The Importance of Strength and Power on Key Performance Indicators in Elite Youth Soccer
The purpose of this investigation was to examine the importance of strength and power in relation to key performance indicators (KPI’s) within competitive soccer match play. This was achieved through using an experimental approach where fifteen subjects were recruited from a professional soccer club’s scholarship squad during the 2013/14 season. Following anthropometric measures, power and strength were assessed across a range of tests which included the squat jump (SJ), countermovement jump (CMJ), 20 metre (m) sprint and arrowhead change of direction test. A predicted 1-repetition maximum (RM) was also obtained for strength by performing a 3RM test for both the back squat and bench press and a total score of athleticism (TSA) was provided by summing z-scores for all fitness tests together, providing one complete score for athleticism. Performance analysis data was collected during 16 matches for the following KPIs: passing, shooting, dribbling, tackling and heading. Alongside this, data concerning player ball involvements (touches) was recorded. Results showed that there was a significant correlation (p < 0.05) between CMJ (r = 0.80), SJ (r = 0.79) and TSA (r = 0.64) in relation to heading success. Similarly, a significant correlation (p < 0.05) between predicted 1RM squat strength and tackle success (r = 0.61). These data supports the notion that strength and power training are important to soccer performance, particularly when players are required to win duels of a physical nature. There were no other relationships found between the fitness data and the KPI’s recorded during match play which may indicate that other aspects of player’s development such as technical skill, cognitive function and sensory awareness are more important for soccer-specific performance.