Football Coaching:
Soccer Science & Performance

Richard Horlock, MSc, BSc (HONS)
Sukhothai Football Club, Thailand
First Team Coach

ISSPF Article

Train as You Play: How to measure game realism in training design……
The strive to replicate the game in training


A constant term used by practitioners, and a key thought in a coaches mind when designing and justifying training to the players is; “ is it game realistic” or “do we train as we play”?

Key questions within this thought process are….How can we measure the realism of the practice design from a coaches perspective? How can we measure the suitability of an individual to a particular position, role within a tactical system and style of play? Is the performance of a player in a competitive match directly linked to the performance of a player in ‘game realistic’ practices?

Soccer player diet

A logical approach to coaching is that the most realistic practice design is an 11v11 game in normal format which would therefore directly replicate the technical, tactical and physical demands of the game. However, there must be an element of overload to provide training stimulus to the player and harbour improvement; no different to the progressive overload concept used in any training programme. This overload can be provided through various constraints or conditions on the practice aimed to exaggerate or focus on particular area the individual, unit or team need to improve or maintain.

This theory has resulted in an extensive use of small sided games within team training for technical, physical and tactical development. In these practices, it is argued that players are exposed to technical and tactical topics linked to the coaches game model whilst also developing physical aspects, something traditional running or conditioning practices fail to do.

There is now a wide variety of research covering physical demands of small, medium and large sided games used in training and an increased amount of research in technical demands of such practices. For example, from a physical perspective, GPS systems are widely used to measure external load along with heart-rate monitors (internal load). This data allows sport scientists to measure the physical output of technical and tactical based practices. Ideally, players will match intensity and work-loads previously used in general conditioning drills however sharing the time to develop technical and tactical skills within an environment with more realistic movement patterns and decision making.

nutrition for footballers


Ultimately, coaches want to cover as much as possible to prepare their team across all phases of the game so they are ready to compete in their respective match/competition. With a limited amount of time to train and endless topics to cover, each coach must decide and balance areas they focus on which in turn shapes their coaching philosophy and playing styles within the tactical system.

The next step is can we quantify the technical and tactical performance of players in training in a similar way we do for competitive matches? Are we as coaches exposing our players to realistic technical and tactical situations in training that they will be faced with in matches? Do our training practices match the playing style and playing system requirements of the head coach?



Here at ISSPF we are offering people the opportunity to stay ahead of the game by becoming a real student of the game to ensure players across all levels are exposed to the best practice in terms of coaching content, fitness, technical development, tactical analysis, soccer science & nutrition, strength & conditioning techniques & injury reduction strategies that will assist to enhance performance of individuals and collectively teams.

Not only are we keeping things simple for individuals who are keen to progress in their own area of development within team sport and soccer, but we are enhancing the capability to self-develop through our unique faculty of staff and elite practitioners to bring key messages and expert advice to the comfort of your own preferred learning environment.

Travelling to and from games, training, at home, in the office….. we have a fully functioning educational and self-developing continual professional development strategy ready to work with you through our online coaching courses…..



The demand for sports science, physiotherapists, performance & coaching specialists in football & team sports is growing year upon year. Thousands of learners at home, university students leaving university with a sport science degree, physio or therapy related qualification, however many of them asking the key question – What now? How do I get a job in football? What’s the next step? Which area of sport or football science & medicine do I want to specialise in?

This is certainly an interesting question as progressing from completing a sporting, medical or therapy related degree to then working in professional football & trying to understanding all the key components, and soft skills that come with jobs in football or careers within sport is complex.

As a result, the bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Elite Medical, Football Coaching & Sport Science Faculty members are a way of further exposing learners, parents, professional coaches, students, or other individuals interested in football science with a thirst to develop & upskill further.

The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF endorsed & University & Football Association accredited Soccer Science & Performance online sport science course, where you will be exposed to football science with coaching led research, and practical examples used by the game’s leading practitioners.


Why is this course important?

  • Provides justification for the guiding of specific training methods, interventions & decision making processes within soccer
  • Highlights the practical application of modern, research based training methods & assessment tools
  • Provides an increased evidence & knowledge to understand key soccer science & performance processes across a range of coaching science topics
  • Discusses the most efficient training methods and detailed insights into developing player fitness alongside rehabilitation & training methodologies
  • Learn from industry experts in the area of football science, sport science & performance training in team sports
  • Help maximise your decision making through a better understanding & appreciation of football or soccer science


Who is this course for?

  • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation & coaching aspects of soccer players or team sports
  • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in the training & development of individual soccer players or team sports


Outline of the Soccer Science & Performance Course:

Module 1: The demands of professional soccer: Physiological costs of the game
Lecturer: Dr. Vasilis Kalapthorakos (Greece)
Topic: Physiology

Module 2: Developing Resilience in Soccer: Mental Skill Development
Lecturer: Dr. Nikki Crawley (England)
Topic: Psychology

Module 3: Game model building & development: Reinterpreting Tactical Periodisation
Lecturer: Dr. Alejandro Romero-Caballero (Spain) Spanish Football Federation
Topic: Training Methodology

Module 4: Injury reduction strategies in professional soccer
Lecturer: Dr. Patrick Orme (England) Bristol City FC
Topic: Injury Prevention

Module 5: Leadership and Culture for High Performance Soccer
Lecturer: Maximillian Lankheit (Germany) San Jose Earthquakes FC, MLS
Topic: Psychology

Module 6: Current trends in leading European soccer teams: In-Possession
Lecturer: Chris Meek (England) England Football Association
Topic: Performance Analysis

Module 7: Soccer nutrition & the role of the nutritionist
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (England) West Ham United FC

Topic: Nutrition

Module 8: Competitive soccer training microcycle: Structure & justification
Lecturer: Dr. Manuel Segovia (Spain) Spanish Football Federation
Topic: Training Methodology

    the nutrients footballers need


    ·         How can you maximise performance in soccer?

    ·         What is the science of football?

    ·         How do you train for soccer?

    ·         How do I improve my football team?

    ·         What are the main causes of soccer injuries?

    ·         Where can I get football training sessions?


    All these frequently asked questions will be answered & further detailed information provided within our ISSPF online injury prevention & return to play course – we look forward to seeing you there!

    What is football science & performance?

    • Football coaches, football scientists & research driven practitioners combining soccer related studies & findings together to maximise their working & coaching efficiency
    • Bringing together some of the latest scientific principles, knowledge & practical applications surrounding performance within a soccer specific environment
    • The integration of research driven & coaching principles that enable key individuals within the game to maximise the performance of players