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The Physical and Mental Development of  Youth Soccer Players: A holistic approach to development

Training talented young players is essential for the future of soccer in North America. However, in order for this necessity to be performed in a correct manner (from talent identification to talent development) several steps have to be followed.

Knowledge of the stages in youth soccer are demanded from coach’s and sports scientists. Furthermore, this knowledge will assist, plan, adjust and adapt training methods to the aforementioned stages of learning. The aim of these procedures is to employ the appropriate methodology and drills (age-appropriate) which take into account growth spurts, the pace of learning and the natural potential of the individual.

We have the ability to prepare, train and increase the level of performance in athletes. The process of training is targeted to improve the athlete’s performance in a competitive environment.The physical development of youth soccer players is a complex process based  on scientific procedures among other factors. Integrated training is a comprehensive training approach that strives to improve all components necessary to allow the player to achieve optimum performance. Soccer training should not only offer the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for the game itself, but should take a holistic approach, also developing all aspects of conditioning, mental  and young people’s personal and social skills

Μotor learning and technical training are different stages. These stages are integrative and interact, they are not isolated blocks. However, they depend on different neural correlates and also require specific interventions. When we mix them, that is, when we perform what corresponds to one stage in another, we may be consolidating motor errors in movement.

 The way we work

  1. After the initial evaluation and ergometric, technical and physical testings through various exercises and readings, we asses the internal and external factors which determine the player’s outcome.
  2. Assess and identify various parameters which include age, the development stage,  physiological asymmetries , technical strengths and weaknesses and mental aspects.
  3. Provide the necessary training program to accommodate the individual.
  4. Customize programs which allow players to improve through correct training and scientific direction.

Head of Sports Science – DR. NIKOLAOS KOUNDOURAKIS ( PH.D.)

Dr. Nikolaos is also head of sports science for Ece-soccer Ltd Europe where he is specializes in exercise physiology,rehabilitation, injury prevention and periodization

Dr. Koundourakis has over 20 years’ experience working with professional and youth athletes. He specializes in Sport Science, exercise physiology and periodization. He is also an editorial member of the Austin & Publons Sports Medicine Journal. Dr. Nikolaos is also head of sports science for Ece-soccer Ltd Europe. His numerous case studies over the years include:

The VII World Congress on Science & Football 26 to 30 May 2011 Nagoya, Japan. The 3rd International Football Medicine Congress at the Swiss Society of Sports Medicine (2008), the XXXIII World Congress of Sports Medicine at The International Federation of Sports Medicine (2014), 7th & 9th World Congress on Science and Football at the Japanese society of Science and Football (2011), and the 8th World Congress on Science and Football at the University of Copenhagen (2015).

Importance to maintain Training Levels and to avoid Detraining:

Detraining is defined as a phase of reduction or complete training cessation. In our case staying and training at home, performing the physical activities that can be performed in that environment, is within the category of training reduction. This period can partial or even complete reverse the adaptations of training, resulting in compromised exercise performance including muscle strength and power, muscular endurance, speed, flexibility, agility and body composition.

Evidence from various athletic populations indicate that 3 to 6 weeks of detraining affects negatively aerobic capacity strength neuromuscular performance and body composition. This negative effect of detraining on exercise performance adaptations is a result of complex physiological mechanisms. It has been reported that the decline in aerobic capacity is related to reductions in blood volume, stroke volume, cardiac output, ventilator functions, and cardiac dimension due to insufficient training stimulus or training cessation.

Although the effects of detraining have been well demonstrated in adults, the issue is more complex in younger individuals. This is mainly for three factors.

Firstly, it is known that the maturation related physiological changes (such as hormonal alterations, changes in height, central nervous system myelinization etc.) favor different types of adaptation depending on maturity status. Don’t forget excellence is a habit. It is well established that according to the biological age of the individuals training should focus on specific outcomes and gains that will eventually result in proper and efficient player development.

Secondly, since physical condition is most probably the most important parameter in injury prevention, detraining may predispose to injuries. Injuries can result in reducing the development process of the young athletes and also may result, depending on the type and the severity, on reduced ability to cope with the demands of the same age group leading to reduced motivation to participate in the specific sport and even early “retirement”.

Thirdly, training cessation/reduction also results in the cessation of working on several modifiable injury risk factors which negatively affects injury prevention procedures making a predisposed athlete to a susceptible one to injury. This is important in youth athletes. For example, the adolescent growth spurt is believed to be associated with increased risk of acute sport-related injury due to the unique vulnerability of growth cartilage and growing soft tissues as well as the growth process itself.  This is mainly due to physiologic and anatomic changes that occur during growth, which affect risk factors such as growth plate activity/vulnerability, muscle strength, and flexibility.