Grassroots Coaching

How the game of football has evolved over the last 20 years Part One

Physical Demands of playing football

Since the game of football started over a hundred years ago, football has evolved and changed. But during this time, there have never been more changes than over the past 20 years or so.

Players have to be fitter as they have to cover more than 50% more distance than players had to in the late 1960’s. Not only do players today have to run more, but they also have to do so at far greater speeds.

For example the number of sprints and high intensity playing activities performed by players has nearly doubled since 2002. During a 90 minute football game, the ball is in play and live almost 15 minutes more than in 1990, some 17%. Therefore players have to be not only fitter in terms of endurance, but more athletic, quicker, more agile and require greater mental concentration to perform successfully at the highest level.

In 2005-06, midfielders were measured as the Premiership’s hardest-working players, with right midfielders, such as Gerrard, the most energetic of all. The average ground covered by those in this position, 11.49km per game (seven miles, 246 yards) was not too far short of the figures for Gerrard. Centre-backs did the least running but even they averaged a fraction less than 10km per match. Right midfielders also did the fastest running, an average of 147 heart-thumping “high intensity” bursts per match and covering 310m flat out.

“High-intensity activities” — runs made by players at three-quarters of sprint pace or faster — have increased from 627 per team per match in 2002-03 to 1,209 in 2005-06, and the ground covered by players while sprinting has increased by 40% over four years. A sprint is classed as a run made at quicker than seven metres per second, equivalent to running 100m in a sharp 14 seconds.”

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