Unfortunately, many youth sports organizations do not have structured strength and conditioning programs, nor do they typically have access to appropriate facilities for this type of training. Therefore, most strength and conditioning related training will often be incorporated into practices on the playing field. Though this comes at the expense of focused attention on technical and tactical sporting abilities, general athletic performance can be considerably enhanced. Energy systems development, strength, power, speed, agility and balance can all be developed in young athletes without much equipment or external resistance. In addition, significant improvements in performance can be achieved in relatively shorts durations. Devoting about 20 minutes worth of practice time may be sufficient for a training stimulus provided the training is programmed appropriately and monitored by a trained professional.
Recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Ramirez-Campillo et al. (2014) evenly divided 76 young soccer players (approximately 13 years old) into a plyometric group and a control group over a 7 week in-season soccer period. Following practice warm-up, the plyometric group performed 2 sets of 10 reps of 20, 40 and 60 cm drop jumps for a total of 60 contacts. The plyometric period lasted 21 minutes for each soccer practice. Athletes were given 15 seconds rest between repetitions and 90 seconds between sets. During this same period, the control group performed technical skills like passing, shooting, dribbling, etc. Practice sessions were held twice per week for a totally of 14 sessions throughout the training period. Before and after the 7 week study, a battery of performance markers were assessed including; 20 meter sprint time, Illinois agility test, counter-movement jump (CMJ), 20 and 40 cm drop jump reactive strength index (RSI), multiple 5 bounds distance, kicking distance, and 2.4 km trial time.
Post-testing revealed the following % improvements for each performance parameter: CMJ 4.3%, RSI20 22%, RSI 40%, agility -3.5%, multiple bounds 4.1%, kick distance 14% and 2.4 km time -1.9%. Non significant improvements were observed in the 20 m dash times. The researchers note 20 m dash times likely didn’t improve because of the lack of horizontal force production involved in the drop jumps. Therefore, they recommend incorporating such drills if increasing acceleration is a priority of the training. The results of the current study demonstrate some impressive athletic performance improvements with low volume, high-intensity plyometric exercise during a youth soccer in-season period. This lends more support to the idea of supplementing traditional practice time with strength and conditioning related training.
Ramírez-Campillo, R., Meylan, C., Alvarez, C., Henríquez-Olguín, C., Martínez, C., Cañas-Jamett, R., … & Izquierdo, M. (2014). Effects of in-season low-volume high-intensity plyometric training on explosive actions and endurance of young soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(5), 1335-1342.