Wednesday, 14 October 2009

How to Develop Football Speed?

How to Develop Football Speed?

In a series of articles specially written for Youth Football, Mike Antoniades will look at the long term development of young footballers with a specific focus on football motor development and speed. Over the next four articles Mike will go through the theory, training methodologies, training advice and coaching drills for developing football coordination, agility and speed.

Many coaches and trainers believe that speed is something you are born with rather than a skill you can develop. Genetics is a very important factor and does make a difference to the make-up and shape of athletes and their capacity to become stronger and more powerful. But strength and power are only two components of speed. They will assist in how fast you can run in a straight line, but in a multidirectional sport like football, being able to run fast in straight lines only, or having the capacity to lift very heavy weights in the gym, will not necessarily transfer onto the football pitch in terms of speed.

Football Speed is a Skill and just like any other skill it can be taught, it can be developed, and it can be improved through a systematic and progressive training approach.

Coaches and parents of young footballers, although they have the best interests of the children at heart, are just copying training drills or methodologies that they hear about or see the professional teams doing and in many situations these are detrimental to the football and physical development of the youngsters.

Many professional football clubs have used specialist Sprint coaches whose background is Track and Field to improve the speed of their players, but the biomechanics of straight line sprinting is different to the multi-directional speed, required in football. Practicing straight line sprinting continuously, will improve a player’s conditioning, but it has very little functional benefit for a multidirectional sport like football.

Because full-out sprinting in a football game only makes up about 1% of the total movement in a 90 minute game! You may ask, is the ability to run fast over 50 metres not important? Of course it is, but let’s put it into perspective.

Football is a multi-directional, explosive sport where there is a change of movement every 4 seconds. There is little benefit in football players spending too much time on drills which develop maximum straight line velocity when they would benefit more from shorter multi-directional explosive training using the ball. So focusing on football specific movements and individual technical skills is far more beneficial to the development of the young footballer.

Professional footballers work very hard during a 90 minute game and the statistics make interesting reading:
Average During 90 minutes

• 1200 changes of Direction 1 per 4.1 sec
• Standing – 18%
• Walking forward & backward - 38%
• Jogging - 18%
• Low speed running - 15%
• Moderate speed running - 8%
• High speed running - 2%
• Full out Sprinting - 1%

How do you develop Football Speed?
In most football clubs whether at youth, amateur or professional level, there is no effective teaching of Speed! There are many different ways of approaching the structure of Speed training, but even today with all the modern coaching methodologies and available knowledge and research, Speed training is coached as part of fitness and in many cases it is counterproductive to the development of football speed.

No consideration is given to the relationship between functional movement, the neuromuscular system, the energy systems, the type of speed required for the sport, the effect of the training on young athletes, recovery periods and other influencing factors.

Age is one of the most important factors. Coaches must remember that children are not mini adults and cannot train in the same way.

Did you know?
• 65% of footballers over the age of 12 are slower turning on one side than the other, by up to 0.85 of a second.
• Many young footballers can improve their speed and quickness just by correcting their running biomechanics.
• Reactive Speed can be improved by up to 30% with the correct training in just four weeks.
• If youngsters don’t acquire the basic movement skills by the age of 13 then they will very rarely make professional footballers.

Scientifically it has been proven that strength is determined by developing the muscular system. Endurance is determined by the cardiovascular system.

Speed is determined by the nervous system and coordination.
There are three key factors to developing football speed:
The Optimal Training period for developing speed

Training the Neuromuscular System, when and how can this be done?

Training Football Specific Speed
These subjects will be covered in depth by Mike Antoniades over the next few weeks on our blog.
Mike runs coaching workshops and seminars on Soccer Speed and The Long Term Development of Young Footballers, in the UK, Europe and the USA . He is the author of the DVD “Feel the Speed!” on how to develop football speed, and he also lectures at various universities on Biomechanics and injury prevention. He has developed a number of protocols for Performance and Rehabilitation which are being used successfully in professional teams and private practices.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Monday, 5 October 2009

Friday, 18 September 2009

An interview with the Head Coach from the Feel The Speed DVD, Mike Antoniades

How did you get into coaching?
I started coaching at the age of 22 after a serious knee injury stopped me from playing football. I discovered that although a poor substitute to playing, coaching was very rewarding, I have been coaching for 30 years. I began coaching football and very quickly took an interest in running, sprinting and speed and started working with track athletes as well as footballers and basketball athlete. For many years I was doing two jobs like many coaches, a day job and coaching , I became a full time coach in 1997 when I set-up Sport Dimensions, we set up the Speed & Rehab Centre in 2001 and the Running School in 2008.

What has influenced/shaped your coaching philosophy?
How long have we got! A number of things really, I think coaching reflects people’s personalities and a good coach should be a good teacher. When I was younger, like all novice coaches I tried and teach what I was taught because of the experiences that I encountered with the people who coached me. Like a lot of coaches today I thought it was all about hard work and volume of training and the harder you work your athletes the better they get.
When I was working as a senior manager in an IT company in the early 90’s I was lucky enough to travel around the world - Europe, USA, Far East and I used to contact coaches and say: “can we share our knowledge? this is what I know and I would like to see how you coach”. This was in a variety of different sports like football, American football, track & field, gymnastics, basketball etc. So I learned a lot about what I liked and most importantly what I disliked about the way people coached and how they treated their athletes.
But I know now, that the biggest influence on how I coach and what I coach was when I started learning about Rehabilitation after Injury or surgery. Having had a number of serious injuries and surgery and having had a lot of bad advice and treatment myself, it was a subject I was fascinated with and I wanted to learn so much about it. I spent years studying rehab methodologies and watching specialists work with patients and injured athletes and learned how the body and the nervous system changes and how the biomechanics can be changed and the importance of mental attitude and mental strength. This combination changed the way I coach and work about 15 years ago.

Who were your mentors?
I didn’t have any mentors when I began coaching. I made a lot of mistakes in the early years like we all do. I was disappointed by the lack of knowledge by many coaches and I read a lot about teams and coaches and went on courses to learn how to coach. I think the biggest positive influence was working in the USA and visiting a small town in North Dakota, I spent a week working in their Rehabilitation centre. That’s one of the reasons why we have an open house policy at our Performance & Rehab Centre and we allow students and coaches to visit and observe how we work and what we do.

Which UK athletes have you helped with speed and technique?
I work with many UK athletes and their coaches. Youngsters as well as elite level athletes including World and Olympic Gold medallists, I prefer to work alongside the coaches, but this not always possible as some coaches are reluctant to let their athletes work with another coach or feel threatened because of their lack of knowledge. The changes we make depend on the level and experience, with elite athletes the changes are small but can be very significant in their times and their running technique. With young athletes the changes can be enormous in just 6-8 weeks.

How do you develop speed?
Humans have been asking that question since we first started running away from animals thousands of years ago!
If you want to develop speed you need to stimulate the nervous system to work at a higher level! The rest of the components involved in developing speed - technique of the sport, functional strength, conditioning, nutrition and mental strength are extremely important, but play a supporting role. If you wan to get fast you have to train the nervous system!

How do you develop technique?
Running technique and sprinting technique are simple to learn! The problem is not many coaches know how to coach them. The basics are the same for youngsters from 8-9 years old to world champions!
If we take running and sprinting, if your arms and legs are moving efficiently going backwards, then they will generate forward horizontal momentum and maintain maximum velocity for longer, if they are not moving efficiently then the forward momentum is lost because the body is making adjustments to compensate for the vertical and lateral movements caused by the arms and the legs.
There is no such thing as perfect running technique! We are all made differently with limbs having different lengths etc, but there is a perfect running technique for each individual and body shape. Muscle imbalances and previous injury change the biomechanics of the arms and legs and we need to re-teach the body how to work efficiently again.
That is something a lot of coaches don’t coach, they focus on volume of training and intensity of training but ignore the efficiency generated by the correct biomechanics.

I was working with an elite young athlete recently who was over-striding and I was reviewing a video analysis with her coach who works with about 30 sprinters, some of them are national and international level athletes. I was explaining what we were looking at and what I thought was causing the problem and the effect of the arms on running efficiency and speed. His comment was “what have the arms got to do with running? We run with our legs!” So my point is if the coach doesn’t know what he is coaching what chance have the athletes got! By the way if you’re wondering what role the arms play in running and sprinting? They have the most important effect on the biomechanics and speed!

Who have you seen the most dramatic improvements in and why?
Youngsters! We teach them how to run from the age of 6 and how to run fast from the age of 8 years old and they pick-up the technique in just 40 minutes and their speed improves dramatically in just 6 weeks. The reason is simple - it’s easy to change their technique and to stimulate their nervous system if you know what you’re doing. With adults it takes a bit longer because of all the bad habits they have picked up, so we make the changes in about 3 sessions.

What has been your most memorable coaching moment?
That’s easy, teaching a young lady called Caroline how to run! Caroline came to me about 7 years ago, after she had undergone 2 years of treatment and surgery for bone cancer in her hip and pelvis. Her specialist and physiotherapist told her that she would be limping for the rest of her life and would need a stick to support herself. An ex international netball player she was determined to prove them wrong. It took us 12 weeks to get her walking and another 12 weeks to get her running! That makes what I do so rewarding!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Coaching Young Athletes

Coaching Youth Teams
Although movement training should begin as soon as possible after a childs' 7th or 8th birthday, the most optimal time for training movement patterns is between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. This is because there is high plasticity of the central nervous system and there is the possibility of developing and steering the central nervous system. This is the age where youngsters can acquire high levels of coordination and agility.

The increase in muscle mass comes during puberty, through increased levels of testosterone or oestrogen – boys 13-17 years and girls 11-15 years. This is one of the reasons why it is not appropriate to train children under 15 with long sprint/lactate runs of 30-40 seconds and beyond. They will rarely improve because their bodies do not produce the necessary enzymes.

The onset of puberty brings on other issues. There is a reduced level of trainability because of adjustments taking place in the body. So at this “sensitive age” more structured goal oriented speed sessions are given which should include more special exercises, which will improve future performances. This is especially true for youngsters who experience fast growth rates.

If, as coaches we want to improve the speed of our youngsters it is advisable to sacrifice premature endurance in pre-pubescent youngsters in exchange for developing speed! Technical coaching at this level is equally important to be able to improve neuromuscular coordination.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

About Mike Antoniades

Mike is the founder and Coaching Director of Sport Dimensions, a company specialising in Speed Coaching, Strength Training and Rehabilitation after injury or surgery.

Mike has been a Soccer coach for 26 years and has worked in the UK, Europe and the USA. He is a qualified UEFA Coach, Speed Coach, Strength & Conditioning Coach and Rehabilitation Specialist. He has worked as a trainer at both professional and academy level in the UK and Europe and works as a coaching consultant for a number of professional Soccer and Rugby clubs as well as track and field athletes in the UK and Europe

Mike has worked with professional athletes and sports teams including: Chelsea FC, Chelsea Academy, Stoke City, Blackburn, Celtic, Crystal Palace, Ipswich Town, Saracens, Bath, Harlequins, Cyprus Soccer Federation.Mike runs coaching workshops and seminars on Soccer Speed, and Long Term development of Soccer Athletes, and is a guest lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and St Mary’s University.

Mike’s training methodology on Soccer Speed is based on research on the biomechanics of soccer players and coaching experience with Academy and Professional level athletes over the past 25 years.