Does on-field sprinting performance in young soccer players depend on how fast they can run or how fast they do run?

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2634-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318201c281.


The aim of this study was to examine the impact of maximal sprinting speed (MSS) on the peak speed attained during soccer matches. Time-motion analysis of running activity was collected from 14 highly trained young male outfield footballers (8 wide midfielders [WM] and 6 central defenders [CD], 173.2 ± 0.06 m, 60.8 ± 8.1 kg, 16.7 ± 0.7 years) during 14 different friendly international club level matches. The 2 fastest players (a WM and a CD) were compared with the slower players who played in the same position. Each player's MSS was determined using the fastest 10-m split time during an electronically timed 40-m sprint. Game speed was recorded via portable global positioning systems. Faster players reached higher absolute peak running speeds in games than did their slower counterparts regardless of the playing position, with large to very large effect sizes and qualitative indications of "almost certain" and "very likely" positive effects associated with being fast. None of the players reached their MSS during the matches; however, the fastest CD attained a lower percentage of his MSS compared to both, his slower CD counterparts and the fastest WM. Given the higher peak speeds reached in games by the fastest players, and the fact that all players (irrespective of their MSS) used a high percentage of their MSS, these preliminary results provide direct support to the hypothesis that MSS can impact on what a player can do in actual playing conditions. Our results also indicate that playing position has an important role in influencing the expression of MSS.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Running / physiology*
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Time and Motion Studies