Why our footballers need more athleticism

One of the world’s leading experts in speed and movement says that the lack of focus of athleticism in the FFA national curriculum means that young footballers in Australia are lacking the basic fundamentals of speed and strength.

Ranell Hobson, 43, is the training director of the Academy of Sport, Speed and Agility in Sydney which specialises in sprint mechanics for explosive sports speed for athletes in the 9-17 year old age group.  

Much discussion has centred on youth development in Australia due to the Olyroos failure to qualify for Rio 2016 and Hobson who has dedicated her life to learning and studying efficiency and speed believes that the lack of stretching and mobility programs for young footballers is having an effect on Australia’s national teams.

“It’s just setting them up for chronic long term injuries,” she said.

“Because of that we got these young kids playing football that are really talented but we are destroying them by the time they are 15 and 16. So we’ve got a much smaller pool of athletes to choose from when we get to our under-23 and our senior National squad.”

The former sprinter also believes that the focus away from teaching the physical side of the game to young players has also been detrimental to the progress of Australian football.

“We used to have such a strong athletic culture in football in this country,” Hobson said.

“But at one point in time they decided that we didn’t have the skill to compete at the world stage and instead of adding more skill and football culture into the development into our players they dropped the athleticism altogether and now the curriculum has just focused on football and nothing else.

“One of the fundamental flaws in the curriculum is that there is no isolated training. The coaches aren’t trained within that training environment on how to correct or modify players when they do have inefficient movement techniques or if they see a player that they expect to be explosive but their bobbing up and down on the spot.

Hobson added, “It’s mentioned in the curriculum that a requirement is explosiveness but the coaches unfortunately don’t actually have the knowledge to teach that.

“They refer to fitness and running efficiency being able to be developed through playing the game of football. But our research from 2001 and the continuing research since then has shown that you can’t develop speed, you can’t develop change of direction and you can’t develop player efficiency just by playing a sport itself. “

Hobson was recently invited by EPL club Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Leicester to conduct speed and change of direction workshops for their Youth Academy Coaches.

The experience in the UK and working with an English Premier League club like the Gunners was an eye opener for Hobson.

Getting to seeing how they train their young players up close was an insight into their methods.

“Arsenal teaches them the correct technique for their sport and then brings in the weight training at an earlier age,” she said.

“They have their under-10’s learning Olympic lifting techniques with a wooden bar but they are teaching them techniques at that age so that when they get to 12 and 13 they can start lifting correctly. Big compound movements that lift the whole body at once, not training like body builders they are training like athletes from 12 and 13.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.



I think this is 1 / 3rd the Olyroos problem. Of course the Olyroos failed at everything. Their fitness wasn't up to standard, their skills weren't up to standard, plus mainly their teamwork was deplorable.
They simply were playing as individuals and not as a team.
The passes were being intercepted ! Why ? Because their skills were bad firstly, and secondly, they were unsure where to run and where their teammates were meant to run in the attacking 3rd. Hence even though they had the majority of the ball, the last pass was always either out the sideline, to the opposition or took time for the teammate to stop it and control it.

It's the coaches fault Aurelio Vidmar. This lady Ranell Hobson brings up quite a few very valid points though. If she lives in Australia, we should be using her ideas in our youth systems.

It's not all doom and gloom though and it's nothing that Ange can't fix in a few days time.
Foz and Les Murray didn't pick up any of the drawbacks and offered no solutions except throw some money at the problem. The passes weren't sticking and that's simply 3 things Fitness, skills and teamwork knowledge. If you can run 100 miles an hour, pass strong and receive it dead, plus you know where your team mate is running, then that's all there is to it. Plus Ange would know when one way is not working to change the formation a bit, not change the whole team.

We have a lot of sympathy for our National team coaches of all ages. They have very little time to implement any changes, let alone make correction to movement mechanics to improve player efficiency, given that the players are products over many years of youth development. Usually they only have sufficient time to minimise injuries and coach the players to work with each other in accordance with the coach's specific game plan for the upcoming fixture.

Your point about poor passing is a good one. One of the by-products of inefficient movement in a match is the early onset of fatigue. This is in turn leads to poor decision making by the player, especially towards the end of the game. Thus you will see poor passing, poor control and poor defending in players that were leaking energy from their very first steps. The last 2 A League Grand Finals were won/lost with late goals (2014 a late goal (86') took it to extra time and last year Victory scored 2 goals in the 83rd and 90th minutes for their 3-0 win).

By coaching players to move, change direction and sprint efficiently, they will use less energy and thus still have strength and speed to the final whistle/siren.

There are so many reasons to coach our sporting youth (and older) how to move properly and maintain this through strength, stretching and mobility programs : non-contact injury reduction/prevention, movement efficiency, individual confidence and of course explosive speed production just to name a few....