Players get tested for about everything and anything at their respective clubs. They get tested several times a year. But for what reason are they getting tested? What are they testing? What are coaches doing with all the data? Will this data be used and converted into actual football exercises? Or is this data only noise? National teams also test players. In a recent article the national team physio was positively surprised that an almost 2 meter tall centre back was in the top two at several speed tests that players underwent during their training camp. It was stated that the data produced would be held in high regard, compared to top players elsewhere.
Why do national teams test their players? Should they do this? Why do they need this data? Players joining the national team for a series of qualifying games are already fit. Are these players picked because of their absolute speed or their football qualities? Players are often in the middle of the season and have been training for a while. The job of the national team coaching staff is to keep them fresh. What does a coach at a national team do with a 40 meter sprint test result? Will they use it or not do anything with it? At the next national training camp players get tested again. The first question that comes up is, why? If you test and retest you must have a thought of why you are testing and what you are going to do with the data. What if by any chance a player is 0.12 seconds faster then his initial test, what does that mean? Or if a player by ‘accident’ is 0.12 seconds slower then his first test. What does that imply? If it doesn´t affect the scoreboard, then why do it?
Why would the national team staff test their players? Are these non-contextual tests going to ensure better communication between the players? No. Are these tests going to ensure better decision making by the players? No. Are these tests going to ensure better execution of football actions? No. So why test at all? THE most important task of a national team staff is to improve communication between players that come from different clubs. These players all have exceptional game insight and are very capable of executing football actions in small spaces, with little time at hand. Understanding each others verbal and non-verbal communication can increase the chance of success.
Let’s take the national team of San Marino as an example. On the FIFA rankings they are one of the lowest ranked teams in the world and have been for a while now. Imagine that these players would have the fastest 10 meter sprint, 40 meter sprint and interval shuttle run test results of all the national teams in Europe. The question that has to be answered now is, why are they still the worst football team in the world? Obviously it is not because of their absolute speed. So what is the problem here? The verbal and non-verbal communication between players is probably not as good as with the German national team. The same can be said about the game insight and the execution of football actions by all of the players. Like the late Johan Cruyff once said: “If you start at the right moment, you appear faster”.
Is the top speed of a player the most important? The answer is of course no. Can it help? Yes, but it is not the most important. The game of football is way to complex to divide every aspect in to separate boxes. Combining the boxes and hoping to get a better player/team is only wishful thinking. That is how gymnastics works, but not football.
Thanks for sharing.