Seasonal variations in fitness of male and female soccer players in the tropics

Hervert, Sarah (2017) Seasonal variations in fitness of male and female soccer players in the tropics. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Although there have been numerous studies completed on the seasonal variations in fitness in soccer players, majority of the literature has been on players in European and North American countries. Additionally, there is currently a lack of knowledge on the fitness of soccer players and their use of small-sided games (SSG) at the sub-elite and amateur levels of professionalism, particularly in Australia. Thus, the aim of the project was to investigate the physiological and performance changes that occur in Australian male and female soccer players in the tropics throughout the course of a competitive season. In addition, a secondary purpose of the project was to determine those factors that may influence the outcome including injuries, training component structure and attendance.

The investigation took place over the course of three separate seasons and focused on both adult and youth players within Far North Queensland (FNQ). The first year in 2013 was an observational season where fitness, attendance, training structure and injury data were collected on three sub-elite teams throughout the course of the competitive season. These data were again collected throughout an intervention year in 2014. In 2015, an intervention was again implemented however there was the addition of pre-season data collected.

In 2013, observational data was collected on fitness changes, training design, attendance and injuries in youth male and female players and male adult players. Seasonal variations in fitness were determined via the collection of fitness data at three points throughout the season (pre- and post-season). Tests that were completed were anthropometric measures (height, weight and body fat percentage), sit and reach (S&R), vertical jump (VJ), overhead throw (OHT), 505 agility both with and without the ball, 40 metre sprint both with and without the ball, multistage fitness test (MSFT) and Level 1 YoYo Intermittent Recovery Test (YYIR1).

During the observational season in 2013, VJ significantly decreased from pre- to postseason in females however the males showed no change. The observational year also demonstrated that there was a lack of compliance from the players to the training sessions that were implemented. There were similar attendance rates between both genders however the training session of the male team was structured to allocate 41% of time to conditioning whereas the females performed no conditioning training. Majority of injuries in both teams were during the first half of games and occurred in the lower body with more injuries occurring during training time than in matches. Analysis of these data established that a strength and conditioning (S&C) intervention was needed to be implemented during the following season and as such, a soccer specific S&C program was introduced in the male adult team during the competitive season of 2014. This S&C program included use of the FIFA 11+ with the aim of targeting the strength, balance and proprioception elements found within the game of soccer as well as maximal aerobic speed training (MAS). It was found that this program produced minimal improvements in fitness throughout the year with only body fat percentage improving.. Training structure improved with the intervention following the incorporation of conditioning training without the ball increasing the time allocation to it from zero to 8%. The intervention also proved successful in improving the teams overall performance with more wins and a better goal difference at the completion of the season reported. The minimal improvements in the fitness results however, were suggested to be due to a lack of compliance to the program by the coach and the players and the fact that the program was only implemented during the competitive season leaving the potential for players to enter the competition with less than optimal fitness, thus increasing injury risks. Although the total number of injuries increased following the intervention, there was a significant decrease in the severity of injuries, particularly in the lower extremities. The total number of days lost due to injury also decreased following the intervention. However, in contrast to the results seen in the youth players, majority of the injuries in both years in the adult team occurred during games rather than training. Therefore, in 2015, a soccer specific S&C program was implemented during both the preseason and competitive season in an attempt to rectify the lack of improvements in the previous season. In addition, another amateur club was utilized during this 2015 season in an attempt to address the compliance problems seen in the previous years and to investigate the effect of the program at a lower level of competition. The intervention program was completed two times per week for the entirety of the intervention and again included both the FIFA 11+ program and MAS training. During this season, the training sessions also focused on conditioning without the ball 18% of the time allowing for the intervention to be implemented as successfully as possible within the coach's restrictions. However, compliance again was a problem with only two players completing the intervention and all testing sessions. Both players who followed the intervention improved in majority of the fitness variables and did not report any injuries.

Overall, the three investigative years demonstrated that there is a lack of education and knowledge by both coaches and players at the sub-elite and amateur levels of soccer in FNQ about what S&C is, and why it is so crucial in player development and success during the season.

Conclusions: Although there were minimal improvements in seasonal fitness in the subelite and amateur players following a soccer specific S&C program, the current investigation has shown that the intervention can decrease the severity of injuries. The investigation also demonstrated that a number of considerations must be taken by the S&C coach when working with players at this level of competition. Thus, there are several conclusions that can be drawn from the findings along with recommendations for both sports and S&C coaches to use when implementing periodization programs and training sessions:

1. Soccer training sessions should be designed and periodised to include both SSG and soccer specific S&C training incorporating the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 11+ exercises for injury prevention;

2. The soccer specific S&C program should be introduced at the beginning of the preseason period and continue throughout the duration of the competitive season. This will allow for familiarization and maintenance of the program during the season. Players should also be encouraged to complete the program during the off-season to ensure fitness is at least maintained between seasons;

3. It is recommended that teams complete the soccer specific S&C program at the beginning of a training session whilst players have minimal fatigue. This will increase compliance levels and better execution of the exercises;

4. Soccer specific S&C programs such as that utilized within this investigation may also assist in providing alternative training sessions for those players who cannot make the regular times or need additional support. Due to the minimal equipment needed for the completion of these types of programs, players can easily perform them at home in their own time;

5. It is recommended that S&C coaches attempt to educate sub-elite and amateur coaches and players on the importance of S&C when required. This education should focus on demonstrating the S&C coaches knowledge, experience and what they can bring to the preparation of the athletes;

6. This investigation demonstrated the need for sport and S&C coaches to consider the differences in players such as gender, age and competition level. Additionally, coaches must also consider the skill level of their players, especially if planning on utilizing SSG training within sessions. This is particularly important when SSG are going to be the sole form of training as if players do not possess the skills to perform the games at a high enough intensity, the fitness will not be improved as required.

Item ID: 51911
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: exercise physiology, Far North Queensland, football, injury, physical fitness, seasonal fitness, small sided games, soccer, tropics
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 3: Hervert, Sarah R., Deakin, Glen B., and Sinclair, Kelly (2014) Seasonal variations in fitness in female soccer players: the use of small sided games for fitness. In: Edwards, Andrew, and Leicht, Anthony, (eds.) Science of Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity in the Tropics. Nova Science Publishers, New York, NY, USA, pp. 65-73.

Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2018 04:01
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science > 110602 Exercise Physiology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950102 Organised Sports @ 30%
92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 70%
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