccer.  From the moment they can walk – and many times much earlier than that – someone has put a ball in front of them for them to play with.  You get the idea.

The underlying reason for Uruguay’s obsession with soccer is that all of the most famous and successful Uruguayan professional and National Team players grow up plying their trade close to the homes – sometimes even literally in the backyards – of the young players aspiring to take their place in the future.  Young aspiring soccer players in Uruguay can watch games on TV, on the internet, or attend live matches close to home at a very low price, and see their heroes up close and personal, on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis.

The small geographical landmass of Uruguay combined with the centralisation of most of the soccer talent in Montevideo, means that there is great proximity between youth players and professional players.  Youth players have a very clear idea of what is required to become a professional player because they live and train very close to professional players.

All of this results in a “culture of soccer” in Uruguay, which ensures that when these youth players reach their formative years, their technical development and tactical knowledge of the game will be at the highest level possible, because they will have seen and been able to emulate the top players in the country far more often than their Canadian peers.

It is possible that, through better development and promotion of our own, Canadian domestic professional leagues (like Ontario’s League One) we may be able to develop a similar “culture of soccer” in Canada, which could then help to encourage and advance the development of young Canadian talented soccer players.

  1. We need to make our youth soccer programs, specifically from the ages of 7-13, accessible to everyone.


Believe it or not, there is a Uruguayan version of “house league” soccer.  It’s called “Baby Futbol”, and it comes complete with all of the things you might expect to see in an amateur recreational youth soccer league.

Teams play 11v11, on a field not much smaller than a full size adult pitch, with goals of equal proportions.  There are young and relatively inexperienced coaches, and the parents on the sidelines can be heard screaming encouragement – and sometimes instructions – from miles away.

Baby Futbol is the only youth soccer program available to Uruguayan children between the ages of 7 and 13, and it is free.

That’s right – it costs parents nothing to have their children participate in Baby Futbol.

From this large pool of youth soccer players, academy coaches and scouts from all of the professional clubs in Uruguay will select the best and most talented players to participate in their academy teams programs, starting in the U14 age category.

This means that one, centralised, free youth soccer system houses all of the potential future professional players in Uruguay.  No young Uruguayan soccer player, regardless of his family’s financial resources, is denied the opportunity to play in Baby Futbol, and thus the opportunity to be identified as a potential professional soccer player is accessible to all Uruguayans.

Furthermore, identification and selection of talented players from Baby Futbol (“recreational soccer”) to professional academy teams (“competitive soccer”) in Uruguay occurs at U13, as opposed to at U8 in Canada.  Thus, talented Uruguayan players are not excluded from competitive soccer or the pathway into professional soccer at a young age.

Accessibility of all young soccer players to the professional soccer system, by way of Baby Futbol, is a key contributor to the overall success of Uruguayan soccer, because it means that there are literally no potential professional and/or National Team players who are excluded from the system.

There is potential that in Canada, better accessibility to competitive or “rep” soccer at the youth levels (ages 7-13) could lead to less exclusion of potentially talented players, and in turn strengthen our own professional and National Teams programs.

  1. We need to ensure that beyond the age of 13, coaches who work with talented young soccer players have a high standard of coach education.


As mentioned previously, the best and most talented Uruguayan Baby Futbol players are identified by professional coaches and scouts, and placed into professional academy teams, beginning in the U14 age category.  From there, most professional clubs will have academy teams who compete in U14, U15, U16, U17 and U19 leagues, with the best U17 and U19 players eventually being called up to the clubs’ senior “First Teams.”

Coaches working in professional clubs’ academy teams are required, through the Asssociacion Uruguaya de Futbol (the Uruguayan Football Association – “AUF” for short) to obtain a Uruguayan youth coaching license, which is a 2-year diploma course comprising over 1400 hours of technical instruction, including both written and practical exams.

The content of the course has been developed by local and foreign coaches, as well as sports scientists and teachers, with background and experience at the highest levels of professional and international soccer.  Included in the curriculum are modules covering physiology, biomechanics, sport psychology, and periodization of training – and all the coaches working in professional academies in Uruguay must complete these modules and prove their knowledge and competence in these areas.

Once they reach the professional academy level – a level at which a high standard of coaching is required – talented young Uruguayan soccer players are placed in programs where they receive this high standard of coaching.

The comparative standard of coach education for coaches of competitive soccer players in Canada would be the Ontario Provincial and Canadian National “B” Licenses, each of which comprise 1 week of instruction and testing.  In Uruguay, coaches at the same relative level of competition must take a 2-year licensing course, with multiple written and practical examinations.

Perhaps, if we want to improve our ability to coach and develop our talented young soccer players beyond the age of 13 in Canada, we may need to raise the standard of our Canadian coach education programs for coaches working in these age groups.

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

Fitness, Matches

Soccer in Uruguay: Day 7 – Underdogs

Today the Academy team had a light day of training, because it is a day sandwiched between 2 matches (yesterday and tomorrow).  We got a chance to walk around the “ciudad viejo” which stands for “old city.”  When it rains, it seems as though everyone in Uruguay stays inside their homes, but on a day like today where the sun was shining, the streets in the ciudad viejo were buzzing with people.  This part of Montevideo looks similar to other older European cities I have been to (like Barcelona, for example) but with a distinctive style which is uniquely Uruguayan.

In one of my conversations with the Academy’ Fitness Coach, I mentioned to him something I had noticed both during this trip, as well as the one I made here three years ago – that the players here appear to be more aggressive than the players in Canada, and that they seem to train and play with more intensity.

This aggression and intensity is visible amongst players not only in the youth categories and smaller professional clubs like Canadian SC, but also at the highest levels of Uruguayan soccer (remember Luis Suarez during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil)?

When I asked the Fitness Coach, he told me that in his opinion, aggressiveness is a trait which is inherently part of Uruguayan soccer, and that it is one of the factors that has allowed the country to punch well above its weight at the international level for over 100 years.

Uruguay might be the greatest underdog in the history of international sports – not just in soccer.  Based on its size (a population of just over 3 million people) and location (in South America, possibly the most competitive soccer continent in the world), Uruguay would seem to have no business even qualifying regularly for international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, let alone achieving success in them.

To illustrate this point, consider that in CONMEBOL (the South American football federation in which Uruguay is a member) there are only 4.5 slots for qualification to every FIFA World Cup (and this number is greater than the 4 slots they had up to and including the 1998 World Cup).  This means that only the top 4 teams from South American qualification automatically advance to the World Cup, while the 5th place team must compete in an “inter-confederation play-off” with one of the lower-placing teams from Asia, North America, or Oceania.  The perennial qualifiers and giants of South America have traditionally been Brazil and Argentina, whose populations (200,000,000 and 42,000,000, respectively) both dwarf Uruguay’s.  Neither of those nations has missed out on qualification for a FIFA World Cup since 1970 (Brazil has never missed one) and between them they have won the tournament a total of 7 times (5 to Brazil, and 2 to Argentina).

Even the traditionally less-successful South American countries like Colombia (48,000,000); Chile (17,000,000) ; Peru (30,000,000); Bolivia (10,000,000), Ecuador (16,000,000); and Paraguay (6,000,000) are all between 2-15 times the size of Uruguay.  Yet still, somehow, Uruguay (with a population of only 3,000,000 people) has been much more successful at the World Cup than any of these aforementioned countries, and in the past was on par if not more successful than even Brazil and Argentina.

Uruguay won the first three official “world championships” of soccer (the 1924 and 1928 Olympics soccer tournaments, which were considered the world championship of soccer befre the creation of the FIFA World Cup in 1930, and, of course, the first-ever FIFA World Cup on their home soil that year).  Against all odds, they won the tournament again 20 years later when they defeated heavily favoured Brazil, in Brazil, in front of 200,000 people at Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro.  They refused to participate in the FIFA World Cups in Italy (1934) and France (1938), mainly for political reasons but if they had, they may well have won one or both of those tournaments as well.

Since 1950, Uruguay have not won another World Cup, but they have qualified for 11 of the past 16 World Cups, and have reached the semi-finals on more than one occasion (placing 4th in Mexico in 1970, and then again in South Africa in 2010).  They have also put together a run of success in international soccer which rivals even that of the most successful nations in the world, having won the Copa America (the championship tournament for South America) an incredible 15 times.

So what is the secret to the success of soccer’s greatest underdogs?  I have already written about the role that coach education, professional leagues and opportunities, and even poverty, has played in their success.  But perhaps it is the fact that Uruguay are underdogs in the first place, which has played the biggest role and had the greatest impact.

Canadian SC’s Academy Fitness Coach put it to me in this way:

“When you are smaller than everybody else, you have to fight.  We have always been smaller than everybody else, so we have always had to fight.”

Maybe Uruguay has felt that its back has been against the wall in soccer for over 100 years, and this has led to the development of aggressiveness and intensity which is now a common trait of every homegrown soccer player.  After having spent one week here observing the professional academy system, I would have to agree with this sentiment.


Fitness, For Parents

Soccer in Uruguay: Day 4 -Soccer For Life

Today we had a meeting with staff from the first team, to begin planning the pre-season which will start in exactly 20 days.  It was a very productive meeting, and for me personally it was great to finally see first-hand how a professional coach and a professional organisation functions.  I am very excited for the start of pre-season.

I also got to meet a very unique person today.  His name is Robert Carmona, and he is the Guiness World Record holder as the oldest professional soccer player in the world.  He has played professional soccer in many different countries and even in different continents, including in the United States, Europe and of course South America.

He is also 55 years old.

At an age when most people are nearing retirement from their sedentary jobs, Robert Carmona is still employed in one of the jobs that requires the highest amount of physical activity in the world.  A job from which even the fittest players typically retire around the age of 35 (my current age – and 20 years younger than his current age).

He lives the life of a professional soccer player too – including no drinking or smoking, no sugary foods or soda of any kind, and a daily exercise routine that would probably be a challenge for athletes half his age.

We discussed some aspects of his training and diet, and I gave him some suggestions – not that he necessarily needed any.  He also showed me some of the initiatives he has undertaken in Uruguay, including charitable programs for children’s soccer, as well as motivational programs to help adults improve their health and wellness through exercise (and through soccer).

Meeting Robert Carmona was a revelation for me.  So often as coaches we talk about how we want the athletes we work with, even if they are not successful at the professional or international levels, to remain involved in the sport for the rest of their lives.  Robert is someone who has been involved and remained involved in soccer for his entire life, and his involvement has remained at the highest level possible.  Best of all, in spite of all of his success, he is one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I have ever met.

If you’re interested in learning more about Robert Carmona and his Guiness Records, you can visit his Facebook page via the following link:

Weather permitting, we will begin fitness testing with the Academy teams tomorrow afternoon.  Fingers crossed!

Fitness, Science

The Deadlift – Execution, Benefits, and How to Incorporate it Into a Soccer Player’s Training Program

Written by Soccer Fitness Strength and Conditioning Coach Jacob Ceccanese, edited by Richard Bucciarelli.

The deadlift is an essential compound exercise within a strength and conditioning program. In general, the deadlift offers many positive contributions to an athlete’s training and functional abilities.  Because it is a closed chain exercise, the deadlift is  often used for preventative and rehabilitation purposes. The deadlift is often debated as being a high risk for reward exercise, however, leading researcher Dr. Stuart McGill clarifies the significance of the exercise for us in strength and conditioning programs for athletes.  Dr. McGill refers to the deadlift as a posterior shift exercise maximising the potential to activate the gluteus maximus, a prime mover with respect to hip extension (McGill, 2006).

Increasing the effectiveness of the deadlift is primarily based on achieving correct posture while performing the exercise.  A key postural cue for athletes in keeping a neutral spine, this position is transferred to all different variations of the deadlifts (Eg: sumo, stiff leg, dumbbell or bar). A neutral spine position pulls the spinal column in a normal curvature keeping tension on the muscles instead of ligaments.  Adams and Dolan (1995) provided insight to avoiding injury during an anterior loaded exercise such as the deadlift (Adams & Dolan, 1995). Muscles commonly used in a deadlift such as the erector spinea and latissimus dorsi are primary postural muscles which eliminate flexion of the spine. The research suggests that keeping a neutral spine will eliminate the possibility of shifting the muscle function to the ligaments which are not meant to resist high loads. Adams and Dolan suggest avoiding full lumbar flexion which may allow for decreased risk and increased effectiveness (Adams & Dolan, 1995).

For simplicity, the most common deadlift motion is powerful hip and knee extension through loaded posterior chain musculature. The muscles which perform these movements play a critical role in soccer-specific movements such as vertical jump in a header and explosive acceleration to chase a ball down or close down the space between opposing players while defending.  Including deadlifting into a soccer player’s periodization program would allow them to achieve great performance benefits, as it would allow them to improve the effectiveness of these movements.

Many top strength and conditioning coaches incorporate the deadlift into a soccer player’s regimen for several different reasons, but the main reason it is used is to build general strength to allow an athlete to generate power more efficiently. Strength and power are two terms commonly mistaken as being the same, however, many differences exist between the two.  The force-velocity curve (see below) is a graph that represents the hyperbolic curve relationship between force (y-axis) and velocity (x-axis). Zatsiorsky and Kraemer (2006) explain the specificity in periodization programs to allow athletes to attain the adaptions gained in training to transfer to their sport (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006). The training specific to one end of the spectrum sometimes allows adaptions at the other end. While trying to increase strength, one must lift heavy loads which can only be done at slow speeds, but when trying to increase power or speed, one must lift lighter loads in explosive style lifts.

Force-Velocity Curve

When taking a closer look at the force-velocity curve, it is critical that athletes train to shift that curve to the right, which means that as time gets closer to the season, players have increased their strength to a level which helps optimise their speed and power. A challenge with this type of training is that athletes cannot optimally train strength while at the same time doing power or speed work, and conversely, power cannot be optimally trained while continuing with strength training.  Vladimir Issurin (2008) found that using a “block” periodization for sports such as soccer that depend on key characteristics like speed and power, to be critical for players playing at high levels.  The “block” periodization model is based on training residuals and how long the training adaptions can be maintained without de-training (Issurin, V., 2008).  Physiological adaptions such as improving aerobic endurance, anaerobic ability, as well as maximal strength, all take longer to de-train opposed to motor skill adaptions such as maximal speed (Issurin, V. 2008). Therefore, those characteristics are trained earlier and as the athlete approaches their season, maximal speed and strength endurance work specific to the sport are added in. 

Moving through a block periodization program for a soccer player would begin in the offseason; accumulation phase is step one. A deadlift exercise would be incorporated into the accumulation phase as training focus is to build basic strength and hypertrophy to set up for greater training intensity in future mesocycles. The accumulation phase –  as the name suggests – is a high volume and low intensity phase. During this phase, the deadlift exercise would be done using low loads and more sets and reps. Variation throughout the first phase can be done using different types of deadlifting techniques throughout the microcycles (weekly) to add variation.  Athletes then move from the accumulation phase to the transmutation phase which incorporates more maximal strength and power work. During the transmutation phase, medium load and medium to high intensity is used. The reason for the transmutation phase is to focus the training stimulus to adaptions more specific for performance.  The last stage would be realisation phase; the focus during this phase is power and speed.  The training volume is to remain low and training intensity is to be high.  Lowering the training volume during this phase allows for the accumulated fatigue to dissipate and specific training adaptions to be realised (NCSA).

Through the use of a block periodization, with a progression from phases starting with accumulation, to transmutation, to realisation, soccer players can incorporate the deadlift exercise into their routines and achieve improvements in performance. A specific goal of the use of deadlifts in a block periodization is to move the force-velocity curve towards the right side of the graph. This will allow athletes to increase the amount of force they can produce, at any given velocity or speed, and ultimately will allow them the opportunity to achieve peak levels of strength, speed and power simultaneously through a residual training effect (Hoffman,J. 2012).



Fitness, Science

Hamstring Injuries in Soccer – Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation

Written by Soccer Fitness Internship Student Dante Blair, edited by Richard Bucciarelli.

Hamstring injuries are very common in the world of sports, and especially in the sport of soccer. Injuries to the hamstring muscles can have a drastic effect on an athlete’s career and quality of life.  Audits were done on English Professional teams over two seasons and found that about 12 percent of all soccer related injuries were hamstring related. A hamstring injury can effectively sideline a player for up to 90 days. (Woods, Hawkins, Maltby, Thomas, & Hodson, 2004). It is clear that hamstring injuries pose a problem to athletes so it is important, as with any other injury, for players to participate in preventive measure to reduce the risk of injury. If/when a hamstring injury occurs, players should also follow proper rehabilitation practices and techniques in order to return to play as soon as possible and to prevent re-injury.

The hamstrings consists of three muscles on the back of the leg. The semitendinosus, semimembranosus and the bicep femoris insert at the ischial tuberosity in the pelvis spanning across the knee joint and then inserting on the medial tibia. The hamstrings function to extend the hip and bend the knee.  Hamstring injuries usually occur when there is a quick change in direction during a sprint or a jump. Often the injury occurs during the swing phase of running, prior to the foot touching the ground (Goldman & Jones, 2011). Many risk factors for hamstring injury have been described, being classified as intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors. Intrinsic risk factors include muscle weakness, imbalances, fatigue, poor flexibility and poor technique. Extrinsic factors include insufficient warm up, training parameters and playing surfaces (Goldman & Jones, 2011). Factors like age, sex and ethnicity play a role but are unmodifiable in nature. (Bahr & Holme, 2003).

Preventative measures can be taken to reduce the risk of hamstring injuries by increasing eccentric strength on the hamstrings. Studies have shown a 13 percent reduction in in hamstring injuries by implement a protocol which includes strength training to increase eccentric hamstring strength combined with warm up and stretching. This conclusion makes sense based on the fact that most hamstring injuries involved poor flexibility and muscle weakness. However, it was made clear that to effectively reduce hamstring strains, one must implement both a strength and flexibility component in their training regimen (Arnason, Anderdsen, Holme, Engebretesen, & Bahr, 2008,). An effective exercise that have proven to increase eccentric strength of the hamstring is the Nordic hamstring curl. Furthermore, athletes have to take into consideration the muscle imbalances they may have. Another study concluded that players with strength imbalances where 4-5 times more likely to receive a hamstring injury (Croisier, Ganteaume, Binet, Genty, & Ferret, 2008,). Unfortunately, this type of strength imbalance is common in soccer, because of the fact that many players develop a dominant or stronger leg. It is important to recognise any potential imbalances and implement corrective training measures to solve this issue (for example, participating in uni-lateral strength and flexibility exercises).

In the occurrence of a hamstring injury it is important to take the proper rehab precautions in order to heal as quickly as possible and reduce the risk of re-injury. A hamstring rehabilitation program usually consist of three stages; the acute, subacute and functional stages. In the acute phase of rehabilitation the goal is to protect the injury and minimise motion and strength loss. A common protective mechanism used to reduce inflammation is ice, but ultra sound and laser are used as well. At this time isometric strengthening should be done, with the use of knee flexion exercise at various angles. Once knee flexion strength is greater than 50 percent of uninjured length, the athlete may proceed to the next phase.

The second phase of rehabilitation (subacute phase) consists of concentric and eccentric training to regain strength and neuromuscular control of the hips and pelvis. Exercise done at this stage includes straight leg deadlifts, single leg windmills and the aforementioned Nordic hamstring curls. At this point the athlete should be within 20 percent of full strength and have the ability to jog forward and backward at a moderate speed.

In the final (functional) stage the focus of the rehab is on functional movement and eccentric strengthening and lengthening.  At completion of this stage athletes should have full strength and rage of motion. Bands are used to test the lengthening capabilities of the hamstrings. While using bands, the hips must be in a flexed position as the knee extends to ensure that the hamstrings are functioning properly. Tests that are commonly used to assess if an athlete is eligible to return to play are the H-test and the lengthening state manual hamstring test. Both test are designed to demonstrate full strength and range of motion of the hamstrings. (Schmitt, Tim, & McHugh, 2012)

In summary, injuries, including hamstring injuries, are an unfortunate part of participation in sports including soccer. It is important for all athletes, including soccer players, to take preventative action to reduce the likelihood of any type of injury. In the case of hamstring strains, strengthening the muscle as well as increased flexibility goes along way for injury prevention. If a hamstring injury ever occurs, following a rehabilitation protocol can be beneficial for a healthy recovery and the reduction risk of of re-injury.

Fitness, Science

Choosing the Right Aerobic Fitness Test for Soccer

Written by Soccer Fitness Internship Student Celia Palombella.  Edited by Richard Bucciarelli


Every athlete knows the importance of training specifically to the type of sport they play. The question is, which forms of training are optimal towards each sport, and why? Soccer is a sport that relies heavily on a combination of various energy systems, due to the nature of the sport. These components include: speed, agility, aerobic/anaerobic endurance, strength, power, and skill; utilizing all three energy systems (ATP-PC, Glycolitic/Lactic acid and Aerobic) (Baker, 2013). Aerobic fitness is a very important aspect to focus on when training for soccer players, with anaerobic fitness and agility trailing closely behind. Aerobic fitness is geared towards soccer players in the sense that they need to be able to sustain high intensities throughout the total 90 minutes of the game. Many different types of aerobic fitness training tests have been used towards prescribing intensities for soccer players during their training sessions. Some of these tests include the Yo-Yo test, the 30-15 intermittent fitness test, VO2max test, and various types of shuttle tests.

Sport-specific tests are tests that are used to mimic the nature of the sport. These field tests are often used to evaluate the effects that training has on their athletes, along with methods based on heart rate and rate of perceived exertion to establish the specific internal load needed when training. Modes of aerobic training have been proven to be an important component of physical training for soccer athletes. Studies have verified this showing correlation between athletes’ aerobic power (VO2max) and where they rank on a competitive level, as well as between their quality of play and how much distance they cover during a game. Aerobic training can enhance soccer performances including distance covered, time spent at high intensities and number of sprints and ball possessions during a match (Helgerud, Engen, Wisloff &Hoff, 2001). Training at high aerobic intensities has also shown to improve recovery during high intensity exercise, which is the typical type of performance and training a soccer player would undergo.

In terms of laboratory assessments, VO2max tests and blood lactate levels can be used to assess the condition of a soccer player when prescribing intensities for training. VO2max and lactate thresholds are considered accurate measures of aerobic power and capacity. Assessing these variables with the appropriate protocols when training, could provide coaches with useful information about the effect on the athlete’s central and peripheral factors (Impellizzeri, Rampinini, & Marcora, 2005). However, since most laboratory assessments, such as VO2max are difficult to administer due to equipment cost and time taken to perform them, field tests have grown more popular for coaches to be used towards their soccer training protocols specific to aerobic training. The 20-m shuttle run test can be used to correlate the maximal running speed reached at the end of the test with athletes VO2max (Impellizzeri, Rampinini, & Marcora, 2005). Equations have been made for field tests like this one to estimate one’s VO2max as an alternative to performing a full on VO2max laboratory test.

The 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test was invented by Martin Buchheit. It measures the maximal running speed that can be used towards prescribing training prescriptions for athletes. This test consists of 30-second shuttle runs with 15-second passive recovery periods. When the test ends, the running velocity from the last stage completed is used as the maximal running speed or velocity. A calculation is done with the results to determine the player’s individual maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) (, 2015). These results can be utilized when prescribing training intensities for athletes since each value is individualized to the athlete performing the test.

The Yo-Yo test is another form of an aerobic fitness test that is used by many soccer /strength and conditioning coaches for their athletes. It evaluates each player’s ability to repeatedly perform intense exercise. The results of the Yo-Yo test correlate with the high-intensity running distance that occurs in soccer games (Haugen & Seiler, 2015). The results can also be considered more valuable than measures done for maximal aerobic power. The Yo-Yo aerobic field test is set up as a 20-m long run with a 5-m 5-10 second recovery break in between. Each run is signalled to start from a beep, with beeps increasing times per each level. If the player does not make it to the opposite side before the second beep, the test is completed (, 2015). Again, calculations for VO2max are done with a specific equation created for the Yo-Yo test.

Having an athlete’s VO2max results is very beneficial for coaches or trainers to know how to properly prescribe loads for athlete’s on an individual basis. For example, knowing the VO2max of one athlete can be incorporated into a training program using 75% of the athletes VO2max for a specific exercise intensity or load for a workout. Aerobic endurance levels of athletes can be tested in both laboratory and field settings. For players to be successful, aerobic and anaerobic capabilities must be at a certain level. Performance in soccer relies heavily on an athlete’s aerobic endurance. A study showed that individuals function at about an average of 70% of their VO2max, 80-90% of their HRmax, and blood lactate levels of 2-10 mmol/l, while covering a distance of 8-12km during a professional match (, 2015). These results can be obtained through sport specific laboratory and field tests, such as the ones previously mentioned, to prescribe proper training intensities for athletes. The importance of an athlete’s aerobic system can also be seen when viewing the rankings for competitive teams. We now can form a conclusion around the importance of aerobic tests for soccer athletes specific to training.

Fitness, Science, Technology

The Soccer Fitness Drop Jump Test – An Efficient and Effective Way to Measure Agility in Athletes


Written by Soccer Fitness Staff member Alexandra Giannone, edited by Richard Bucciarelli.

The drop-jump test is a vertical plyometric exercise that is used to evaluate an individuals
explosive power (Ebben & Petushek, 2010) as well as a measurement of their eccentric leg
strength and agility.

To perform a drop-jump one must stand on box, with one foot hanging off the edge and their hands on their hips. The individual will then step down, hitting the ground with both feet, once contact with the ground is made they must then rapidly explode and jump up
as high as possible.

For a more explosive jump it is crucial for them to utilize their stretch shortening cycle (SSC) to its full capacity. When the eccentric/concentric phases of a movement are coupled, a more powerful contraction is produced. During the eccentric phase, active muscles are pre-stretched and absorb energy. Part of this energy is temporarily stored and then reused during the concentric contraction phase of the SSC. A short transition between the eccentric and the concentric phase is necessary for this elastic energy to be used optimally (Flanagan & Comyns, 2008).

The ground contact time in these plyometric exercises are an important variable for strength and conditioning. Athletes that wish to increase maximum jump height can benefit from longer ground contact times, allowing them to generate maximum force and maximum jump height. However, an athlete that needs to improve their maximum velocity sprinting speed would require the plyometric exercise to have shorter contact times.

Examining the ground contact times of an athlete during these plyometric exercises will give a coach/trainer an excellent indication of whether the exercise being performed is beneficial to the athletes’ specific sport. In a recent study examining the use of the drop jump, male athletes were found to have had shorter contact times, and produced the highest maximum and and mean mechanical power, as compared to female athletes (Walsh, Arampatzis, Schade, & Brüggemann, 2004).
To evaluate an individual’s drop jump performance and explosive strength, their reactive
strength index (RSI) must be measured (Ebben & Petushek, 2010). RSI is equal is jump height (JH) divided by contact time (CT) (RSI = JH/CT). CT is defined as the time between the first foot contact with the force platform and when the subject’s feet left the platform. JH is characterized as the time between the subjects feet leaving the force platform and when they contacted it again (Stephenson, Ebben, Flanagan, & Jensen, 2011).

Drop jump and reactive strength index can be assessed using a variety of methods. At Soccer Fitness, athletes have the opportunity to be assessed using OptoJump, an
innovative system analysis and measurement, consisting of a transmitting and receiving bar. The system detects any interruptions in communication between the bars and calculates duration (ex. jump height and contact time) A system like this allows for assessment and optimization of performance to the world of competitive sport (Microgate, 2014).

Agility is a term that is very controversial due to the result of multiple factors and various
disciplines in sports science. A biomechanist, a motor learning scientist and a strength and conditioning coach can all have different perspectives as to what influences agility performance.  A comprehensive definition of agility would recognize the physical demands (strength and conditioning, cognitive processes (motor learning) and technical skills (biomechanics) (Sheppard & Young, 2006).

In order to assess agility the movement/exercise must feature an element of
reaction and/or decision-making in addition to the particular change of direction. There are multiple tests that determine an individuals change in direction ability, some include, the Illinois test, 5-0-5 test, and the Zigzag run test. However, these tests do not show a significant relationship with one another. This means that an athletes scoring on different change of direction tests depends on the movement demands of the test protocol. In addition, change of direction may also differ depending on whether the athletes cutting movements are executed with their dominant or non-dominant leg (Gamble, 2012). The drop-jump was also compared to a 20 metre sprint exercise that contained three- directional changes and was found that there was no significant correlation between the two. It was suggested that reactive strength, due to the SSC involvement, is a better predictor and has a stronger relationship with change of direction speed (Young, James, & Montgomery, 2002).
Overall, strength and power measures have an influence on change of direction speed
(CODS), but this relationship is only observed when comparing tasks involving CODS over
short distances. Sports that involve these short distances, such as badminton and soccer, strength and power have a stronger relationship with CODS than athletes who perform higher speeds over longer distances with directional changes (Negrete & Brophy, 2000).

Fitness, Science

The Problem With “Reaction Time” Training in Soccer – And What to do About It

There is girl in the United States that can strike out any Major League Baseball player.  Easily.  This is not a joke.

In The Sports Gene, a 2013 book written by David Epstein which should be required reading for any sports scientist or fitness coach working with athletes, the author discusses sport-specific anticipatory and reaction abilities, and how they apply to the learning of sports skills.

Epstein describes a famous United States National Women’s Softball pitcher named Jennie Finch.  She played some exhibition games in the early 2000’s where she pitched against top men’s baseball players like Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, and Barry Bonds.  Although all of these players are expert hitters, who presumably possess exceptional “reaction” skills that allow them to routinely hit 100+ mph overhand fastballs in their own sport, none of them were able to hit Jennie Finch’s 50-60 Mph, underhand, softball pitches.

How can it be that the professional athletes considered to have the world’s best “reaction time” cannot hit an underhand pitch travailing at 1/3rd the speed they are accustomed to?  The reason Finch’s pitches are un-hittable for Major League Baseball players is not because she is possesses any super-human strength or power.   It is because men’s baseball players – even the elite ones – have no experience in softball or in facing underhanded softball pitches.

Over time and through the accumulation of repetitive practice, Major League ballplayers have been exposed to hundreds of thousands of overhand fastball pitches, and as a result they have developed the ability to accurately predict where the ball will end up – to “anticipate” – at about the time the pitcher cocks his arm backwards.  If the same players were to wait until they could actually see where the ball from a fastball pitch would travel, and then try to “react” to it, the ball would already be in the catcher’s glove by the time they would have started their swing.

As a function of their training and experience, elite professional baseball players are able decide where and how they are going to swing at fastball pitches – again, to “anticipate” rather than to “react” – with enough time to actually hit the ball.  This unique anticipatory ability, which has been studied extensively in sports science research, has been proven to be much faster and more developed in professional versus amateur ballplayers, meaning that elite players are able to “see into the future” far sooner than sub-elite players, and the extra time gained from this ability allows them to have a much higher success rate in hitting the ball.

Unfortunately, because these same players have never been exposed to underhand softball pitches, they have not accumulated enough experience to develop the ability to accurately predict where Finch’s underhand pitches will go quickly enough to react to them.  Their anticipatory skills are very specific to the type of movements and plays they have been exposed to in their particular sport, and are not effective in softball.  So they strike out.  Every time.

The Sports Gene cites several different research studies that have examined elite athletes in several different sports (including soccer) and the results are always the same.  Elite professional athletes are able to predict – accurately – what is going to happen in their own sport before it actually happens.  And they are able to do it quicker than their opponents.

There are a few caveats, however.  Firstly, elite athletes’ anticipatory skills in their own sport are not transferable to other sports.  In all the studies cited in The Sports Gene, when elite athletes (with exceptional anticipatory ability from their own sport) were asked to predict the outcomes of plays from other sports, they showed no significant differences in predictive ability as compared to average, sub-elite performers (and in many cases they were worse than sub-elite performers).  Furthermore and perhaps more importantly, elite athletes from every sport who were tested, including soccer, were not shown to have any significant differences in actual “reaction time” – the time taken from the perception of stimulus to the initiation of movement reacting to the stimulus – than either sub-elite athletes, or even from non-athletic members of the general population.

Thus, anticipation, and not reaction time, is the ability which separates elite from sub-elite athletes (and it is also the reason than no Major League ballplayer will ever hit Jennie Finch’s underhand pitch).

Armed with this information, how can soccer coaches and fitness coaches train their athletes to improve sport-specific anticipatory skills?  The good news is that the answer is very simple.  Research and science in skilled performance and motor learning has indicated that the best way to improve these abilities in athletes is not to use fancy “reaction time” or “agility” drills.  Instead, players need to play soccer, or conditioned small-sided versions of the soccer, as much as possible.

Through repetitive exposure to hundreds of thousands of instances where soccer-specific anticipation is required (for example, determining where a pass from a teammate or opponent will end up), players can develop and improve their ability to accurately predict what will happen, position themselves accordingly, and increase their chances of success.

When designing training sessions and exercises, coaches and fitness coaches should determine which anticipatory skills they would like to develop, and then select an appropriate small-sided game with the appropriate conditions (for example, field size, number of players, rules of the game, etc.) in order to help them to bring these skills out in their players.  If the goal of training is to the ability to dribble and beat an opponent forwards, use a 1 vs. 1 game with players attacking defenders head-on.  If the goal is to improve players’ ability to ability to connect passes and make combinations such as wall-passes, use a small-sided game like 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4, and perhaps add one extra attacker to help teams in possession outnumber defenders around the ball. If the goal is to improve a goalkeeper’s ability to stop shots from medium-range, use a small-sided game with large goals and a relatively short field length that will encourage players to shoot.  You get the picture.

Eventually, through the accumulation of enough repetition and experience, players will improve their ability to accurately predict what will happen (“anticipate”), and take the action (“react”) that will give them the highest chances of success.  They will decrease the mistakes they make by improving their positioning and decision making.  And the team will play better as a result.

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

Fitness, Science

3 Simple Strategies to Train for Speed (On the Field, With the Ball) This Pre-Season

It’s the middle of April, and if you’re a youth soccer coach here in Canada that means you’ve probably started your pre-season in preparation for the outdoor competitive season, which typically starts sometime in May.

One of the most important areas of physical fitness that must be trained during the pre-season is speed.  If you have done a good job preparing your players with aerobic training during the past few months, then a transition into anaerobic – or speed – training during pre-season can be a very effective way to ensure that they are as fit as possible in time for the first regular season match.

Speed training, in its simplest form, requires athletes to perform multiple sets and repetitions of sprints at maximal or near-maximal intensity, while allowing for enough recovery between these sets and repetitions so that the intensity can be maintained throughout the entire workout.  In soccer, the best way to train for speed is on the field.  Below are 3 simple strategies that can help you to design appropriate exercises for your players that can be incorporated into your training sessions, on the field, and with the ball.

  1. Make the sprints soccer-specific:

The principle of specificity dictates that the adaptations which occur from a training stimulus are specific to the type of training stimulus used.  Thus, if you want your players to become better at running in a straight line, then linear running training in which they run in a straight line would be appropriate.  If, however, you want your players to become better at the types of running they must do in soccer (straight and diagonal runs, backwards and lateral runs, frequent decelerations and changes of direction, etc.) then these types of runs must be performed in speed training sessions.  In order to make speed training soccer-specific, coaches must design exercises where players must run and move at high intensities using the exact same movements – both with and without the ball – that are used in the game.


  1. Incorporate reaction time – and make the reactions soccer-specific:

Reaction time involves the time interval between the presentation of a stimulus, and the movement that occurs as a result of this stimulus.  In track and field, for example, athletes must react to an auditory stimulus – the sound of a gun after an “on your marks..get set..” countdown.  In soccer, on the other hand, almost all of the sprints and high intensity movements involve reactions to visual – not auditory – stimuli.   Thus, incorporating exercises that present players with visual stimuli (different color cones, hand gestures, movements of players, etc.) will make the reaction time training more relevant – and specific – to the sport.


  1. Make players compete – and punish the “losers”:

One of the greatest challenges you will face when implementing speed training on the field is trying to ensure that your players run as fast as they possibly can during each repetition or sprint.  If they do not – a problem which typically occurs because they are not pushing themselves – then there is little chance that the training will elicit any actual improvements in running speed.  An effective way to get players to push themselves during speed training is to make the exercises into a competition.  Have them compete directly, 1 versus 1 or in small groups, and keep score.  Incorporate some kind of reward for the “winners” of these competitions, and also a punishment for the “losers” (push-ups are an excellent means of punishment).

Below are some examples of speed training exercises, which have been pulled directly from our own Soccer Fitness On-Field Training protocols, and which (of course) also incorporate the three suggestions listed above.  I hope you enjoy them and as always, welcome your feedback!

  1. Linear Speed / Agility Competition:

Set-Up / Organization:

article 1

  • Players in groups of 4
  • ½ of the players on one side of the start cone, with a pinney tucked into the back of their shorts like a “tail”; the other ½ of the players on the other side
  • Coach uses a specific color cone to start the exercise (example: green cone); when the coach raises the green cone, players compete by running a 2×5 metre agility sprint, followed by a 15 metre linear sprint
  • Player without the tail is trying to pull the tail of their opponent; player with the tail is trying to get through the gate without their tail being pulled
  • Each player performs 4 repetitions with the tail, and 4 repetitions without the tail

2. Foot / Head Tag Game:

Set-Up / Organization:


  • Players in groups of 2, both players inside the square; 1 player has a ball in hands
  • Players play a game of “tag”, where the player with the ball must “tag” the other by throwing the ball and hitting the opponent’s feet; only hits to the feet count as points, and if the throw is missed, the player who threw it must get the ball, go back into the square and continue playing
  • Perform 6 repetitions, for 15 seconds each (3 repetitions for each player as “tagger”, with 15 seconds of rest in between repetitions); the player with the least amount of points after the 4 repetitions must do push-ups as “punishment”
  • Perform another 6 repetitions (3 for each player as “tagger”), but change the rule so that the “tagger” must try to “tag” the other player with a self-header (throwing the ball towards the head and hitting it forwards)

3. 1 V 1 Game:

Set-Up / Organization:


  • Players in groups of 8
  • 4 players on one starting cone (with a ball), 4 players on the other (without a ball)
  • Player with ball plays a pass to player without ball, then closes down into a defensive position
  • Player with ball must play 1v1, using fakes/feints and change of speed (over 5 metres) to beat the defender and dribble through the gate on either side
  • Next set of 2 players starts once the first 2 are finished
  • Each player performs 8 repetitions with the ball, and 8 repetitions without the ball




Fitness, For Parents, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #24: Friday, March 25th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness.  In this edition, we discuss the problems with traditional March Break soccer camps, and provide some suggested alternatives for players, parents, and coaches.

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

Fitness, Science

Like it or Not – There IS a Link Between Speed and Level of Play in Soccer

As human beings, we suffer from an unfortunate tendency to ignore factual evidence in favour of our own beliefs and opinions.  Sometimes, the rational areas of our brains allow us to “over-ride” this tendency and accept objective evidence as truth.  Other times, as seems to be the case for some youth soccer coaches with regards to player identification, it doesn’t.  Three weeks ago I wrote and posted an article titled “Why Coaches in High Performance Programs Shouldn’t Select Slow Players.”  This article presented evidence-based suggestions for youth soccer coaches in high performance environments.   The main point of the article was to explain that speed (and other speed characteristics like agility, power, and high intensity running ability) is a good predictor of performance in soccer, and also that speed is primarily genetically determined, so if coaches want to select players who have a good chance of achieving success in soccer, they should include assessment of speed and speed characteristics in their identification and selection processes.

I received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, from this article.  One common theme among the responses, however, served to highlight the fact that there are still many youth coaches out there who are unwilling or unable to accept the use of objective facts in player identification and selection.  Many people who responded to my article were critical of the idea of including speed and high intensity running ability among the selection criteria for high performance soccer environments, mainly because they felt that this approach would lead to the selection of players who are “good athletes” as opposed to “good soccer players.”  Unfortunately, this is the point at which opinion starts to take over from reality, and in order to restore objectivity, I have decided to present a short review of the evidence linking speed and high intensity running ability to level of play in soccer.

Firstly, it should be noted that there is no reason to think that being a “good athlete” and being a “good soccer player” are mutually exclusive.  The reality is that for every Andrea Pirlo or Xavi Hernandez (“good payers” who are not necessarily “good athletes”) there is a Lionel Messi or Zlatan Ibrahimovic (“good players” who are most certainly “good athletes.”).  Of course, coaches who reference Pirlo, Xavi or any other “good player” who is not a “good athlete” are either unintentionally or willfully ignoring the fact that these players are so exceptionally gifted technically and tactically, that they can get away with not being a “good athlete” and still perform at a high level.  Objectively speaking, 99% of the world’s professional soccer players do not have the technical or tactical skills of Pirlo or Xavi, but they do have above-average speed and high intensity running abilities.  Below is a brief summary of the findings from several recent studies which have all demonstrated a link between speed, high intensity running ability, and level of play in soccer:

  • From “Physiological Characteristics of Elite Soccer Players” by Douglas Tumilty (1993): “A comparison of top teams and players with less able participants indicates that the components of anaerobic fitness – speed, power, strength, and the capacity of the lactic acid system – may differentiate better between the two groups.”

  • From “A Multidisciplinary Approach to Talent Identification in Soccer” by Reilly et. al. (2000), which compared elite to sub-elite soccer players on a variety of physical, technical, and psychological tests: “The most discriminating of the measures were agility, sprint time, ego orientation and anticipation skill. The elite players were also significantly leaner, possessed more aerobic power, and were more tolerant of fatigue.”

  • From “Match Performance of High-Standard Soccer Players with Special Reference to Development of Fatigue” by Mohr et. al. (2003), which compared first-division and second division professional soccer players in specific performance tests: “The results show that top-class soccer players performed more high-intensity running during a game and were better at the Yo-Yo test than moderate professional players.”

  • From “Strength and Speed Characteristics of Elite, Subelite, and Recreational Young Soccer Players” by Gissis et. al. (2006), which compared a range of fitness tests between three different levels of play in youth soccer: “The findings of the present study suggest that the elite young soccer players can be distinguished from subelite and recreational young soccer players in strength and speed characteristics.”

  • From “The Evaluation of the Running Speed and Agility Performance in Professional and Amateur Soccer Players” by Kaplan et. al. (2009), which compared professional and amateur soccer players in a variety of speed and agility tests: “In conclusion, professional soccer players’ running speed and agility performances are higher than amateur soccer players.”

  • From “Speed and High Intensity Running Ability of Female Soccer Players of Different Standards of Play” by Rupf et. al. (2010; a research project I worked on and co-authored, presented at the 2nd World Conference of Science and Soccer in Port Elizabeth, South Africa): “High level players are faster, possess greater speed endurance, and have a greater capacity for high intensity work than club players.”

You get the point.

The identification and selection of talented youth soccer players is a challenging process.  Most, if not all, of the studies I have cited above have advocated (as have I) that a multifactorial approach, giving consideration to players’ technical and tactical skill, stage of growth and development, and physical/physiological characteristics (including speed characteristics), is the most appropriate way to identify and select talented players for high performance programs.  Because speed and speed characteristics are one (of many) factors that differentiate between levels of play in soccer, youth soccer coaches in high performance environments should include assessments of these characteristics as part of their identification and selection processes.  It’s time for all of us in Canadian soccer to ignore our predisposition to trust our own opinions, and accept the fact that there is a link between speed and level of play in our sport.

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


Fitness, For Parents

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #22: Friday, March 11th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, we provide advice for soccer parents and players about which factors they should consider when deciding what soccer program they would like to participate in.

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

Fitness, Science, Uncategorized

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #21: Friday, March 4th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, we discuss the push-up exercise, how it can be incorporated into a player/team’s training routine, as well as specific exampled and variations of the exercise to target muscular power, strength, coordination, and core stability.

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

Fitness, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #20: Friday, February 26th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog. In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, we discuss skilled performance and motor learning, and how best to teach individual technical skills in soccer practice.

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

Fitness, For Parents, Science

Why Coaches in High Performance Programs Shouldn’t Select Slow Players

I have written and published several articles highlighting the importance of coaches and fitness coaches using objective, factual methods of analysis for assessing soccer players’ performance, from both the physical, as well as the technical and tactical viewpoints.  Using standardized, objective methods of player assessment minimizes – and in some case eliminates – the influence of coaching bias which can occur as a result of subjective, opinion-based analysis.  In the book ‘The Sports Gene’ by David Epstien (which should be required reading for any fitness coach working with athletes, including soccer players) the value of objective analysis is clearly apparent.  According to Epstein, one objective fact that is of specific importance in sports including soccer, is that speed – and in particular an athlete’s percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres, which are responsible for increased speed – is an excellent predictor of performance. Simply put, this means that players at higher levels of play (professional and National Team soccer, for example) are faster, and have better recovery abilities, than players at lower levels of play (amateur and recreational soccer).

Below is an excerpt from one of the few instances in which Epstein discusses soccer in The Sports Gene, including quotes from Danish fitness expert, and fitness coach for Copenhagen F.C. in the Danish First Division, Jesper Andersen:

 “Soccer coaches all want the fastest athletes, so Andersen wondered how it could be that many Danish pros have fewer fast-twitch fibres than an average person on the street.  “The guys that have the very fast muscles can’t really tolerate as much training as the others”, Andersen says.  “The guys with a lot of fast-twitch fibres that can contract their muscles very fast have much more risk of a hamstring injury, for instance, than the guys who cannot do the same type of explosive contraction but who never get injured.”  The less injury-prone players survived the development years, which is why the Danish elite level ended up skewed toward the slow-twitch.”

Interestingly, several studies investigating muscle fibre-type distribution amongst professional soccer players have indicated that in many other countries, the professional players have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres, and thus are “faster” than the players in the lower levels.  Furthermore, there have been numerous match analysis studies (comparing the total number of sprints, total amount of high intensity running, and mean sprinting speed amongst professional and amateur soccer players) which have confirmed that professional soccer players run faster, and do more fast running, than amateur soccer players.  So why are the professional players in Denmark “skewed toward the slow-twitch” as Andersen indicates?  The answer most likely lies in talented player identification and selection.

A second objective fact mentioned repeatedly in The Sports Gene is that speed and, to a lesser extent, high intensity running ability, are largely determined by genetics, and that athletes (including soccer players) who possess these abilities are far more likely to reach the higher levels of play.  If we look at the sport of soccer objectively, and we accept the (objective) fact that speed  and high intensity running ability are determined by genetics, then soccer coaches and fitness coaches in high performance environments should be identifying and selecting players based on these abilities, especially in the older youth (U14-up), and adult age categories.  This does not necessarily mean that player identification at higher levels of play should be focused exclusively on speed and high intensity running ability but rather, that coaches and fitness coaches should place a high priority on identifying and selecting players based on these abilities.  If there is a choice to be made between selection of two players with similar technical and tactical abilities, the edge should go to the player with better speed and high intensity running ability.

Soccer players’ speed characteristics should be measured early (starting at age 10-12) and consistently, using objective assessment tools such as photo-cell timing gates (to assess linear running speed), and the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (to assess high intensity running ability).  Players who have been identified as having superior speed and high intensity running ability, especially when this identification happens at a young age, should be given priority to be placed in high performance training environments where they can maximize the technical and tactical aspects of their game.  The volume and intensity of the physical training these players receive, as per Andersen’s suggestions, should be tailored to their own specific muscle physiology, with a combination of relatively high intensity and relatively low volume, in order to maximize their speed and high intensity running ability while at the same time minimizing their risk of injury.

The use of objective facts, rather than subjective opinions, should always be of paramount importance to soccer coaches and fitness coaches when assessing, selecting, and training their players.  Because it is an objective fact that speed and high intensity running ability are both good predictors of performance in soccer, as well as determined more by genetics than by training, coaches and fitness coaches must place a high priority on selecting for these physical abilities in their talent identification and selection processes.  Becoming an elite level soccer player requires world class technical and tactical ability, but it also requires world class speed, and this fact cannot be ignored by soccer coaches in high performance environments, even in our own country.

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

Fitness, Science

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #16: Friday, January 29th, 2016

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the next edition of the Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog (and the first edition for 2016)! In this Blog, we will be providing weekly video content relating to all things soccer and fitness. In this edition, we discuss the squat exercise, how to choose the right variation for soccer, and how best to incorporate it into soccer strength routines.

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

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!

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!

Fitness, Science, Uncategorized

Why Coaches Need to Learn About Fitness Training

Coach education has always been a passion of mine.  Throughout my career, I have continually pushed and challenged myself in all areas of my education, both in fitness/sports science, as well as in soccer coaching.  In recent years, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to become an educator, lecturing at universities/colleges, national/international sports science and soccer coaching conferences, as well as to youth clubs and academies throughout the province.  In this article, I am introducing and explaining the rationale behind the creation of my Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course, the first ever soccer-specific coach education course in Canada to focus specifically on physical training and testing of soccer players and teams.

The establishment of standards-based leagues for elite youth and adult amateur players in Ontario is a huge step in the right direction for optimal player development and to strengthen our Canadian National Teams.  As a company working exclusively with soccer players, we at Soccer Fitness Inc. are primarily concerned with the fitness standards associated with these new leagues, and how they can best be implemented in order to optimize players’ physical development.  One fact that is certain is that, as the numbers of teams and players in standards-based leagues grows, the clubs with teams in these leagues will require knowledgeable and experienced fitness coaches to provide the high quality fitness testing and training which the players require.  Making sure that fitness coaches are educated about safe, science/evidence-based methods of testing and training is of critical importance in ensuring soccer players receive the high standard of training that has been mandated.  While there presently exists a wide variety of continuing education courses aimed at fitness professionals, including a few that are considered to be “sport-specific training courses” there is no course available to coaches or fitness professionals that teaches soccer-specific fitness training.

Why is it so important for coaches and fitness coaches to learn about soccer-specific fitness training?  Simply put, there is no way for any coach to maximize the development of the players they work with if they are not knowledgeable about fitness and/or are not able to incorporate fitness into their team training sessions.  The reality of youth soccer in Canada is that field time and total training time are limited – sometimes to as little as 2-3 training sessions per week.  Thus, coaches and fitness coaches working in these environments must be able to make the most efficient use of their training time, by combining the technical / tactical aspects of their training with the right physical / physiological aspects (duration, intensity, and work-to-rest ratios).  To use just one example, if players and/or teams train to improve any specific technical or tactical ability, but this training is done at an intensity which is lower than the actual intensity experienced during match play, then the resulting improvements in technical and tactical performance will not translate as effectively into match play.  Consequently, coaches and fitness coaches – whether they like it or not – must be able to plan and implement training sessions that include the right type of physical and physiological training stimulus in combination with their specific technical and tactical plan in order to maximize their players’ overall development and performance.

It was with these facts in mind that I decided to create the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course, aimed at fitness professionals and/or soccer coaches looking to increase their knowledge and practical skills in the design and implementation of soccer-specific on-field fitness training.  The first edition of the Course will be taking place on the weekend of January 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2016, at Trio Sportsplex, located at 601 Cityview Blvd. in Vaughan.  The Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course is a unique coach-education program that combines theoretical lectures in the sports sciences, with the practical and soccer-specific application of these sciences.  Fitness professionals and/or soccer coaches who enrol in the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course will learn how to plan and implement year-round soccer-specific fitness training programs for their teams.

Central to the Course is the teaching of Soccer Fitness’ 60-Minute Soccer-Specific On-Field Fitness Session.  We have used and continue to use these comprehensive 1-hour sessions in all of our On-Field Training programs, with teams ranging from U10-U18 rep./academy, the Ontario Provincial/Canadian National Teams, the Toronto FC Academy teams, and professional soccer clubs abroad.  The basic format and structure of the Soccer Fitness 60-Minute Soccer-Specific On-Field Fitness Session, which is described and taught in detail during the Course, is as follows:

  • 0-15 minutes: Soccer-Specific Warm-Up
  • 16-30 minutes: Soccer-Specific Coordination Training
  • 31-45 minutes: Soccer-Specific Energy System Training
  • 46-60 minutes: Soccer-Specific Strength Training

Other topics covered in the course include anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and motor learning specific to the sport of soccer, as well as modules on fitness assessment, periodization of training, injury prevention, and specific youth soccer training.   Fitness professionals with an interest in working with soccer players will come away from the Course with a much better understanding of how to make all aspects of their training programs more specific to the sport of soccer.  Soccer coaches who are working with players at any age or level of ability will come away from the Course with valuable knowledge and skills that will allow them to successfully plan and implement physical fitness exercises into their practices, and they will also learn how to integrate fitness work within their regular technical/tactical training sessions.

The Ontario Soccer Association’s and Canadian Soccer Association’s new standards for soccer-specific physical fitness testing and training are changes that will be extremely helpful to the long-term athletic development of our province’s soccer players.  Fitness professionals and soccer coaches working in high performance environments and wishing to meet these standards will now require some specific training and education to learn how to plan and implement optimal physical fitness testing and training programs for their athletes and teams.  It is our belief that the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course will provide participants with essential knowledge and practical skills in the fields of exercise science and on-field coaching/training.  Our Trainer’s Course will provide coaches and fitness professionals with the tools they need to optimize the physical development and performance of the players they work with.

Below is a link to our registration form for the Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course (for anyone who is interested in attending).

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

Soccer Fitness Trainer’s Course Registration Form – January 2016

Fitness, Science, Technology

Soccer Fitness Gols Video Blog #10: Friday, November 13th, 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 effectiveness of backwards running – both on the ground, as well as on a high speed / high incline treadmill – at training the hamstrings as hip extensors.

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

Fitness, Injuries, Science

The Science Behind 1 Match Per-Week

Last week in our blog, I discussed how the Canadian college and university soccer regular season and play-off schedules are hurting the development and long-term health of players by forcing them to play 2, and sometimes even 3, full 90+ minute matches per week, over a 10-12 week time period.  This post garnered a large response from readers, including some supportive as well as some critical comments.  At Soccer Fitness Gols, we truly value and appreciate all of our readers’ feedback, and since our blog topic last week was so popular, I have decided to follow up by providing a more detailed summary of one of the most recent scientific studies examining the relationship between number of matches played per week, and both physical performance as well as injury rates in soccer.  Hope you like it!

In 2007, a group of researchers from the University of Lille, led by Gerard Dupont, examined data from match results, match-related physical performance, and injuries, of 32 different soccer players competing in the 2007-2008, and 2008-2009 UEFA Champions League seasons.  Participants in the UEFA Champions League were used in this study because this competition, combined with domestic league fixtures, often forces players to participate in more than one full 90+ minute match per week.  The authors were interested in determining whether any differences existed in both physical performance, as well as injury rates, between players who played in one match per week, versus players who played in two matches per week.  Players who did play in 2 matches per week averaged between 72 and 96 hours (3-4 days) of recovery between these matches.  Here is a direct quote/summary of the results from the study by Dupont et. al. (2011):

“Physical performance, as characterized by total distance covered, high-intensity distance, sprint distance, and number of sprints, was not significantly affected by the number of matches per week (1 versus 2), whereas the injury rate was significantly higher when players played 2 matches per week versus 1 match per week (25.6 versus 4.1 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure; P < .001).”

In layman’s terms, these results indicate that while players’ physical performance did not necessarily decline with 2 matches per week, their risk of injury increased by over 600%.  Interestingly, the UEFA Champions League and domestic league schedules with a combined 2 matches per week still afforded players between 3-4 full days in between each match. Unfortunately, in Canadian college and university soccer, the matches played per week typically fall on weekends, and are thus played back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday, with only 24 hours (1 day) of rest between matches. In the college/university post season, as well as in the Canadian Club National Championships and several other amateur youth soccer tournaments in Canada, recovery time between matches can be even less, with 3-4 matches played over the course of 4-5 days, and in some cases even more than one match played in the same day.  Taking this decreased recovery time into account, it may be possible that a greater risk of injury, and even a potential decrease in physical performance, may occur in these environments.  If nothing else, in my opinion this topic should at least warrant further scientific research.

Ultimately, all competitive amateur soccer schedules in Canada, at both the youth (club/academy) and adult (college/university) levels, should be structured in the best interests of the players, with players’ physical health and recovery time being of primary importance.  The science on the subject is clear: playing more than one 90+ minute soccer match per week is simply not healthy for players.  Time will tell if our Canadian amateur soccer and sport organizations will embrace this objective, scientific fact, and adjust their competitive schedules accordingly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  As always please feel free to post your comments below.