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  • Daniel Kamenetzky

THE USE OF DATA FOR SOCCER PLAYER DEVELOPMENT. A METHODOLOGICAL REQUIREMENT IN THE ACADEMY PROCESS 3




When designing training for high-level competition, the integration of data from all areas of performance is essential. The current “silo” model that relegates professionals in their own area of expertise without exchanging and discussing with others for data integration, definitively limits the discovery of what each athlete needs to improve performance.

One of the most powerful tools in the area of player development and high-performance competition is the anthropometric evaluation. It provides a unique reading of the body’s structure and composition. And when appropriately integrated with other areas (conditional, technical, tactical, nutritional, psychological), will guide the training design in unique ways.

I’m advancing the analysis that I started in the last two articles using the data from the publication “Anthropometric and body composition profile of young professional soccer players (2020)”, from the Club Chivas of Guadalajara in Mexico. In this third article, I will explore more in detail what story the measurement of skinfolds can reveal about the process of development that the soccer Academy is performing.


To start the analysis, I organized the average of 5 skinfolds (Triceps, Biceps, Subscapular, Iliac Crest, and Calf) that are representative of the overall adipose tissue and its body distribution, for each age group (4th, 3rd, and 2nd Divisions) and by field position as defined in the publication. As in my previous article, I compare each value with the average for the respective age group of a Canadian population (zero line). Remember that it includes subjects of different physical capacities and movement history. From sedentary to highly active subjects. I use this reference population because is similar to the European, where most clubs are intended to sell their academy products.

 

The adipose tissue content analysis in competitive athletes is fundamental since it is detrimental to performance when stored in excess. The extra adipose mass represents a “dead weight” that has to be carried by the muscular mass, adding to the already stressful sport-specific workload.


Elevated skinfold values are indicative of different possible limitations in the process of player development. For example:


1) Inadequate physiological training proportionality,

2) Inadequate nutritional behavior for the sport,

3) Inadequate load intensity proportionality,

4) Limited anthropometric and nutritional controls,

5) Limited performance control,

6) Inadequate individual player follow-up during the academy years,

7) Lack or deficient data integration,

8) Lack or deficient player development curriculum (selection of priorities at each developmental stage)

 

Analyzing the Chivas data, we can observe that (refer to the graphs that I present below):


1) Considering that at 16 years old in a professional club like Chivas most players already has been involved in the sport for at least 6 years (some academies start as early as 6 years old in Latin-America), the values of most skinfolds in each position are inappropriately elevated. At this stage, players enter the professional pathway, and they should have already the body composition as close to the competitive requirements as possible. Except for the muscular mass that, in male players, will keep growing as a consequence of the biological development and training load (in female players, it is expected that the biological growth at 16 is completed. Only training will add stimulation for a muscular change).


2) Skinfolds in the upper body (Subscapular, Iliac Crest, and Biceps) remain higher than they should be for most field positions, through all three categories. It is expected to see at a professional Academy level (in all three categories in this example) values that are at least 3 standard deviations negative (downwards respect to the average in the graphs) compared to the general population.


3) In the 4th Division, players present Subscapular and Iliac Cres skinfolds associated with obesity. This is a clear indication of a low-level aerobic workload and most probably an inadequate nutritional behavior.


4) In the 3rd and 2nd Divisions, Subscapular and Iliac Crest skinfolds remain higher than expected for the sport in most of the field positions.


5) Calf skinfold shows a high-performance level, which correlates with high utilization of the anatomical region even if the aerobic system is not well-developed. What needs to be corroborated is if the muscular mass is preserved. With low levels of aerobic capacity, high-intensity activities can catabolize the muscular mass systemically and regionally.


6) In the oldest group (2nd Division) we still can observe many skinfolds, in different positions, that are inadequate for the sport (expected -3 standard deviations or below). The regional distribution analysis can uncover historic limitations in the player development process.




We expect when entering the high-performance academy that players bring critical variables already at the highest possible level. The adipose tissue component of the body composition is one of them. This is why this type of integrated analysis, performed frequently during the Academy years, allows to systematically review and adjust the models of training. In this way, the coaching team will prevent carrying undesirable characteristics all the way to higher competitive divisions. At that point, there is limited time to produce structural and basic changes. The focus should be more on team building and tactical mastery.

Following this model and adding the integration of other performance areas, we will be able to see the value and limitations that each one offers for the overall player’s performance.

The Academy time is critical for the development process, not just of the game but of all variables involved in the player’s performance. There are minimums that need to be achieved during the Academy years to allow for what is expected at the professional level.


A well-rounded Academy product is what will let the First Division Professional Head Coach achieve the levels of performance-specific for his/her strategic vision of the game. When analyzing talents for acquisition, beyond the game knowledge and skills, there are critical variables representative of each area of performance that needs to be evaluated in order to increase the probability of success. Today the talent selection process at the highest level is still done exclusively by subjective observation, that even though valuable, is limited in information.

In the next articles, we will analyze the implication of the above findings for each position associated with their specific tasks and involvement in a professional soccer team.

If you have questions about this article or topics that you would like me to analyze in the following posts, please email me at spandrelsport@gmail.com


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