Sport Scientist, Fitness Coach
- July 2018 – Present: ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ FC (Performance Analyst / Assistant Fitness Coach)
- 2016 – Present: Transitional Phase – Personal training for young athletes (Fitness & Football Coach)
- 2016 – Present: Personal football sessions for young kids and kids with learning difficulties
- September 2014 – June 2018: Little Kickers Cyprus (Lead Coach)
- 2018: Barca Universitas (Workload and Injury in Team Sports) – 4 months online course
- 2014 – 2018: European University Cyprus (BSc in Sports Science and Physical Education)
- Native Language: Greek
- Foreign Language: English (Fluent written and spoken)
- Sports performance monitoring and tracking systems: (Operator – Analyst)
Trainings - Athanasios Angelis
The importance of performance monitoring, in today’s football, is widely known. According to Black et al (2016), the ability of monitoring training loads … is of the utmost importance for the athlete’s readiness and the prevention of injuries.
There are two main reasons why it is necessary to record performance:
First, to make sure that footballers perform at their highest level, and second, to minimize the negative effects that can be caused by training such as excessive fatigue, overtraining or detraining. In addition, proper use of performance monitoring systems can contribute significantly to injury prevention.
In addition, through long and continuous performance recording, we are able to know the needs of the sport and more specifically the demands of the game of each position. This way we can maximize the performance of our players through personalized training.
But what is the difference between post-workout performance analysis and live monitoring during training?
The ability of modern systems for live monitoring of performance, gives the advantage to trainers - coaches to accurately control training loads.
Many experienced trainers believe that through their years in the sport, they can now calculate the loads the players receive. Human memory is limited, so it is almost impossible to remember all the events that took place during a game, let alone the parameters of performance. The research by Franks and Miller (1986) showed that less than 45% of football coaches who participated were correct in their post-match evaluation of the events that occurred.
Even though some coaches through their experience can actually calculate the external loads in some way, there is no way they can control the internal loads - heart rate (HR). The HR of our players shows their response to external loads and can vary greatly from athlete to athlete. Keeping that in mind, we are able to know when a player needs more, or less intensity in his training than the average of the team.
Two players run from box to box at a speed of 15km / h. Player (A) works at 90% of his maximal heart rate (HR max), while player (B) works at his 80% HR max. This shows us that for the purpose of the exercise, the speed at which player (A) runs is ideal for his improvement, while player (B) needs to run at a faster speed to obtain the adaptations we want him to.
By monitoring the external loads that players receive during training, we can also check when a player underperforms and intervene where needed. In addition, knowing the requirements of the game, for each position we can complete customized training when needed.
We find that during a mid-week training session, in which we aim to charge players with high loads, our wide defenders (as shown in the graphs below) have not been exposed to high intensity runs. Since the needs of the game for this position require high speed runs, we decide that those players will stay after completing the training session for additional, personalized training.
Monitoring performance in small sided games (SSG) 4 Vs 4 + 2 goalkeepers
When designing small sided games in football, we should be aware of the requirements and the stimuli that players will receive as they come to fruition. By reducing the spaces, we minimize the chances for our players to cover high speed distances. At the same time, the requirements for the number of accelerations, decelerations and changes of direction are increasing. This is because the players are forced to change their position constantly so that they find themselves in an empty space to receive the ball. Also, ball possession changes are much more often, which forces players to change their speed much faster.
We have collected data from 4 Vs 4 small sided games with two goalkeepers, which took place on a 20m x 40m (800 sqm - 100 sqm per player) pitch, with an intensity between 85-95% HR max. Data were collected using a performance monitoring system from Catapult.
The table below shows the averages of data per minute:
While monitoring training loads, only the most energy costly for the body accelerations, decelerations and changes of direction are taken account, with moderate to high intensity. The reason is that low intensity accelerations and decelerations are not particularly associated with performance indicators and there can be hundreds, even at a low or moderate intensity training session.
If you use 4 Vs 4 with 2 goalkeepers for example 3 minutes per set, then simply multiply the table numbers by the time your game is implemented (x 3) to see the average expected external load for your players.
Based on our analysis, more than 85% of the total distance covered was at low speeds. According to other researchers, when compared with Large Sided Games or match play, Small Sided Games (under certain conditions) do not simulate the high-intensity efforts and repeated sprints that the full game demands (Casamichana, Castellano, & Castagna, 2012).
In conclusion, Small Sided Games produce more technical elements, such as (passes, shoots, tackles, etc.), which benefit football players more often than medium and large pitches. (Hodgson and et al., 2014; Kelly and Drust, 2009). At the same time, the internal load (Heart Rate) simulates or even exceeds the needs of a normal match, while for the external loads we expect values that fluctuate near the table we quote.
There are different opinions about the loads that the players receive during a football tennis or other called football volley game. There are many who consider that performing this type of games is ideal for sessions aimed at discharging players. There is, of course, the opposite view, from those who believe that it may seem 'innocent' because footballers have fun playing it, but the loads they receive may not be so small.
Trying to clarify this issue, we have collected data from a 3 Vs 3 football tennis game that took place on a 10m x 5m pitch (2 squares of 5m x 5m). When analyzing the data, we noticed that the player of each team standing backwards (the one who was mainly taking the first balls), received more loads than the other two. Specifically, it covered an average of 47.5m / min while the players who stood in front of the net covered 29.3m / min. In addition, they had 1.75 direction changes per minute versus 0.9 respectively. Regarding the number of medium and high intensity accelerations, the number was almost zero for the front players while the back made 0.9 per minute.
At the same time, we considered a parameter relatively unknown to most, which can only be recorded with high tech equipment. It is called IMA (Inertial Movement Analysis) and refers to a set of metrics that measures the movements of all three axes, which are performed in less than 0.3 tenths of a second. What we observed with respect to IMA medium and high intensity accelerations and decelerations was that the rear players performed 0.8 and 0.6 per minute respectively, while the front players performed 0.5 and 0.4.
Lastly, we monitored heart rate variability and observed that the players standing in front were constantly working below 75% of the HRmax, while those who chased the first balls regularly raised between 75-85% of the HRmax.
Before planning such games into training units aimed at unloading, we should know that the loads mentioned above will increase if the square meters corresponding to each player are increased. This can happen in two ways. Increasing the size of the pitch or reducing the number of players.
What we recommend is when organizing these games, we need to make sure that we have a balance in terms of the loads that our players receive, and to do that we have to change their positions frequently.
Distributing the total distance covered by football players in speed zones is an indispensable tool for sports scientists and fitness coaches in modern football. It contributes effectively to understanding the requirements of the sport, and more specifically to each position, giving us the benefit of designing workouts that are tailored to the needs of each player. At the same time, it gives us a clear picture of the physical abilities of each player, while long-term recording and comparing the performance of each player in a series of matches can lead us to very useful conclusions.
The speed zones in which the distance covered is distributed on the basis of the literature are:
0-0.6 km/h (Standing)
0.7-7.1 km/h (Walking)
7.2-14.3 km/h (Jogging)
14.4-19.7 km/h (Running)
19.8-25.1 km/h (High-speed Run)
>25.1 km/h (Sprinting)
Based on long-term records of other scientists in football matches, in terms of the physical demands of each position, in the above speed zones, we quote the following interesting values in a table:
* The above values do not include goalkeepers’ measurements.
As you can see in the table above, regardless of playing position, most of the total distance in a football match will be covered by slow running, while a large proportion will be covered by walking. As absurd as it sounds, that's what the numbers say. The reason many will wonder if this is true or not is very simple. Watching a football match, all of us are often focused on the part of the players involved in the phase, or those close to the ball. What we do not realize is that, at the same moment, there are other players on the pitch who are likely to be moving at very slow speeds. Of course, this does not negate the fact that footballers must be very well trained and prepared to perform the most energy costly for the body actions, as they will most often make the difference in a match.
The speed zone 14.4-19.7 km/h (Running) is highly correlated with the player’s displacement on the pitch. Looking at the table, you can see that the wide midfielders have the highest percentage in this zone, followed by the central midfielders. It is these players who will be most likely to work in defense, especially in game changing, as they will have to cover long distances in a short space of time.
Regarding speed zones >19.8 km/h (High-speed Run and Sprinting), as you can see, the wide midfielders have the highest percentage, followed by the attackers. In football terms, this can be justified by frequent transitions, mainly from defense to attack. In cases where the wide defenders are playing in systems with a three at the back and have the entire line in their area of responsibility, then clearly the percentage in these zones is increasing. As for central defenders, their performance in the specific zones depends heavily on the opponents' actions, as they mostly run at high speeds defensively to intercept them.
Reading the above data and before reaching any conclusion, we should keep in mind that depending on the level of the league, the percentages are likely to vary. In addition, the factors that may influence the above percentages are both the formation of the two teams in the field and the specific instructions of each coach.
Finally, the above information can be used as a basic knowledge of understanding the physical demands of each position in a football match. What we suggest, if possible, is that physical demands of the match for each player be recorded and used individually.