Measuring Extensive Travel Fatigue and Recovery During the Season

Amplified Soccer Editor’s Note: The below testing program is designed to measure your in-season fatigue and recovery. You should do these simple tests multiple times throughout the year and record your results to make sure that you are getting the proper nutrition and rest to be able to perform at your best all season long. Make sure that you are taking care of your body so that you don’t wear out as the season goes along.

By Neil Sedgwick, Director of Youth Development, EPIC Sport Management Society (Reprinted with permission from Performance Conditioning Soccer)

Sedgwick holds a Level 5A license, which is the highest level of certification from the Canadian Soccer Association. He earned his “A”' license from the United States Soccer Federation in 2001. Sedgwick has been coaching soccer since 1988. In 1996, he graduated from Canada's National Coaching Institute with a diploma in the methodology of high-performance coaching. The program was done in cooperation the University of Montana human performance department, who collected test data and compiled the results for Coach Sedgwick.

The purpose of the testing was to measure the amount of cumulative fatigue soccer players endure over a season of play. This was an area of interest for Montana’s human performance department and a coaching concern that I had due to the extensive travel we did. We had 13 of our 20 games on the road during the season and I was concerned about the level of fatigue this travel would have on our team. Montana geographical location dictated extensive travel time for our soccer team.

We used a series of physical tests as indicators to measure increased fatigue levels as the season progressed week to week. We did a series of three simple tests—the vertical jump using a force matte to measure time in the air, a 40-yard dash measured electronically and a step test for one minute based on audio beep indicators. This third test looked at heart rate changes both before and after the test. It has been used to indicate the potential onset of illness.

The vertical jump was selected to measure fatigue levels within the neuromuscular complex. The 40-yard dash was used to measure alactic power and recovery. The step test was designed by one of the human performance department professors who was a coach for both the national cross country and biathlon ski teams. We looked at the test as an indicator of potential fatigue as a result of the most recent road game and the residual fatigue over time due to continuous travel.

We arrived home from our games late on Sunday (usually after midnight) and had Monday as a day off. The tests were administered on Tuesday morning at 6:40—a few minutes before the start of the normal training session. We started their training sessions with the three tests. The players’ reception to these tests was positive because they realized the importance of what we tried to measure. We did the step test first after a short warm-up because it was only done for a minute and created minimal fatigue. The test was done with earphones which provided the step rhythm. The vertical jump was next and, after another brief warm-up, the forty-yard dash came last. We did the 40 outdoors and in the same location to ensure test reliability.



We administered the tests over nine weeks and the results indicated no major show of fatigue over the season. For the step test, we looked at the difference in starting and ending heart rates. An increase in heart rate would be a possible indicator of residual fatigue. We know that an increase of 10 beats per minute is a potential problem. For the vertical, we looked at the time in the air and the forty-yard dash times to see if there was a reduction in performance.

The results gave me (the coach) and the athlete’s confidence knowing that our players were recovering from their extensive travel. It allows us to plan our weekly practice sessions without concern of physically overdoing it. I encourage players and other coaches to use these or comparable simple tests to measure fatigue doing the season.

How-to Testing Protocol

The tests done at the University of Montana were conducted under the direction of the human performance lab with the extensive resources at their disposal. The following tests are similar to the ones performed, but are not the actual protocol. They were done with audio and electronic equipment that many soccer players and coaches may not have access to. The following are similar tests that can be performed without such resources and equipment.

Standing Vertical Jump Test

Start:

  • Measure the standing reach of the athlete who stands directly beneath a vertical measuring device and reaches one-handed to touch the highest vane possible. Record results.
  • If a device is not available, have the player use chalk on their fingertip and record their reach against a wall.
  • Make sure that the athlete stretches so that all subsequent measurements are accurate.

Movement:

  • The athlete stands under the device or three feet from the wall with fingers chalked.
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down to parallel and jump as high as possible repetitively, using a double-arm swing for assistance.

Reach as high has possible with maximum effort jumps.

  • The athlete touches as high as possible with one hand.
  • Record the best of three jumps.

Step-up Test

Start:

  • Measure the starting heart rate and record.
  • Stand 12-18” from a box that is high enough to create a 90° angle at the knee when the foot is placed on top of the box.
  • Keep body erect.

Movement:

  • Inhale, step with lead leg onto top of box and place it in the center, toes straight ahead.
  • Keep body straight, shift weight to lead leg (on the box).
  • Pull body with lead leg into a standing, balanced position on the box.
  • Body should be fully erect at the top position.
  • Shift body weight to same lead leg.
  • Exhale, step off box using unweighted leg.
  • Body stays erect while placing foot onto the floor followed by foot of lead leg.
  • Balance feet and repeat, using other leg as lead leg.
  • Do one repetition per second for one minute using an audio tape cue.
  • Measure the ending heart rate and record.

Tip: Be sure lead leg does all the work stepping up onto box.

Performance Conditioning Soccer’s mission is to improve soccer performance through the conditioning process. This process includes providing soccer-specific educational information for the 14 areas of conditioning including: developing power, strength/stability, speed, agility, endurance, proper nutrition and recovery methods, testing, injury prevention and more.
This mission is primarily achieved through the publication Performance Conditioning Soccer Newsletter an official licensed publication of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America with over 650 articles from 261 authors published for over 16 years. Find out more at http://performancecondition.com/soccer. 


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Performance Conditioning Soccer

Ken Kontor is founder and president of Performance Conditioning Inc. His company is the world’s largest single source of sports-specific conditioning information. Among the educational resources provided are Performance Conditioning Volleyball, Cycling and Soccer newsletters now in their 14th year of publishing and 15 sports-specific conditioning books and training card systems. He is a founding member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of the Volleyball Conditioning Accreditation Program (V.C.A.P.) curriculum offered through the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditation program. Among his contributions to this program was writing the curriculum. He has established the Off-bike Conditioning curriculum promoted by USA Cycling. In the past he has worked with USA Roller Sports and USA Triathlon producing conditioning specific newsletters. Prior to the establishment of Performance Conditioning Inc., Mr. Kontor was a founding father, executive director and publications editor of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 14 years an organization of over 16,000 sport conditioning professionals. He was an original member of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist committee that established the internationally recognized C.S.C.S. credential. He has traveled extensively throughout the world including the former Soviet Union, East Germany and the Leipzig Institute of Sport, Hungary and Bulgaria with the purpose of introducing their strength and conditioning methods to the NSCA membership. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Inc. and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of Japan. He has lectured extensively on the conditioning of athletes throughout the world.