The half-time of a competition provides a period of rest and recovery for athletes while giving the coaches an opportunity to make adjustments for a strategically strong second half performance. It is common practice for most teams to be completely sedentary during the half time period, concluding with some brief stretching on the field right before the commencement of the second half. It is time to re-think this strategy as performance decrements are likely greater with passive rest as opposed to more active modalities.
In a recent investigation by Lovell (2013) et al. from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, three half time strategies were compared in ten semi-professional male soccer players during simulated match play. At half time, there was a passive group, an intermittent agility exercise group and a whole body vibration group. Performance measures were recording in each group at each 15 minute interval throughout the match which included vastus lateralis temperature, counter-movement jump, 10m sprint time, and knee flexion and extension contractions. The results showed that at the start of the second half, 10m sprint time, counter-movement jump and eccentric hamstring peak torque were significantly reduced compared to the end of the first half in the passive group. In the intermittent agility exercise group and the whole body vibration group, no significant differences in these parameters were observed. Clearly, passive rest alone during half time results in decreased performance indicators while more active modalities attenuated performance decrements.
Since most teams will not have access to whole body vibration equipment, moderate intensity sprint and agility work appears to be the most practical option. During the 15 minute half time of the study, the intermittent agility exercise was only performed between minutes 9-15. This still allowed time for some passive recovery and strategizing with the coaches. For improved second half performance and potential reduction in injury (specifically hamstring injury), budget some time for moderate intensity intermittent sprint and agility work before the start of the second half.
Lovell, R., Midgley, A., Barrett, S., Carter, D., & Small, K. (2013). Effects of different half‐time strategies on second half soccer‐specific speed, power and dynamic strength. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 23(1), 105-113.