Football academies were created to train and develop young talents that will join the first team in the future, and will go to the great club, as well as the national team of the country. Fans identify with such players more willingly, which creates a community around the club. The financial aspect is equally important, because the club earns money and gains stability on transfers of alumni. This is the philosophy of Zagłębie Lubin, which has been focusing on youth training for many years. In the 2019/2020 season alone, as many as 5 youth players made their debut in Ekstraklasa, the first team was made up of a total of 13 alumni, who also formed the core of the Polish national team and played in the best European leagues. To prepare the players for the game at the highest level, the academy places great emphasis on physical preparation and systematic work based on data from the GPS system.
What is the role of motor preparation?
Taking a pragmatic approach to the goal (knowing the requirements of modern football), the most important thing is to prepare players to play at the highest possible level. Simple? Not necessarily, because there are many factors in our way that we must take into account.
- Primarily football is a sport based on technique and tactics.
The situation is completely different, for example in the NFL, where we observe players who are perfectly physically developed. We must not forget, however, that in terms of technique, this sport is practically limited to throwing and catching the ball. In football, physical training takes a much smaller percentage of the time, which is why planning and achieving goals is so difficult.
- Currently, the season lasts practically all year round.
In this case, the training week follows the rhythm of the match and the preparation period
is extremely short. The famous “Match Freshness” is not a fiction, the players want to feel light on the match day, as the match itself is of a greatest importance, so any experiments with loads during the week are very risky.
- We want to develop, BUT we want to win.
This is the reality of all football academies in Europe. The difficulty of combining player development and the desire to win league matches, tournaments and sparring is a daily thing. In athletics, players prepare a couple of months for specific competitions, can allow themselves to drop in form, load players to the limits, so that they can improve their records for 2-4 tournaments a year. In team sports, the only moment where you can relax a little bit is 4-6 weeks of the preparation period in winter, where we are really able to raise specific motor skills to a higher level.
Thanks to the latest technologies, after each match at the highest, we can observe the physical requirements from the top lists
How can we see above, the players cover during 90 minutes:
10-12 km distance
200-570 m HSR (21-24km / h)
0.19-0.57 km sprint
How to practically use GPS data?
Assuming that the goal of a player in the position of the center-back is to make a debut for the U17 team, we use his GPS data so that he is ready to meet the match requirements
Data of the U17 player from the match:
10.5 km distance
200m HSR (21-24km / h)
The starting weekly load of a U16 player should be:
2.5 -3.5 * 10.5 km distance
2.5-3.5 * 200 m HSR (21-24km / h)
2.5 -3.5 * 0.15 km sprint
So this player, in order to be ready to make his debut in U17 a week, including the match, should be able to work within the limits of:
26.25 – 36.75 km
500 – 700 m HSR
0.37 – 0.525 km sprint
Assuming that the weekly load of U16 player was lower, and taking into account the weekly load range according to Tim Gabbett 0.8-1.3 compared to what we have been doing for the last 3-4 weeks, we can plan how to safely prepare our player for his U17 debut.
Depending on what form of monitoring you use and what data you prefer, you later plan your training loads. We have data via Sonda Sport 30 minutes after training that give us a starting point for possible corrections for the further days.
In the previous microcycle, more than half of the competitors never reached 90% of their maximum speed -> As we know, constant exposure to high speeds is an important factor in the prevention of the hamstrings -> We introduce additional exercises in pairs so that there is an element of competition. Half-field sprint allows you to reach maximum speed, ending with a shot adds a football-specific element.
Constant monitoring is very important when working with young players. Physical conditioning is changeable at their age, that is why a quick and objective assessment is essential which will allow you to adjust the loads through the individualization of the training. Most overload injuries come from “we do too much, too soon after we haven’t been doing anything for too long” – have you heard it? I do, after the summer or winter break, the players and coaches want to start where they left off, and this often ends with injuries, and those in the preparation period (again reaching for T. Gabbett) affect the risk of injury during the season.
Of course, this is not the entire physical preparation, we also have the development of speed, maneuverability, strength, etc. However, it usually makes 15% of a player’s training time, and is important, but not that much from the point of view of training loads in relation to technical and tactical tasks:
That is why it is so useful to control the loads of football training using GPS. It allows to objectify training in a way that has not been possible so far, because while it is easy to calculate the number of repetitions in the gym, calculating the acceleration in small games requires the use of technology. Thanks to this mathematical approach, players have a specific goal, which increases their motivation, and facilitates our work for our coaches. The indicators also allow for the individualization of training and the development of specialists on given positions, and this in modern football is extremely important in the context of scouting to the best European clubs.
Is this the end of the old school sport?
Those who watched the movie “Moneyball” knows perfectly well how the role of statistics in sport grows, now practically each of the 4 components can be objectively assessed:
– Tactics – Video post-match analysis
– Technique – Statistics on passes, dribbles etc.
– Mental – Psychology Worksheets
– Motor skills – GPS, post-match statistics
For me, the more accurate the information, the more confident you can act, talk about facts, and not about opinions in the case of physical training, which greatly facilitates communication with coaches and players. Still the most important thing in football is “that’s something” when observing Messi it is not difficult to generalize that “kilometers do not matter”. The vast majority of top players, however, are physical “machines”, and the best example is the recent success of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, where at the post-match exchange of kits you could see that this team did not rest during lockdown. Therefore, I believe that you should follow the motto “let’s do as little as possible, but as much as necessary”. When we talk about the motor skills of talented players, objectification of data seems to be a necessary condition for working at the Academy, which not only improves the process, but most of all protects the future “Lewandowskys” from injuries.