Soccer is a fitness demanding sport. To prepare youth soccer players to be professional players in the future, soccer-specific fitness training is necessary besides soccer skill training. Agility, speed, and lower limb muscle power relative to body weight are the crucial physical abilities for soccer players to compete in the game. Specific training that improving agility, speed, and muscle power is beneficial to them. However, some fitness elements would be in the higher priority for the youth. PURPOSE: Through comparing the physical abilities of youth soccer players and professional soccer players, specific training can be suggested to youth players according to the differences of physical abilities. Method: 85 soccer players (19 professional, 62 youth) performed countermovement jump (CMJ) on a jump mat, 20m sprint and arrowhead agility test timed by infra-red timing gate Height and weight were also measured. BMI can be calculated. An independent t-test was used to compare the differences between youth and professional players. A significant level of p<0.05 was used. RESULTS: Significant differences (See Table 1) were found in all tests except countermovement jump test (p<0.05). Youth soccer players have a better performance than professional soccer players in the 20m sprint test. CONCLUSIONS: Poor performance compared to youth players in 20m sprint for professional soccer players was unexpected. It is possibly that speed is not the most important abilities in the game or the players have already developed their speed when they are youth. Similar lower limb muscle power relative to body weight was found in both groups in CMJ test. However, better performance was found in arrowhead agility test for the professional. As the longest distance in arrowhead test is only 10m. Fast maximum speed is not a necessary ability to have good performance in arrowhead agility test. The test results implied that professional players can accelerate and decelerate better than the youth players. This difference involves the abilities of proprioception, balance, muscle coordination and motor skill. Practical Applications: Static balance exercise, dynamic balance exercise, and plyometric exercise with multi-direction movement are suggested to improve agility. Exercises, such as eye close single leg balance on ground or foam, zig zag single leg hop with balance when landing, lateral single leg plyometric jump, bounding, running and cutting, are the examples.
(C) 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association