FITNESS FOR SOCCER
The basic motor skills in soccer are kicking, passing, dribbling, running, jumping, throwing and heading.
The motor performance factors which determine how well an individual
performs the above mentioned basic motor skills are agility, speed,
co-ordination, muscular endurance, muscular strength, circular-respiratory endurance, power, balance and flexibility.
Other effectors which may determine the level of soccer performance
are age, sex, body build, body weight, body fat, height, lengths of body
parts, experience and interest.
The degree to which an individual can play soccer is dependent upon
these variables, some of which can be altered greatly, such as muscular circular-respiratory endurance, muscular strength and flexibility, while
others such as speed, co-ordination, agility and balance cannot be
altered as significantly. Some of the others such as age, sex, height,
length of body parts, and general body build are uncontrollable as they
are predetermined by heredity (The next generation of soccer players
will view the parental selection carefully). Still others such as body
weight and body fat can be controlled by proper conditioning and
training. It is generally agreed that people with excess (obese) body
fat tend to have a lower performance level particularly in such areas as
muscular endurance, circulatory respiratory endurance and flexibility.
Experience and interest in the game itself tends to increase the level of performance, all other variables being equal.
A definition of circular-respiratory endurance is the efficiency with
which the heart, blood vessels and lungs can supply and transport
oxygen, fuel and carry away waste products.
Because soccer is basically a running game, 90 minutes in duration,
it is readily understood that this variable is certainly one of the most
important factors in soccer. It is also one of the real values of
From studies conducted on senior games we know that:
- Approximately 5 -8 miles are covered by a player in a game.
- Over 2000 yards of this distance are covered at maximum speed composed of
- Bursts of up to 50 yards with average distances of 20 - 30 yards in
- Straight runs high jumps, stops and turns, zig zags, and jogging
- Rarely with the ball in continuous contact, but sometimes in contact at the start or end of the run.
- The ability to keep producing maximum speed bursts with irregular periods of recovery according to the flow of the game.
The most telling of all the above requirements in fitness for soccer
is that of the recovery interval between sprints, and therefore, most
practices should be based upon this factor. And, as the ball is the
focal point around which the whole game revolves co-ordination of speed,
stamina and ball is a must in today's game. The all-ball approach is
especially necessary in Canada because we are already handicapped by the
late start that our youngsters get and in many instances the major
change in facility availability due to our climate.
In some provinces in Canada the soccer player will not see a
regulation size field from November to April, so they may receive a
false fitness reading stemming from the indoor gymnasium work done in
those winter months.
Growth of the Player
During the first two decades of life, virtually all growth changes
that are necessary for adulthood have become established. The timing of
these changes and the rate at which changes take place vary enormously
between different children.
The term "growth spurt" is a frequently used description of changes
occurring and is usually recognized as a height characteristic and,
therefore, refers to skeletal growth in this concept. This is a
naturally occurring phenomenon over which we have no control as this
feature is determined in our genetic make-up. Provided that this
skeletal growth occurs naturally without being affected by disease or
injury, then the established growing patterns will terminate at full
adulthood. Growth plates which allow for growth to occur become fused as
mature bone instead of the segments which are apparent during childhood
This review will address skeletal growth and the effects it may have
on children in soccer. Skeletal growth spurt characteristics are similar
for boys and girls, the timing of this event is usually two years
earlier in girls than boys. In boys this is approximately at 14 years of
age and in girls at approximately 12 years of age.
Children may inherit their growth characteristics from parents and
grandparents so this factor makes growth prediction difficult.
The biggest change period in skeletal growth is between birth and
four years old with half of the predicted adult skeletal height status
achieved by the age of 21/2 years. The three major growth periods are:
birth to 4 years; possibly between 7 to 9 years (the mid-growth spurt);
and approximately 14 to 16 years in boys, or approximately 12 to 14
years in girls. These factors may be helpful in understanding the
concept of skeletal growth.
Whilst considering the major elements of skeletal growth, we need to
be aware of the other growth characteristics which occur. These include
all the structures and organs of the body through the first two decades
of life. A typical example of these procedures is where the skeletal
height increase will be linked to an increase in lung size and capacity.
This example of the physiology of growth will offer some explanations
as to why natural physiological improvements are apparent as a direct
result of growth and activity without contribution from prescribed
The physiology of performance may respond best to prescribed training
regimes when applied after the child's teenage growth spurt
Confronting the Problem
- If skeletal growth is dynamic, physical performances are often
inhibited, this situation should be reflected in the coach's
expectations of the player.
- The variety of practices will help to reduce the impact of
growth on skeletal structures. Practices which involve long periods of
repetitive demand are best avoided as this will increase the loading
process on young bones and the possible consequence of injury.
- A conservative approach to the intensity and frequency of training has to be considered during growth periods.
- The growth change period is possibly best donated to technical
practices with the rotation of players being a useful strategy in both
training and match play.
- Children experiencing pain whilst growing, either during or
after exercise, need examination in order to establish the cause, the
term growing pains is not an acceptable explanation.
- Explanation of the possible causes for loss of performance will
benefit children in their attempt to come to terms with some adverse
effects of growth,
- Soft tissue stretching routines will offer some balance.
Information for the Coach
- A skeletal growth spurt occurs in some children during 7 to 9
year old period. This is known as the mid-growth spurt and this factor
helps to make growth the individual element it is.
- This younger age change period is usually less dramatic than the
early teens growth spurt and may explain the ease in which some
children progress through growth, having contributed partially at 7 to 9
and then again at 14 to 16.
- The effects of skeletal growth spurt on children will vary enormously.
- The loss of range of movement, lack of co-ordination, reduction
in athletic movement, impaired playing performances and physical
awkwardness are obvious Characteristics of growth spurts occurring.
- Skeletal structures may not develop in a synchronized manner as
growth in bone, ligament, tendon, muscle and nerve generate their own
growth, both in timing and tempo
- Sharp increases in bone growth may not be matched by the growth of ligament, tendon and muscle structures.
- The prediction of growth spurt periods is virtually impossible.
- The speed of growth occurring during this period will vary between children.
- Leg length discrepancies sometimes occur due to uneven long bone growth in the legs.
- Unequal stresses in knees, hips and spine may be affected by leg length discrepancy,
- Foot measurements in length, width and height may occur.
Osgood-Schlatter Disease: a Cause of Knee Pain in Children
What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?
Osgood-Schlatter disease is one of the most common causes of knee
pain in young athletes. It causes swelling, pain and tenderness just
below the knee, over the shin bone (also called the tibia). It occurs
mostly in boys who are having a growth spun. One or both knees may be
What causes Osgood-Schlatter disease?
It is believed that Osgood-Schlatter disease results from the pull of
the large powerful muscles in the front of the thigh (called the
quadriceps). The quadriceps join with the patellar tendons, which run
through the knee and into the tibias to connect them to the knees. When
the quadriceps contract, the patellar tendons can start to pull away
from the shin bone, causing pain.
This problem becomes more noticeable during activities that require
running, jumping or going up or down stairs. Ifs most common in young
athletes who play football, soccer or basketball or are involved in
gymnastics and ballet.
Osgood-Schlatter disease usually goes away with time. When your child
stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the
patellar tendons become much stronger. Only rarely does Osgood-Schlatter
disease persist beyond the growing stage.
Your doctor may want to examine your child and get a knee x-ray to make sure the pain isn't caused by something else.
How is Osgoode-Schlatter disease treated?
Your doctor may tell your child to cut down on time spent playing
until the pain has been gone for 2 to 4 months. Your child may need to
avoid any activity that requires deep knee bending. Your child may also
need to run at a slower speed or for a shorter amount of time and jump
How should my child's pain be treated?
If pain develops, ice should be applied to the involved areas. Using
ice can help prevent swelling and pain. The knee should be wrapped with
an elastic bandage and elevated
A memory aid that may help remind you of these four basic treatment steps is the word "RICE":
R=Rest the knee from the painful ac1ivity.
I=Ice the affected area for 20 minutes, 3 times a day.
C=Compress the painful area with an elastic bandage.
E=Elevate the leg.
If these treatment steps don't work, your doctor may suggest that
your child wear braces that will reduce tension on the patellar tendons
and quadriceps. Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (brand
names: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) may reduce the pain and swelling. Your
child may need to use crutches for a while to allow complete healing. As
a last resort, your child's doctor may suggest surgery.
How long will it take for the knee to get better?
It may take several weeks or months for the pain to completely stop.
When the pain is completely gone, your child may slowly return to his or
her previous level of activity.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent the disease from happening again?
Your doctor may prescribe some exercises such as straight-leg raises,
leg curls and quadriceps contractions for your child to do at home or
with a physical therapist to strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings.
This should help prevent further problems. While your child is
recovering, ice should be applied to the area after exercise to prevent
pain and swelling.
In most people, Osgood-Schlatter disease goes away on its own with a
little rest and time. If your child ignores or plays through the pain
the disease may get worse and may be more difficult to treat.
This handout provides a general overview on this topic and may not
apply to everyone. To find out if this handout applies to you and to get
more information on this subject, talk to your family doctor.