The aim of this study was to compare the training effects of a small-sided games (SSG) and a multi-directional sprints intervention on agility and change of direction (COD) ability in male youth-soccer. Thirty-six soccer players (age: 14.2+/-0.9 years; height: 167.2+/-5.7 cm; body mass: 54.1+/-6.3 kg, body fat: 12.5+/-2.2%) participated in a short-term (6 weeks) randomized parallel fully-controlled training study, with pre-to-post measurements. Players were randomly assigned to two experimental groups: training with pre-planned COD drills (CODG, n=12) or using SSGs (SSGG, n=12) and to a control group (CONG, n=12). Pre and post-training players completed a test battery involving linear sprinting (15 and 30-m sprint), COD sprinting (COD15m, Ball-15m, 10-8-8-10m, zigzag 20m), reactive-agility test (RAT, RAT-ball) and vertical and horizontal jumping (countermovement jump and 5-Jump respectively). A significant (p<0.05) group x time effect was detected for all variables in CODG and SSGG. Improvements in sprint, agility without ball, COD and jumping performances, were higher in CODG than in the other groups. The SSGG improved significantly more (p <0.05) than other groups in agility tests with the ball. The CONG showed significant improvements (p<0.05) on linear sprinting over distance longer than 10m and in all the agility and COD tests used in this study. It is concluded that in male young soccer-players agility can be improved either using purpose built SSG or pre-planned COD sprints. However the use of specifically designed SSG may provide superior results in match relevant variables.
Copyright (C) 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.