• Mark Walsh
  • Bradley Young
  • Brian Hill
Keywords: rugby, soccer, sprinting, specificity


It is well accepted that speed is a crucial factor for success in both rugby and soccer. It is less clear how to narrow down a definition of speed so that we are actually measuring the ability that is needed in a game situation. The principle of specificity indicates that the sprints that are used for training/diagnosis should mimic those that occur in a game situation. Brown (1999) reported that rugby players perform intensive efforts from 5 to 45 seconds in duration. It is not clear from this article what percentage of those efforts are sprints. Presumably some of the longer efforts would include scrummage, rucks and mauls. Docherty et al. (1988) examined results of a time analysis of international rugby games and reported that props average 22 sprints of 1.75 seconds and centers average 37 sprints of 2.3 seconds. In these times a player can travel from between 10 and 20 meters. It is clear that these shorts sprints are accelerations that do not reach the top speed of the athletes. It is common knowledge that sprinters reach their top speed well after 30 meters (Mero et al. 1992). If the distances covered by the players in a rugby game are typically under 30 meters than it is not ultimate maximum running speed of a rugby player that seems to be the critical factor, but rather acceleration, or maximum speeds at various short distances. Sayer (2000) reported that sprints performed during field sports are rarely over more than 30 meters and that most of the time players are covering less than 10 meters at a time. The analysis of rugby and soccer specific sprinting should take these factors into consideration. In addition to the distances, another important factor is direction. It has been reported (Gerisch et al. 1988) that in soccer linear sprints of up to 40 meters occur as well as non linear short sprints with turns of up to 180 degrees. Casual observation would indicate that nonlinear sprints also occur regularly during rugby games. It has also been reported (Frick et al. 1992) that sprint speed in soccer is typically tested using linear sprints between 10-40 meters. It was not clear to the authors of this paper how rugby speed is typically tested. References to both linear sprint testing and nonrinear sprint testing were found (Noakes and DuPlessis, 1996). One reason for the occurrence of nonlinear sprints in rugby and soccer is that in both rugby and soccer there are opponents from the other team that have to be avoided on the way towards the goal. To do this effectively the athlete needs the ability to either run extremely fast in a relatively straight line to run past the opposing player or to be able to change direction quickly and outmaneuver the opposing player. The ability to change directions quickly may not be the same ability as that of accelerating quickly in a straight 'iine or that of achieving a high maximum speed. Therefore purpose of this study was to: Develop nonlinear tests that include various cutting moves. To test rugby and soccer players over linear sprints and nonlinear sprints to see if the ability to accelerate over linear distances correlates well wit'h the ability to perform directional changes quickly.
Coaching and Sports Activities