Sports Science is about the use of a scientific approach to achieve optimal athletic performance.
The game of football is changing as players begin to focus on developing as top-class athletes. The difference in skill/ability levels at the highest levels of the game is becoming smaller, so the importance of physical and psychological aspects of the game gains importance. The fitness demands of football are unique. Football is considered “maximal intermittent exercise” because it involves: powerful jumps and short sprints at maximum heart rates interspersed with periods of jogging, walking, moderate-paced running and standing still.
Often, the average distance covered by a top-class outfield player during a 90-minute match is somewhere between 8-13km. If a player covers 10km during that period, around 3km will be done at a fast pace, of which probably 1km will be done at a flat out sprint. That is one example of what makes football so physically demanding. According to a study by FIFA, it is the amount of high-intensity exercise that separates top-class players from players of a lower standard. Players in top physical condition are simply better able to perform at high intensities consistently throughout a game.
Sports Science methods are in place to monitor and evaluate athletic fitness, with the aim to train players to best meet the physical demands of football. This means training players to perform intense exercise and to recover rapidly from periods of high-intensity exercise. At the Academy, the Sports Science programme has a clear focus with regard to training and match day performance; everything is done for a specific reason.
Sports Science at the Academy:
The goal of the Ayr United Football Academy programme is to improve on player weaknesses and to make individual strengths unbeatable. With an eye on constant improvement, the aim is to develop where required:
* Anaerobic Capacity
* Aerobic Capacity
* Balance and proprioception
* Injury Prevention or “Prehabilitation”
* Injury Rehabilitation
* Nutrition and Hydration
* Mental fitness
How the Sports Science Programme works:
In order to accomplish the goals of improving these areas, the Ayr United Football Academy programme includes:
* Education and monitoring of each area outlined above.
* Appropriate periodisation of training principles, so that each one of these areas is targeted in a systematic fashion over the course of the season.
* Education about the importance of the recovery process in athletic development.
* Relevant and appropriate fitness testing, to be done at certain points during the season.
* Accurate analysis and evaluation of test results, providing players and coaches with the feedback needed to improve training methods and subsequent performance.
* Individualised education for players regarding the specifics of fuelling and refuelling, hydration and rehydration.
* Training methods that mimic the intermittent nature of a game, with different work intensities and speeds of running, with appropriate recovery times.
* The design of specific training programmes based on player movement patterns, individual energy needs and individual assessment.
* Age and position appropriate strength and conditioning exercises, plyometric activities, and proprioception work that will improve body and limb awareness, coordination, and ultimately, technique.
For youth players, exposure to Sports Science and its methods from a young age is a healthy practice. Overall, the Academy’s Sports Science programme forms an integral part of the development of the players and prepares them well for the demands of professional football.