“Why do we have to test, and what are you doing with the data?”
Many of you are asking this question right now. The quick and simple answer is this…We want to begin to track the natural rate of development of soccer players over time, so that we can get a clearer picture of this developmental process in terms of SKILL, Speed and FITNESS within each age group.
Season by season, and year by year, we will be able to watch these areas, and see if players are developing at an ideal rate through the normal practices and various programs we offer. Hopefully we will be able to identify phases in young player’s lives, where these programs can help them avoid some common plateaus, injuries and declines in confident play.
Below is the start of the breakdown of the data we collected this pre-season on over 1000 players. Please use these graphs to see where your overall score falls amongst your surrounding age groups.
“Can growth spurts effect on-field performance?”
At around 12 years old (U12 and U13 age group), girls usually hit their peak growth spurt (this begins for boys at around 13 or 14). If you look at the graphs above of our pre-season Game Speed Test, you will see that overall Skill, Fitness and Speed seem to level off in these two age groups, and then jump up as they learn to better control their new height and length. I will try and explain the steady drop off with the HS Girls later in this post!
Over the last 13 years we have seen this first hand, as new players come into the SoccerFIT program. This is why we structure our training programs at those age groups around enhancing overall coordination, skill and basic strength, as the player’s body begins to change. With the addition of these types of drills, performance plateaus don’t last nearly as long. Here is a growth chart (below) that shows the different phases of rapid growth in boys and girls. You can see that they line up almost identically with the graphs of our pre-season Game Speed Test.
Areas affected by growth spurts are usually coordination and skill, as you can see in the female dribbling & moves/turns graph below:
This loss of skill and coordination during this sensitive period in their lives can have a lasting effect if they lose confidence in their ability, or happen to get placed on a lower team. If you are interested in improving these areas during the season, we have 1 and 2 day / week programs at the Overland Park Soccer Complex designed to improve SKILL, SPEED and FITNESS, while also helping to develop self confidence as they learn to enjoy the process, and the journey towards life long fitness and soccer success. Click here to view these programs
“Why is there a drop off in overall performance in the HS Girls Ages?”
At 15 years old the high school girl’s graphs begin to steadily decline. In my opinion, this could be due to several factors… First, their lifestyle tends to change, which could mean a decreased emphasis on training as schoolwork increases, stress increases, and all the social aspects of high school sometimes are substituted for training. There bodies are also just about fully mature at this time, and all the natural gains that they were able to achieve in the past are now just that…a thing of the past.
Tactically, they are becoming smarter and more efficient on the field, but without a dedication to the physical training, physical skills will start to drop. This is not usually noticed right away, and is very subtle, because they can hide their decline in physical skills with increases in tactical efficiency (good coaching!) But eventually it does catch up with them. If you are the parent of a high school girl, just be aware that this drop off in physical skills (fitness, speed, strength, agility) also happens at a time when injuries change from bumps, bruises and scrapes, to the more serious ACL’s, concussions, etc. Here is a study we did a few years ago…
Although you can’t prevent an injury from happening, keeping your strength and fitness at a high level year round will help decrease your risk of injury. In 2005 we did a survey of 62 teams in the KC Area to observe the occurrence of ACL injury during different times of the year. During HS Season 1 in every 26 girls tore their ACL (approximately 1 girl per team) and in the club season it was 1 in every 110 girls.
We did another study a few years back, and found that girls that also took part in strength and conditioning programs only had decreased their risk to 1 in every 227 girls. Click HERE to see how we structure our programs to reduce this risk, and rehabilitate confidence and performance when an injury does happen.
I hope you found this information helpful. As we get continue to test and implement programs locally, we hope to learn much more about how to improve soccer performance while reducing the risk of injury across all age groups.