In this post I will break down what I feel are the necessary qualities that are necessary in becoming a good football player. For the purposes of this post, we will be focusing on the physical attributes necessary, without discounting the extreme importance of the mental game.
Cardio: With the exception of goalkeepers (which run an average of 5.5km throughout the game, an average football player runs an average of 11.2km over the course of a 90 minute game, with midfielders doing the most running. While this does not seem to be a lot, consider that this would be running done at paces varying from an easy jog (when the ball is far away), to an outright sprint (when chasing down another player). The running profile would be similar to a fartlek running session.
One of many ways in gauging an athlete’s cardiac output would be his resting heart rate (Lance Armstrong famously had a super low resting heart rate of 32 – 34 beats per minute at his peak) and VO2 max. For those wondering what VO2 max is, it is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. It is measured in millilitres per kilogramme of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). The average untrained male has a VO2 max of 35 – 40ml/kg/min, while Lance Armstrong had a VO2 max of 84.0ml/kg/min! According to this study, the average football player sampled had a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute and a V02 max of 58.4ml/kg/min. Note also that this sample was taken from the North American Soccer League, whom I’m sure are very talented players, but they are nowhere near the level of the true elite. Hence we can expect the averages of the players from the global elite teams to be significantly better than the above.
Power: As mentioned above, football players are often in outright sprints against the opposing team’s players. Hence, a certain degree of muscular power, specifically in the lower body, is required. While nobody expects football players to look like track sprinters, lower body power is positively correlated with sprinting ability; a study found that more powerful athletes had a higher capacity to maintain maximal speed in a repeated sprint protocol. More powerful athletes are also generally faster sprinters all around. In other words, do your squats, your jumps, your sprints, and take your whey protein.
Agility and Coordination: Obviously this refers to your ability to juggle balls with your feet! Just kidding! But first let’s get a working definition of agility and coordination in this context. Agility refers to the ability to change the direction of the body abruptly or to shift quickly the direction of movement without losing balance. It is dependent on a combination of factors such as speed, strength, balance and co-ordination. The ability to turn quickly, evade challenges and side-step calls for good motor co-ordination and can be measured using agility tests. Coordination may be defined as the capability of the player to handle football-specific and general situations in a confident, economic and rapid way. Like agility, co-ordination requires a high level of interaction between the motor and muscular systems. Evidence shows for example, that kicking performance is highly influenced by minimum variations in motor co-ordination. While there are no studies that I can find measuring the agility and coordination abilities of professional football players, there is a study that football increases interlimb synchronization in children.
So there you have it folks, just a general brief overview of broad-based physical characteristics that you would need to be a successful football player. Hope you guys found it useful.