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1.5, 2 mile, and 12 minute runs are still common evaluations that soccer coaches at all levels are using. Performance coaches are still culpable of building an "aerobic base" before progressing to interval or intermittent sprint training. Here are a few statistics taken from game motion analysis that breaks down the contributions from different intensities of running during elite and sub elite level soccer matches.

• High level soccer athletes spend approximately 60% of their time on the field either standing or walking (2).

• If you add jogging (18-20%) to the previous statistic, approximately 72 minutes of a high-level soccer match is spent at recovery-level intensity (2).

• Hard runs and maximal-effort sprints contribute approximately 2-4% of match play with maximal effort sprinting contributing 1-1.5% or 54-80 seconds (2).

• The average number of high intensity runs (hard runs and sprints) is 50-150 (2) and the average time in between is 40-56 seconds (4).

• The average number of sprints is 20-60 per soccer match (2, 4). If you were to divide the total match time by these figures, the average time in between each sprint would be 1:30-4:30. Short sprints (read below) followed by this amount of rest are not likely to induce significant fatigue (4). In this case, bouts of repetitive sprints are more likely to produce fatigue within a soccer match.

• The average distance per sprint is 10-20 meters and average duration is between 2-3 seconds (4). Although soccer-specific data is lacking, the maximum sprint-duration during an elite field hockey game is approximately 4 seconds. Field hockey and soccer data have proven to be similar, so some overlap of analysis may be appropriate (5).

• Mohr, Krustrup, and Bangsbo (2003) demonstrated that total distance covered, distance covered by high intensity running (28% greater) and distance covered by sprinting (58% greater) were greater by elite-level soccer players than by sub-elite players (2).



2. Mohr M., Krustrup P., and Bangsbo J. Match performance of high-standard soccer players with special reference to development of fatigue. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21:519-528, 2003.

3. Mohr M., Krustrup P., and Bangsbo, J. Fatigue in soccer: A brief review. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23:593-599, 2005.

5. Spencer M., Lawrence S., Rechichi C., Bishop D., Dawson B., and Goodman C. Time-motion analysis of elite field hockey, with special reference to repeated-sprint activity. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22:843-850, 2004.

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Comment by Scott Moody on January 29, 2009 at 12:22pm
Here are my takes on some of the info gathered from motion analysis software:
• High level soccer athletes spend approximately 60% of their time on the field either standing or walking (2). If you add jogging (18-20%) to the previous statistic, approximately 72 minutes of a high-level soccer match is spent at recovery-level intensity (2).
If roughly 80% of the game is spent in low level aerobic activity (walking, jogging, standing) then it is easy to see why so many will classify this as an aerobic sport. Add to this the fact that there are very few stoppages of play (time outs, dead balls, etc) and ones ability to keep moving for long periods of time becomes essential.
Now, on the flip side…the game is usually won or lost based on your ability to capitalize on the few opportunities you do get to score, and based on the info above these opportunities make up about 20% of the total game time.
• The average number of sprints is 20-60 per soccer match (2, 4) … average time in between each sprint would be 1:30-4:30 and average distance is about 10-20 yds. Short sprints followed by this amount of rest are not likely to induce significant fatigue (4). But about 5-7 times per match (usually in game defining moments) bouts of repetitive sprints which are more likely to produce fatigue occur in clusters of 2-3 sprints with changes of direction about 2-3 seconds apart (4).
This is what separates the good players from the elite players…the ability to reproduce maximum effort runs (with changes of direction) in clusters with very little recovery. Now the sprints themselves are usually relatively short in nature, but effort or intent is extremely high. The player’s ability to recover between these bouts of intense effort and reproduce them at high levels throughout the game is critical to the success of the team from a physical development standpoint.
If your players are set up to push this number of repeated bouts of high intensity up from 5-7 to 8-10 and the opposition was not prepared to recover and repeat these same bouts your athletes should out perform the opposition in the later stages of the match.
• Mohr, Krustrup, and Bangsbo (2003) demonstrated that total distance covered, distance covered by high intensity running (28% greater) and distance covered by sprinting (58% greater) were greater by elite-level soccer players than by sub-elite players (2).
According to these finding and current research, it stands to reason that fitness training in soccer should encompass both aerobic (recovery) and anaerobic (maximum power/speed output) types of conditioning. If you purely focus on testing and training distance (aerobic) based activities, then your players will be lacking the speed and power to win the 10-20 yd sprints. If you focus purely on power and speed (with recovery of 1-4 minutes) your athletes will not be able to keep up with the aerobic demands of the game (or practice for that matter).
Coaches in all sports have run wind sprints at the end of practice to try and mimic these demands and train speed during the season. However, as many of us who have played and trained under these circumstances, we know that although this is building fitness it is not building speed and if you look at the heart rates during this time, there is usually relatively little recovery and average speed per sprint decreases significantly throughout the session.
Our recommendation would be to incorporate your sprinting in short bouts throughout practice. We have had great success doing this during small sided games of possession where the players would take part in a possession based drill that is primarily aerobic in nature. Then every 2-5 minutes the coach would blow the whistle and all players would run to the sideline. As soon as the players were there and ready the coach (standing 20 yds away) would blow the whistle and the players would sprint past the coach (race format). The winner got to rest while the others lined up on the coach (20 yds away from the starting line) and on the whistle sprinted back. The winner of that race gets to rest while the others get back on the starting line ready for the 3rd sprint. This process repeats itself for 3-5 times (total elapsed time is less than 1 minute) and then the game of possession resumes.
Drills like this promote competition, max speed, recovery, aerobic conditioning and repeatability of max effort bouts. These drills also distribute the “post practice wind sprints” throughout practice (more game like) so as to get more effort out of the players and keep them from “saving themselves” for the conditioning at the end of practice.
Once again, these are just my views on soccer conditioning based off of some great information shared by Jon Bonyai on his blog and the research of Jens Bangsbo, Mohr and Krustrup.

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