Excelling in a specific sport: Is the athlete suitable for his chosen sport?
In a mobile field sport like soccer, different playing positions will require different physical demands in order to excel in that specific position. The role of an attacking midfielder is to be able to control the flow of the team’s offensive play, and is often involved in passing the ball intelligently, which leads to scoring goals. This is a complex task achieved by linking up both the defense and offence of the team by stringing in passes. To excel as an attacking midfielder, one has to possess excellent ball control techniques, creativeness, motivation, intelligence to move without the ball and to analyze the game.
Elite athletes have common trends that give them advantages over non-elite athletes. Using elite athletes as a standard, identification of potential talents in that particular sport is made possible. The common trends are based on six main physical capacities: height and weight, body composition, proportionality, flexibility, strength and power. The tests can be further broken down into: height, body mass, sum of eight skinfolds, brachial index, crural index, relative sitting height, arm flexion-extension, leg flexion, grip strength, leg extension strength, jump and reach, agility run and the somatotype.
The client is a soccer player who plays the position of an attacking midfielder. He wishes to improve his performance in soccer. Interpretation of results will be done based on comparison of tests results against other elite soccer athletes. Remedial actions will be given to the participant to help improve his physical capacity.
Tittel (1978) states that a lean physique and minimal body fat can give a competitive advantage in sports in which the body weight must be transported. Weight-height indexes are used to calculate the body mass index (BMI) of an individual. The BMI is used to determine the ideal weight for an athlete. However, it does not distinguish the body composition of the athlete. Hence, the skinfold test, which is a common method for determining body fat composition, will be used. Skinfold test results are also being used to calculate the endomorphy of an individual. As an attacking midfielder, taller players tend to win headers more readily due to the height advantage. Having a larger body mass will mean there will be more inertia and hence more reluctance to fall down during a challenge. Using Heath-Carter method, the client’s somatotype is 4.5, 6.0, 1.5 whereas the elite athlete’s somatotype is 2.5, 5.0, 2.5 for endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy respectively. The client’s body type is relatively close to that of the elite athlete’s. The client is ranked 10th percentile for height, 30th percentile for body mass and 10th percentile for sum of eight skinfolds.
Using test results, the client’s BMI is 24, which is slightly above the acceptable region for Asians and has an endomorphy score of 2.0 above that of the elite athletes. Client should have a slightly lesser food intake and more energy output from exercise in order to lose body fat. At the moment, the client is not suitable for elite competitions.
The brachial index is the ratio of forearm to the arm. John and Peter (2007) also state that a larger brachial index provides athletes an advantage in fast movement of the arm. The crural index is the ratio of tibia length to the femur length. John and Peter (2007) state that a larger crural index provides an athlete the advantage in jumping and running. Bramble and Lieberman (2004) also state that greater leg length reduces energy expenditure as a result of lower cadence and a higher stride length. Brachial Index is not as significance to an attacking midfielder as hands are not required unless when making a throw-in as stated by Bloomfield and Sigerseth (1965).
The relative sitting height is the ratio of the upper body to the height. Abernethy (1996) states that the trunk contributes 70% of the energy needed to do a jump. Hence individuals with longer trunk length will be able to produce more force. The client is ranked 40th
percentile for the brachial index test, 90th
percentile for the crural index test and 20th
percentile for the relative sitting height test. The disadvantage of the sitting height could be neutralized by the advantageous crural index, which is more important for the soccer athlete. Hence, client is suitable for his chosen sport, soccer.
Techniques should be modified to effectively change the lever lengths to enable the client to perform the skill in a more mechanically efficient way. Client should flex the forearm at the elbow, to shorten the lever to produce a more powerful throw-in. The following remedial actions for strengthening the trunk are prescribed. Five sets of five repetitions at an intensity of 85% of 1RM (repetition maximum) for each exercise during each session with one minute of rest between sets. Three sessions should be done each week, with at least one day (twenty-four hours) of rest between each session. Exercises prescribed are:
abdominal rotation, trunk extension and high pull.
Brad (2005) states that flexibility is defined as the absolute range of movements in a joint or series of joints that is attainable in a momentary effort with the aid of a partner or a piece of equipment. In any projectile motion, the releasing speed is the primary determinant of the distance traveled. Barfield (1998) states that swinging of the limb passively stretches to allow a greater transfer of force to the ball during the downward phase of the kick. With greater flexibility around the joint, maximum stored elastic potential energy is achieved, which leads to maximum kinetic energy. To achieve the greatest possible distance in a throw-in, a soccer player should release the ball with greatest possible speed, via an overhead throw by the arms, with the greatest possible arm and forearm flexion. Likewise, to achieve the greatest possible distance via kicking, the leg should be at its maximum flexion in order to kick the ball with the greatest possible speed. The client is ranked 50th
percentile for the arm flexion-extension test, 90th
percentile for the forearm flexion-extension test and 60th
percentile for the leg flexion test. From the flexibility tests results, the client is suitable to play soccer.
To improve flexibility of the arms and legs, we provided the following remedial actions: static stretch for thirty seconds, three repetitions per day over 5 days per week.
Bangsbo (1994) states that muscle strength and power are required for dynamic movements such as headers, tackling, sprints and kicks. The grip strength test is a measure of general strength while the leg extension test measures the maximal strength of the leg. The client is ranked 10th
percentile for the grip strength test and 50th
percentile for the leg extension strength test. The validity of the grip strength test as a measure of general strength has been questioned, as the strength of the forearm muscles does not necessarily represent the strength of other muscle groups. Furthermore, the importance of the leg is more than that of the arm for the attacking midfielder. Hence, despite the low grip strength test result, the client is still suitable for playing soccer.
To improve overall strength, the following remedial actions are prescribed: each session should contain five sets of five repetitions at an intensity of 85% of 1RM (repetition maximum) for each exercise. One minute of rest between sets. Three sessions should be done each week, with at least one day (twenty-four hours) of rest between each session. Exercises prescribed are: Ballistic leg extension, ballistic triceps extension, abdominal rotation and ballistic bench press.
Knuttgen and Kraemer (1987) state that power is defined as the applied force multiplied by the speed of movement. Gollnick and Bayly (1986) also state that maximal instantaneous power is the highest level of power output, which can be produced in one or two muscular contractions. Young and Bilby (1993) states that maximal power output is the main determinant of performance in activities requiring one movement sequence with the goal of producing a high speed at release or impact. The agility run test involves short sprints, change of directions and good acceleration speed while the jump and reach test involves maximal output power. The client is ranked 60th
percentile for the agility run test and 90th
percentile for the jump and reach test. The client is suitable for soccer.
To improve on the agility, the following agility drill is prescribed. Place 4 cones to mark out a square of side five meters. Next, place a cone in the center of the square. Give each cone a number and have a teammate to call out a random number (cone). Sprint to the specific cone that was called out and sprint back to the center.
Using Heath-Carter method, the client’s somatotype is 4.5, 6.0, 1.5 whereas the elite athlete’s somatotype is 2.5, 5.0, 2.5 for endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy respectively. The client’s body type is relatively close to that of the elite athlete’s. Hence, the client is suitable for soccer.
prepared and written by Zac Leow