Soccer's role as the world's most popular sport is unchallenged. With that worldwide influence and daily interest come ever-increasing attention and intelligent focus. According to Manchester United head of performance, Tony Strudwick, a major shift has occurred toward scientific methods of preparing soccer players for competition. Many teams now routinely employ practitioners from the various subdisciplines of sport science with the aim of improving performance.
“In general, the coaches and teams that have adopted a scientific approach have been rewarded with success by gaining an advantage over competitors,” says Strudwick, who serves as the editor and a contributor to Soccer Science. Strudwick admits, however, that it has taken some time for the accumulation of scientific-based knowledge to be translated into a form usable by practitioners, but efforts are being made to compile scientific information and make it accessible to the soccer world. He considers the book to be a large step in that direction.
Over the past few decades, the demand for soccer scientists and performance consultants has been growing as a result of the soccer world's intense focus on achieving the best results possible. Researchers have developed a greater understanding of how the human body reacts to exercise, training, various environments, and many other stimuli. “The application of soccer science has a self-evident part to play in improving soccer performance,” Strudwick points out. “Important features of the performance model, such as devising training programs, monitoring performance, and establishing preparation for competition, are informed by such knowledge.”
The discipline of soccer science is multifaceted and multidisciplinary, so it requires input from a variety of areas and from a range of specialists. Traditionally incorporating areas of physiology, psychology, and biomechanics, it also includes topics such as skill acquisition, performance analysis, technology, and coaching science. Soccer science also helps practitioners understand the physical and psychological effects of soccer participation, thereby providing the best techniques for playing the game and the most appropriate methods of preventing injuries.
Strudwick, who was recruited by Sir Alex Ferguson and helped to shape a state-of-the-art sport science laboratory at the AON Training Complex, stresses that the integration of soccer science should be a normative activity in the coaching process. “Soccer science is underpinned by concrete scientific principles that have been recognized as key ingredients in assisting those with talent, commitment, and interest in reaching their potential,” he says. “In these circumstances, the objectives of soccer science have to be unambiguous and linked to an overall coaching strategy.” Moreover, everyone involved—coaches, administrators, support personnel, and athletes—need to understand and accept soccer science. Not only that, it must be communicated well enough to establish performance indicators that can be used to monitor progress.
Featuring contributions from the world's foremost authorities from the English Premier League, Major League Soccer, European and Champions League teams, senior international teams, FIFA medical staff, international soccer consultants, and leading academic institutions, Soccer Science offers an unprecedented wealth of advanced yet accessible information on biomechanics, physiology, psychology, skill acquisition and coaching, tactical approaches, and performance and match analysis.