In a recent 442 Article, Leicester City’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Willmott was asked about the physical demands of academy football.
Here are a couple of the questions, with the speed comparisons at the bottom.
How big is the physical difference between Premier League and academy football?
On a basic physical test – for example a 20-metre sprint – the senior academy and first team players are probably fairly close. However, the distances covered at high speed during training or a match would be greater in the first team. The technical gap also raises training intensity and makes it feel a lot harder and that’s probably the biggest difference our players find. First team players are technically superior; they can play different types of passes and move the ball quicker. The technical difference means they have to work harder physically. From a strength point of view, the first team players have had more years training and should be stronger.
How do you prepare players for the demands of the Premier League?
As soon as players start at the academy at the age of eight, we use a multi-sport system to develop basic physical skills. Once they move into the 12-14 age group, we place a massive emphasis on promoting the quality of athletic movements and developing correct movement patterns to ensure players can reproduce the movements they would do in a game or training. We place importance on the ability of players to control these movements through various positions or under various loads where the movement is challenged. Then as they mature they can be progressively loaded to increase strength and develop power.
How often are players subjected to physical testing?
Our senior academy players – under-18s and 23s – are tested every six weeks. Our younger age groups, from under-9s to under-16s, are tested every 12 weeks. We test their speed using a 20-metre sprint test; vertical jumps for single and double leg power. We also measure agility through an arrowhead run, while a YOYO and SDS test designed by staff at the club is used to measure endurance.
Speed test banding (20 metres / 21.8723 yards
Poor = 3.17 secs or more
Below Average = 3.16 – 3.06 secs
Average = 3.05 – 2.96 secs
Good = 2.95 – 2.86
Excellent = 2.85 secs or less
How do you compare?