Uncovering the coaching strategies as well as contemporary issues in elite soccer, this comprehensive textbook illustrates what it takes to thrive as a performance coach at the top level. Collaborating with the industry leaders in soccer, the chapters address a myriad of topics such as:
The coaching profession is ever-changing and coaches at each level of sport competition need to know more than just the Xs and Os in order to be successful. As the primary individuals tasked with developing athletes and helping them achieve their goals, coaches should acquire a working knowledge of all areas affiliated with performance enhancement. Specifically, the disciplines of sports administration, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, and sports psychology can assist coaches while physically and mentally training their athletes. This article illustrates six primary components of these disciplines: risk management, injury prevention, communication, nutrition, goal setting, and athlete development. It is imperative coaches gain a familiarity with these aforementioned components in order to teach athletes about skill development and prepare them to achieve peak performance.
Today, young athletes train like elite professional athletes. Specifically, many adolescents are undertaking physical and mental conditioning regimens for several hours a day in order to produce peak athletic performance. Additionally, some individuals are specializing in one sport at an early age (15) and participating on several teams during a single athletic season. While others participate in several different sports year-round (15) without allowing the body and mind enough time to sufficiently recover from the rigors of athletic competition.
As coaches establish a positive relationship with their athletes, many athletes begin to realize the importance of training the body physically in order to produce peak performances. Hence, every coach should consider performance enhancement to be the number one priority when developing a strength and conditioning program. However, without adequate nutrition, training results may be suboptimal due to a lack of recovery and reduced ability to perform due to depleted energy. Therefore, nutrition is the foundation of performance enhancement. Without optimal nutrition, athletes cannot compete to their full potential.
Training history appears to modulate recovery processes, but this interplay is not well appreciated in the research literature. In the American College of Sports Medicine position stand, the recommendations for rest period length and training frequency for power training are like those for novice, intermediate, and advanced athletes . In contrast, the guidelines outlined by the UK Athletics state that duration, number of repetitions, and recovery time in sprint-specific training sessions should be adjusted according to training status and performance level [15, 16]. For example, an underlying assumption in high-performance environments is that each sprint performed by an elite athlete is more demanding on the entire neuromuscular system than for their lower performing counterparts, and hence, more recovery time between each sprint is needed [15, 16]. Future research should aim to verify this claim.
It has recently been suggested that individualized sprint training should be based on force-velocity (Fv) profiles [97, 101, 102]. A possible avenue for such an approach is individual test comparison with group mean values, where athletes with velocity deficits should be prescribed more maximal velocity sprinting, while athletes with horizontal force deficits should prioritize more horizontal strength work . Although reference values have been outlined for athletes across sprint performance levels [23, 35, 38], it remains unclear if such an approach is effective . The logic of this approach builds on an assumed direct relationship between acceleration and peak velocity measurements for the runner and the underlying contractile characteristics of the muscle groups involved. However, the fascicle shortening velocities of active muscles do not necessarily change with increasing running velocity [104,105,106]. The relationship between changes in running velocity and muscle fascicle shortening velocity appears to be complicated by an increased contribution from elastic properties with increasing running velocity [104,105,106]. Running velocity is not a proxy for muscle contraction velocity, and for this reason, Helland et al.  have questioned the use of Fv profiling in this context. More research is required regarding how training should be evaluated and modified based on force-velocity assessments.
The reutilization of stored energy as a strategy for sprint performance has recently been questioned by Haugen et al. , as storage and release of elastic energy take time. Human tendons stretch under load, and sprinters should likely minimize the downside of having these elastic connectors. Adding to the argument, world-class performers sprint with considerably higher leg stiffness than their lower performing counterparts . Based on these considerations, sprinters should focus on leg stiffness (e.g., short ground contact time) during plyometric exercises. Interestingly, this approach was utilized with seeming success by coach Carlo Vittori and the Italian School of sprint training already in the 1970s. The best athlete, Pietro Mennea, performed horizontal jumps and skipping exercises with a weight belt, and ground contact time during these exercises never exceeded 100 ms . This contact time is very similar to those obtained by elite sprinters at maximal velocity . Mennea also performed assisted sprints while equipped with a weight belt (weight vests serve the same purpose). Although these training methods offer strong leg stiffness stimulations, they are demanding and probably increase injury risk, particularly for the Achilles tendon. This may explain why most practitioners perform more traditional plyometric drills as bilateral obstacle (hurdle) jumps, multi jump circuits, medicine ball throws, and unilateral bounding exercises [10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18]. Although the highest volumes are accomplished during the preparation phase, some plyometric training is performed during the competition season [10, 11, 15, 16].
A number of passive recovery modalities have also been applied by practitioners over the years, including massage, stretching, compression garments, cold water or contrast water immersion, cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and electromyostimulation [11, 13, 14]. While there may be some subjective benefits for post-exercise recovery, there is currently no convincing evidence to justify the widespread use of such strategies in competitive athletes [142, 146, 149,150,151,152,153,154,155,156,157,158,159,160,161,162]. Placebo effects may be beneficial, and at the individual level, certain recovery modalities may elicit reproducible acceleration of recovery processes. Future studies of experimental models designed to reflect the circumstances of elite athletes are needed to gain further insights regarding the efficacy of various recovery modalities on sprint performance.
This review has contrasted scientific and best practice literature. Although the scientific literature provides useful and general information regarding the development of sprint performance and underlying determinants, there is a considerable gap between science and best practice in how training principles and methods are applied (these gaps are summarized in Table 6). Possible explanations for these discrepancies may be that scientific studies mainly examine isolated variables under standardized conditions, while best practice is concerned about external validity and apply a more holistic approach. In order to close this gap between science and practice, future investigations should observe and assess elite sprinters throughout the training year, aiming to establish mechanistic connections between training content, changes in performance, and underlying mechanical and physiological determinants. The conclusions drawn in this review may serve as a position statement and provide a point of departure for forthcoming studies regarding sprint training of elite athletic contestants.
Figure 2. Mean values and 95% CI of physical performance peaks in different metrics and periods according to the match location. *Away > Home. (A) Total distance; (B) High-speed running; (C) Accelerations; (D) Decelerations.
Figure 3. Mean values and 95% CI of physical performance peaks in different metrics and periods according to the outcome match. *Win > Draw; #Lose > Draw. (A) Total distance; (B) High-speed running; (C) Accelerations; (D) Decelerations.
Figure 4. Mean values and 95% CI of physical performance peaks in different metrics and periods according to the match status. *Drawing > Winning; #Drawing > Losing. (A) Total distance; (B) High-speed running; (C) Accelerations; (D) Decelerations.
Citation: Augusto D, Brito J, Aquino R, Paulucio D, Figueiredo P, Bedo BLS, Touguinhó D and Vasconcellos F (2022) Contextual variables affect peak running performance in elite soccer players: A brief report. Front. Sports Act. Living 4:966146. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2022.966146
Amy Dirks is the former sports performance nutritionist for MLS' Sporting Kansas City. Dirks has counseled many professional athletes during their pro seasons and is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with a background in Sports Nutrition and Wellness. Also certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer, Dirks has a refreshingly logical approach to working with professional sports teams, elite youth soccer players, and individual pro athletes. 59ce067264