loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

Running with the Ball in Soccer: How Much, How Often, How Fast?

Fitness training with the ball is the mainstay of the strength and conditioning philosophy of the FFA and of course the evolution of Small Side Games at junior levels has seen an awesome improvement in player development in particular at pre-pubertal ages. But still we have many points of difference in how to approach football specific conditioning.

Searching research for how much time a player possesses a ball in a match I was surprised to find in a study by Carling that this was only 1.7% of the total distance. Now an approximate total distance for elite soccer is 11km so that is approximately 200m with the ball in a game.

Added to that is that on average players possess a ball 35 to 50 times a match and then that is for very few touches. And outside the scope of this article is that usually these possessions are at some speed. So like AFL the ability to kick to moving targets is critical and the ability to make space is also critical.

Obviously more goals are scored when teams cannot close space as efficiently on average. And also obvious that when a player does touch the ball, it is critical that they possess the highest skill level and decision making ability. But this decision making ability extends also to running without the ball to make space or create a “torres” type run.

Another study from Italy coughed up slightly different stats but still probably less than what one would come up with if asked.


So we have the dogma that players must train with the ball all day but 98.3% of a game is without a ball in one study and the one above well over 90%. And of course we get smashed ad nauseum with fact that Asian teams junk run in World Cups relative to European teams. Well if they didn’t chase arse they would get beaten 10 zero. Simply in Europe and South America, football is the NO 1 sport so gets the best of everything.And players compete in leagues where decision making is enhanced.  The US team has to compensate for a slight technical deficiency & probably decision making ability probably with fitness. Not a bad idea given the above statistics. In an ideal world the higher skill level and the less junk running the better. That is a no brainer! But in reality skill errors, wind, fatigue, stress whatever creates massive permutations and combinations in any team game.

So it is obvious that in that 1.7% of the game players must be highly efficient but with 98.3% of the game involving running, one can see why Nations like Germany and clubs like Galatasaray have used Athletes Performance to underpin their fitness programs. IE Think of that. A US company running fitness in the heartland of football!

This debate has a way to go in OZ. The A League is a poor reflection of what is best practice. A better reflection maybe has been the poor results in Junior International competitions so far with our new philosophies. Did we break what was fixed and simply should have we left what was fixed untouched (i.e. AIS influence etc) and simply added the no-brainer? IE Develop better skills and better decision making abilities to complement the systems that were in place. All AFL coaches crave players that can kick accurately under pressure even though this might only be 5 times. And so this again is critical in Soccer. But what about the other 98.3%?

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment