Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy and U.S. Men's National Team player works on his quickness on and off the ball before a game. Photo Credit: Carey Schumacher
Soccer Training: Football vs. Fútbol
SoccerNationNews is pleased to announce our newest columnist Tom Cox. This is his second article on player development and soccer training.
There has long been a debate between kids, players, fans and coaches as to which “football” sport has the best athletes. Each of these sports draws millions of spectators, they are played on similar fields, and in both sports it requires 11 players per side.
I am reminded by a quote from former college football player Henry Blaha, “Soccer is a gentleman's game played by beasts and Football is a beastly game played by beasts."
I think what Henry was trying to say is that Soccer is contact sport that requires athleticism with great finesse, whereas football is a collision sport that requires athleticism with great aggression.
With that said, this article was not intended to add fuel to the great debate of which sport is better, but instead to shine light on how similar they really are.
Soccer is considered to be an endurance sport, because it is played for two 45 minute halves with a running clock. Football on the other hand is a power sport and is played in four 15 minute quarters with a clock that stops. But if we were to really break down the movements of each individual player in both sports, all players are required to perform intense 100% effort movements for a short period of time, followed by a rest, multiple times throughout the entire game or match.
A study that was done in Spain looked at players from the Spanish Third Division League and recorded their sprint intensities and rest intervals.
During a 90 minute match, midfielders can sprint up to 1500 meters, however the average distance covered before slowing to a jog or walk is only 15 meters.
The same goes for a football player who only sprints for about 10-15 yards followed by a 40 second rest. With that said, I personally would classify them both as anaerobic sports. Now before you stop reading because you think I am crazy, let me explain. Anaerobic is the training term that classifies a movement as fast, intense and lasting anywhere from a few seconds to 2 minutes.
Soccer and football both require these types of intense movements such as sprinting, cutting, and jumping, the only difference is that soccer players get less rest and repeat these movements over a longer period of time. The best soccer players aren’t the ones on the field who can jog the entire game without fatigue; the stars of soccer are the ones who can sprint the fastest, go 100% for a short period of time and do this repeatedly without fatigue. That is why I believe soccer and football are a lot more similar than most people realize.
So what if the purpose of this comparison, why does this even matter? Well, far too often I see soccer player’s condition and “build” endurance by going for long slow/medium pace jogs. I am here to tell you that jogging will only make you better at jogging. If you want to sprint faster, farther and deeper into games then your conditioning needs to mimic the actual game itslef. Fartlek running is a perfect type of conditioning for soccer players. Fartlek is Swedish for “Speed Play” and it’s a type of drill that stresses all components of the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. A soccer specific fartlek run would look something like this:
- 5 Minute Warm up Jog
- 30 yard sprint to 100 yard jog
- 40 yard sprint to 100 yard jog
- 50 yard sprint to 100 yard jog
- 10 yard sprint to 20 yard walk
- 20 yard sprint to 20 yard walk
- Repeat 5-10 times all continuous (no breaks)
If you don’t have access to a track or football field, use time intervals instead of distance, take the workout above and divide the distance in half, so you would run seconds instead of yards.
It’s rare to find a football player who jogs long distances and there is a scientific reason for that; it will make you slower. So the next time you go for a run, try fartlek running, it will build endurance, it will increase sprint speed and it WILL make you a better athlete.
Tom Cox is the Performance Director at Velocity Sports Performance in San Diego, CA. Cox received his Masters Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Strength and Conditioning. He has spent time as a strength coach with the Oakland Athletics and the University of San Diego where he worked training football, baseball, soccer and track athletes. He specializes in developing training programs for amateur, collegiate and professional athletes.
For more information visit Velocity Sports Performance or call 858-592-7766.
Related Articles: Skill Development on SoccerNation
References:Kovacs Mark, 2009. Speed Training: Linear Acceleration. Journal of Strength and Condition Research, 23, 345-349.
Reilly, T. T. (1997). Energetics of high-intensity exercise (soccer) with particular reference to fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences, 15(3), 257-263.