When referring to the modern game one can certainly say, this is not your father’s game. In the mid 70’s an English 1st Division player was tracked as running 8,800 meters or 5.47 miles in one game. Today distances can run as high as 10,000 meters or 6.21 miles for one match and with much greater intensity. In recent seasons in the English Premier League, EPL, running at top speed has doubled. As well, recently an EPL player was tracked at 380 miles for both his club team and his country in one season.
When these factors are considered it is more than obvious that preparation for such performance is essential. However, the game of soccer is played by more than just the players in the EPL. One of the overriding principles of training in general and for soccer is that of “specificity”. That is training for different age groups; different levels of play within age groups, and taking into account the difference in individuals as well as the different positions within the game.
In this case soccer players even at or about U-16 should not be training in the same manner as adults. We have all heard the phrase, “children are not miniature adults”. They should not be putting their bodies under the same stress as adults. The game itself played in the appropriate way for a particular age group, with all that entails, can be sufficient. When one considers the fact that the most physically intense part of the game is that part of the game when controlling the ball one should consider that this motivational tool at the proper frequency, intensity and duration should be our road to physical preparation for the game itself.
What we must do as coaches, and most of us are youth coaches, is to educate ourselves, so that we can apply various teaching techniques for the game of soccer that allow us to prepare our players for the physical stress they will meet in the game but do it in a manner that is specifically appropriate for our players.