At NextGen, we use the data collected from our fitness tests to help with position modeling, team fitness standards and periodization. So what does that mean?
Soccer has many activity requirements. From anaerobic to interval to muscular health to endurance. These requirements are also specific to the position on the field played by the athlete. In other words, fitness test data helps to identify strengths and weaknesses between the athlete and their position. It works by first having to understand what the loads and responsibilities are for each position.
In today’s modern game, data is constantly being monitored. Top collegiate and professional clubs use exercise scientists to collect, track and evaluate metrics from training and games. There have been many studies (you can find one here) that detail those load requirements. We know simply that midfielders will have the highest load over a match while defenders will have the lowest (aside from the goalkeeper). In addition, wide midfielders need to have better endurance since they cover more distance while interior midfielders need endurance but also short burst strength to close down quickly (more common movement within the interior). So, when the coaching staff looks at a team’s fitness test results and can easily see athletes that finish above the mean, we can start to consider their ability with potential positions on the exterior.
TEAM FITNESS STANDARDS
As we have identified, within a team there are position specific workloads. These workloads can help staff determine who may be a good fit for a position when also considering mental strength, technical and tactical abilities. There is also the overall team fitness standards that are used to motivate, improve, and pair with periodization.
When looking at the chart above, the blue and horizontal lines indicate the warning and failure mean (or average). Looking specifically at the red line (failure), those above the mean outperformed the group while those below under-performed. We then want to see how many fell at or near the mean. This will help the staff to determine how well the overall fitness of the team is, which is important when managing a whole season and setting up for micro and mesocycles.
This NextGen 2002B Elite team performed adequately against the Mean of 18.3. Out of 17 participants, 10 (59%) performed at or above the Mean while 7 (41%) tested below the Mean. This also tells the story for those below the mean that fitness needs to be improved upon.
FITNESS AND PERIODIZATION
in its most simplest form, the goal when using periodization is for the athlete to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. For example, a team and athletes can not run difficulty and high output sessions over an entire 10 month season. This would create several dangerous possibilities including mental fatigue, muscular fatigue and most notably injury. This is where the Academy methodology comes in and uses fluctuating workloads over the competitive season.
Incorporating fitness test results into the periodization plan can enhance the team’s overall fitness performance. The reason is when you have a fit team, you can work on maintenance of the output requirements by not stretching the workloads higher. Alternatively, if you have an unfit team (on average), you may have to restructure your workloads by increasing the weeks to include more fitness oriented functional movements.
We will dive deeper into these 3 topics over the course of our season.