Soccer is a speed, agility and power game. Why on earth they still send kids out on 40 minute runs to work on their aerobic conditioning is beyond me.
If you want to work on their aerobic capacity, try 20 x 50m tempo strides @75% speed with pushups and sit-ups (or any core exercise) on opposite end of the runs.
When the kids have a bad game, some soccer coaches send them the very next day on a 7:00 AM 40 minute run because they feel they needed more conditioning based on sloppy play! That is totally insane, in my opinion.
But that doesn’t mean overall fitness isn’t important.
Here in Italy, Soccer, uh, I mean football or CALCIO is the National sport, just like hockey is in Canada and especially Quebec.
When I have a bunch of kids without knowing their backgrounds or skill level, I like to start off with 5 common fitness tests which can be performed all in a single day “camp”.
- Standing Long Jump. I like to remind them the WR is 12’ 4” by a shot putter, not a runner, thus it’s a test of POWER. I give everyone 3 tries, and measure the best one. 10 feet for adults is a very good jump. Unlike the NFL Scouting combine where you must land like a gymnast, I use a sand box from the Long Jump pit. I am measuring shear power how far they can jump.
- 40 yard dash. Some prefer 40 meters, but everyone likes to compare themselves with Deion Sanders or Usain Bolt. I go on first motion, and try to have 3 timers, just like the old days of hand timing with chronographs. Soccer players usually reach full speed between 40-50 meters, with girls reaching it sooner than boys. (Elite sprinters reach max velocity around 60m, and Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay are reaching it at 65-70m!) I give everyone 2 tries with full recovery between the runs.
- 10 meter sprint. Here you need a good electronic timing system that times from a break in the plane. Whatever method you choose, be CONSISTENT year in and year out. You can give two or three tries without tiring them out. Some people say 7 steps is the optimal stride pattern.
- T-Agility Run. How well can your soccer players can stop and change direction? You can use cones (by touch) or beanbags (to grab) for this test. Taller cones or pylons will result in faster times. Usually they have two tries in case they “fumble” a beanbag.
Basically you need 4 cones in a “T formation” where the distances are 10 meters apart. This will test the left and right lateral speeds and quickness, along with a backwards run to the starting point.
The Multistage Fitness Test or Beep test. This test provides a sufficiently accurate estimate of an
athlete’s VO2 Max. I save this for the very end of all the testing, and for a good reason, too.
I’m totally against testing a flat distance, say 6 laps (1.5 miles) or 5K run. Because that would just encourage them to go out and do “long runs”.
The test is made up of 23 stages where each stage lasts 1 minute. Each stage consist of a series of 20 meter back and forth shuttles where the starting speed is 8.5 km/hr (5.1 mph) and increases by 0.5 km/hr at each stage. The end stage is set at 20 km/hr. (12 mph or 5 minute mile!)
On the recording, a single beep indicates the end of a shuttle and 3 beeps indicates the start of the next level. You can download the beep test in WAV format (10.2 MB) or WMA format (2.1 MB). You can burn the WAV file onto an audio CD for your ghettoblaster or boombox or whatever you call it these days.
Players continue until they no longer reach the twenty meter mark before the beep.
It is rumoured David Beckham could complete the entire beep test for all 23 levels. A good indication of fitness with well conditioned athletes is above the 13th level for males, and 12 for females.
Also, these tests can be conducted at the end of the season, so weaker athletes can work on skills and conditioning in the off season. Just don’t send them on 40 minute runs!