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Fitness Testing Today Builds for Tomorrow

A National Team training camp in July isn’t your typical place to do extensive fitness testing. Many players are in the midst of their seasons, and others are just coming off the May-June camp that included five matches and three World Cup qualifiers. So why now?

The message is simple. If you want to keep raising the bar and reach the highest level, there is no time to be satisfied with where you are.

“We are here to win the Gold Cup and continue to impose our style of play on our opponents, and that means being able to play high intensity,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We want the players to understand right from the start of this camp what we are expecting of them, and the levels they need to reach for us to be successful. You in saw in the Confederations Cup that Brazil were able to overpower Spain by pressing them all over. That is what the game demands.”

The battery of fitness, agility and functional movement tests performed Tuesday mirror the examinations done in the previous camps. For players who haven’t been here before, it establishes a baseline for measuring their progress and allows them to see where they rank against the top players. For returning players, they are able to compare results from earlier testing and determine areas for improvement. In all cases, this allows for the development of individualized training programs, something that is key for MNT performance fitness coach Masa Sakihana.

“Each player is coming in from a different situation, so collecting this data gives us a great overall picture of their individual situation,” said Sakihana. “We can then tailor programs based on specific needs with an eye towards maximizing performance throughout the month. With an average of one game every three or four days, it’s critical that we manage the players well from a physical perspective.”

The rhythm and approach to the Gold Cup also provide a practical blueprint for 2014, when the U.S. will hopefully be playing in another big tournament. All of this information proves invaluable in the planning process. 

“We are setting the stage for Brazil next summer, and there is so much we learn each time we go through this process,” Klinsmann said. “By tracking these measurements, we can show the players the path to a higher level, and also build a foundation that will allow us to track players throughout their international careers. Really, this is only the beginning.”