A Needs Analysis looks at the sport and the athlete(s), assesses the demands the sport places on the athlete and considers what qualities the athlete needs to maximize performance and minimize their risk of injury – I have also included some general information about the sport and its history.
Association football, aka football or soccer, is a sport in which 2 teams of 11 players try to kick a ball into the opposing team’s goal.
Although most of the world refers to the game as “football” (including Britain, where the game was invented). I have chosen as a title what is generally considered to be the American name for the game, “Soccer”, mainly because I also have a program on Gridiron Football (American Football) which I have referred to as “Strength and Conditioning for Football”.
Interestingly, although the term soccer is often seen as an Americanism, it is actually a British term. In the early 1800s, a group of university students took what was the medieval game of football and started playing their own versions of it. One of the variations was Rugby football or “Rugger” for short, and the other was Association football or “Soccer” for short.
Once the sports got to America in the early 1900s, the Americans invented their own variant of the game that they called “Football”, and therefore, association football became soccer.
Soccer is played over 2 45-minutes halves (usually with a 15-minute half-time break) for a total match time of 90-minutes. Therefore, soccer players need to be fit.
Soccer is a lower-body dominant sport involving the hip, knee and ankle joints and muscle groups including the glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves.
Soccer players need to be able to accelerate, run, sprint, decelerate, change direction, utilize multidirectional speed, jump, land, kick, head and tackle, all while handling the ball or maintaining awareness of where the ball and other players are.
A 90-minute game will involve lots of shuffling and jogging with many soccer players covering 6-8 miles (10-14km). This is coupled with dozens of repeated sprints and high-intensity bouts of defensive or offensive handling of the ball.
Of course, there are different positions within soccer, all of which have specific roles. However, all players need to have:
Strength: Greater strength will improve speed and power potential and will ensure players are not pressured by other players and “bullied” off the ball, etc. Strength and power are also key for kicking the ball and jumping high to head the ball.
Speed: Players need to be able to accelerate fast and achieve high speeds to win the ball and get to where they need to be to receive passes and defend against the opposition – most sprints are between 10-30m.
Agility: Players need to be able to react to stimuli (what other players are doing) and change body position or direction rapidly.
Aerobic Fitness: Players need the aerobic capacity to last the duration of the game and recover from high-intensity bouts of work. They require aerobic power to push the intensity for longer durations.
Anaerobic Fitness: Players are required to sprint time and time again, which requires great anaerobic power and capacity.
Flexibility & Mobility: Players need lower body flexibility to kick high and move their bodies into lengthened positions to defend or win the ball.
Common injuries within soccer include hamstring and groin strains (tears to the muscles), knee and ankle injuries (often sprains to the ligaments), and Achilles tendon injuries. Aside from impacts from other players, these injuries are often caused by acceleration, deceleration and change of direction – concussions are a common injury as a result of collisions with other players.
The 11 positions in soccer are:
- Right Full-back (or Wingback)
- Left Full-back (or Wingback)
- Centre back (or sweeper)
- Defensive Midfielder
- Right Midfielder (or Winger)
- Centre Midfielder
- Centre Forward (or Striker)
- Attacking Midfielder (or Centre Forward)
- Left Midfielder (or Winger)
The defenders are positioned on their half of the field and work to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals.
Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper defends the goals and is the only player who can use their arms and hands to block the ball as long as it is within the penalty box. However, they cannot use their hands outside the penalty box or if a team member passes them the ball.
Right and Left Fullbacks: Fullbacks defend their side of the field, commonly focusing on the opposing team’s wingers/right and left midfielders.
Centre Back (Central Defender/Stopper): The centre back defends the centre of the field just in front of the goal. They work to prevent the opposing team from scoring, particularly centre forwards. In the modern game, they can also get involved in the attack. However, they usually make long passes to teammates.
Centre Back/Sweeper: The sweeper position is less common in modern football. However, the position is used to react quickly and defend the goal. Other centre back positions tend to man-mark their designated opponents. However, the sweeper has more freedom.
The midfielders are positioned in the middle of the field, between the forwards and defenders, and work to push the ball forward.
Defending or Holding Midfielder: A midfielder, also known as a halfback, connect the defenders with the forwards. Rather than concentrating on pushing forward, they hold back to support the defense, often with a primary role of defending a specific zone in front of the defense or marking a specific opposition player.
Centre Midfielder: Central midfielders play both offense and defense on the field. They set up plays for their team and move forward or backward, depending on where the ball is. They will often try to pass to the attacking midfielders or forwards.
Right and Left (Wide) Midfielders or Wingers: These midfielders play on the edges of the field drawing out the other team’s defense and making room for the centre midfielder and attacking midfielder to move in the centre. They play a lot of crosses, especially into the opponent’s penalty area to make scoring opportunities for their teammates.
Attacking Midfielder: Attacking midfielders assist the forwards and are also good at taking long shots. They need to be highly skilled players with great dribbling and passing abilities.
The forwards are positioned closest to the opposing team’s goal and, therefore, are the chief goal scorers of the team. This positioning also means they don’t tend to have many defensive responsibilities.
Striker: The striker’s role is to score goals. They are positioned in front of the field and will always be looking to receive passes from their teammates in an attempt to score a goal. Strikers need to be incredibly fast and must be accurate kickers.
Centre Forward: The main role of the centre forward is to score goals. Centre forwards are known for being able to receive and control the ball well and go on to score or create scoring opportunities for the striker.
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