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Coaching books are full of suggested activities to improve skill, fitness, team tactics, and more. When a coach is planning a training session, training choices need to fit in with the yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily training plan especially as the activity relates to training intensity. Unfortunately, most descriptions of training activities fail to offer any statements on the quantified intensity forcing the coach to make a purely subjective decision about any task’s intensity; something coaches probably are poorly equipped to do.
Arcos and colleagues report on the intra (intraclass coefficient correlation, ICC) and inter-subject variability (coefficient of variation, CV) in male youth player performing soccer ball drills with or without opposition. The actions were a collective ball dribbling exercise and a 7-a-side ball game without vocal encouragement by the coach. Exercise intensity was determined with heart rate (HR), training load and perceived exertion scales (PE). Fourteen U-14 male players (14.8 years old with 6.5 years experience) from a Spanish First Division academy were studied.
Variability in dribbling was examined over 5 consecutive training sessions on similar field conditions. Not surprisingly, the data showed that 7-a-side game was significantly (p<0.001) more demanding than dribbling. Training load, HRmax, HRmean, overall perceived exertion (OPE) and local (leg) perceived exertion were 141%, 9%, 11%, 56% and 72 %, higher in 7-a-side than in during dribbling, respectively. There was good inter (CV<10%) and low intra-subject (ICC<0.7) variability for the 7-a-side condition. When dribbling, CVs were below 10% only for HR variables and the ICC value was higher than 0.7 only for the local perceived exertion.
Despite the moderate reproducibility of dribbling against no opposition, this condition did not appear to result in homogeneous physiological responses in young soccer players. The use of unopposed drills may be a reasonable alternative for generic, moderate intensity aerobic training. Despite the frequent duels in the 7-a-side condition, inter-player variability was lower suggesting opposed activities can be used for conditioning when specific, match-related training is to be prescribed.