How Do You Compare to the USWNT Fitness Level?

This article was originally posted by Amplified Soccer in our magazine in May of 2015 in the lead up to the 2015 Women's World Cup. We have reposted it in full below.

Meet the mastermind behind one of the most physically dominant teams in the world.

Dawn Scott first worked with the U.S. Women’s National Team in January of 2010 and joined Pia Sundhage’s staff full-time the following February, working with the USA in both the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. Scott came to U.S. Soccer from the English Football Association, where she worked since 2001 as an Exercise Scientist, primarily with the England Women’s National Soccer Teams. Her responsibilities with the U.S. women include the delivery, coordination and monitoring of the team’s strength and conditioning as well as the nutritional and exercise science strategies for the squad. Scott also works to coordinate with the NWSL clubs to monitor the fitness of the National Team players, as well as collaborating with the USA’s Youth Girls and Women’s National Teams’ physiologist. (Full Bio on

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The World Class Level: How Do You Compare to the USWNT’s Fitness Level?

Scott took time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer questions about the US Women’s National Team Fitness. How do you compare?

Dawn Scott

Photo Credit: Brad Smith, ISI Photos

1. On average how many miles does a USWNT starter cover/run in a 90 minute match? How much of this is sprinting or at max HR?

DS: Depending on player position, as well as our formation and the opposition level/formation, and of course fitness of players, this can be anywhere from 5-8 miles. We focus a lot on number of max sprints (sprints clocked over a certain speed threshold) and high intensity runs, and then the accumulative amount of running in those zones.  In soccer that is when players are more involved in the game and hence having more impact.  Again this ranges from 600-1400m depending on the factors outlined above.

2.  How many miles will a USWNT player cover in a week long training camp and in a typical training session in that camp? 

DS: An individual session varies depending on the load for that day, and also within a session a player may cover a low total distance, but a highest percentage/number of high intensity runs and/or max sprints.  So we never really look at one in isolation of the other.

During our training camp in January which was more of a pre-season type load, players were totaling an average of 30-35 miles for a week of training.  During a camp where we are preparing and tapering for a game this would be around 15-20 miles, including the distance for the game.
Obviously this is more intermittent and not just running at a continuous pace as soccer is more stop start, with bursts of high intensity activity when you are involved in the game and then periods of lower intensity where you are either recovering or less involved in the game.  For soccer your training should reflect what you do in a game and long, slow running is not good preparation for a soccer player.

3. When preparing for a major tournament what does the training load look like on an average week? How many times are the players doing fitness in the gym or pure fitness on the pitch vs. team practice sessions on the pitch?

DS: Again the pre-season load in January was different to the focus and load right now and around game preparation.  In January we would be doing 2-3 lifts each week in the gym, with a focus on strength and heavy lifts.  The field sessions were intense in order to develop endurance in players.  Now the lifts are more focused on power, so less repetitions, but more powerful exercises and plyometric type movements, so they are still demanding but in a different way.  The field sessions (we always aim to get a physical outcome from the technical sessions so we can optimize the time on the field and minimize training volume) are more intermittent in nature now, with more interval focus and a heavy focus on speed and power.  Obviously the players are also completing more games now, so we always taper going in to games as well.

4.  What fitness tests or tools do you use to monitor the players fitness levels? 

DS: I am not a fan of testing for testing’s sake, so I always like to relate any testing we do to the players game performance and training plan.  The main tests we use are the YIRT to measure the endurance (engine) in a player.  Sometimes we do this submaximal, so it is less fatiguing when we then have practice, and we can then compare the heart rate response to previous values.  We also assess a player’s maximal aerobic speed (MAS) so that we can then prescribe the specific distance a player should complete during a specified time interval.  We then assess speed, with split times from 5m through to 30-40m, as up to around 20m a player is still accelerating.  I also combine that with the speeds the players clock during training and games while wearing their GPS units, so it is an evolving process.

5. Are there any tests that you put the team through in the weight room?

DS: Not really, although we do sometimes have a pull up competition!!!  For me if a player can increase the weight she is lifting for a number of reps then that shows a good enough progression.  We do some assessments of vertical jump and power, and feel that is a more accurate assessment of a player for soccer performance.

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