Old soccer-coaching books show that the more things change, the more they stay the same

Sometimes you find the most interesting things when you are looking for something else.

I had seen mention of a book called Football Quotations and decided to see if the University of North Carolina library had it (it did pretty funny, too. Quotes such as Football is a pastime to be utterly objected by all noble men, the game giving no pleasure, but beastlie furie and violence, attributed to Sir Thomas Elyot, 1579).

But on the same shelf was a group of old soccer books dating back to the 1940s. I thought Active.com readers might find some things interesting.

In a book called Constructive Football by A.H. Fabian and Tom Whittaker (associated with Derby County and Arsenal FCs, published in 1960), I found a chapter on "Training, Kit and Injuries." The section on training was 1 1/2 pages long in two sections one for the schoolboy and one for the adult.

Regarding young players, the authors say, Boys at school should be perfectly fit without any need for special training. Hmmm ... physical education mustve been a whole lot harder than today. The adult is another story, according to the authors. They must do some extra training, like a two- to three-mile walk, once or twice a week. Wow, the game mustve been a whole lot slower back in the '50s!

And that might not be an unrealistic observation. I know the speed of the game I played in college in the early '70s bears little resemblance to what I see today. I thought it interesting that the section on uniforms was almost as long as the training section. The section on injuries was allotted two whole paragraphs.

In the late 1960s, Goodyear Publishing put together a sports series, including a soccer book written by John Callaghan, then coach of the University of Southern California. An entire four-page chapter of this little book was devoted to fitness.

Callaghan stated the decades-old mantra of "continuous activity" in soccer (which we know is not true), but he did point out the importance of endurance. Callaghan had a series of observations based on knowledge at the time: Hard training meant getting the heart rate to double the resting rate (too low); training should begin well before the season (sound advice); and intensity should increase gradually (more sound advice).

Callaghan also asserted that training should be directed toward speed, agility and endurance because that is the nature of the game. Coaches, said Callaghan, should begin workouts slowly; vary the training sessions; perform 50-yard intervals beginning with four to five, working up to 10 to12 (today, folks start at 10 to 12 and many work up to 40+); play games of 5v5 and 6v6 for physical training; and a surprising suggestion considering the publication date dont be afraid of weight training.

Most of these are good suggestions that many coaches still do not follow today.

Also in the late 1960s, Malcolm Allison (of West Ham Utd) wrote Soccer for Thinkers. Allison pointed out the need for speed and stamina while condemning laps in spite of players running 3 or 4 miles each in a game.

A little history was offered: After Hungary dismantled England 6-3 in 1953, training changed from running to all skills and theory. This despite Hungary being known for running astonishing distances for the time and having impressive speed (i.e. five or six players could run 11.7s for 100 meters; by comparison, the 1974 East German national team averaged mid 10s. 11.7 might not be fast enough for a good high school team today).

When the pendulum shifted back to laps, Allison instead went with fartlek and interval running that he learned from track coaches. He also practiced periodization without knowing it, gradually increasing intensity in the summer, maintaining fitness during the fall season, going back to distance running leading into fartlek/interval running during the winter, then trying to maintain fitness in the spring.

During his tenure as West Ham coach, the team experienced tremendous success. Ill bet current coaches dont even follow what Allison was doing in the mid-1960s. He also advocated such power training as sprinting, medicine ball training and weight lifting. Allison proposed standards for performance for the professional player. By todays standards, expected performance would be considered very average or less. For example, a 22-inch vertical jump was considered good. Today, 22 inches is expected out of our national team our womens national team.

Nonetheless, while reading Allisons book it seemed to me that innovative thinking like this did not really catch on. What I learned about physical training in the coaching schools in 1975 is not what is taught today. And yet, I still see and hear of coaches who dont encourage weight training or periodize their training. Yet 35 years ago, a very successful coach proposed just that. He won regularly, but his training ideas did not catch on.

I still have hope that todays coach will see that fitness is a huge factor in success in soccer that all things being equal, the fitter team usually wins.

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