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U.S. Soccer Development Academy Clubs to Integrate SPARQ Self-Testing During 2009-10 Season

Clubs Receive SPARQ Self-Test Kit;
SPARQ Results from 2008-09 Indicate Improved Soccer-Specific Ratings

CHICAGO (Oct. 5, 2009) – U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs were introduced to SPARQ Training during the first two years of the Academy program, and this year will integrate SPARQ Self-Testing into their training regimen.

SPARQ, which stands for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness, was introduced at the 2008 Spring Showcase and all Academy players were tested twice during the 2008-09 season by SPARQ trainers. Each club received a SPARQ Self-Test Kit, which includes a stop watch, measuring tape, six cones and a notepad to record results along with an instructional booklet and DVD on how to conduct each test. SPARQ Testing will be required at the beginning of each season and again at the 2010 Spring Showcase. 

“Soccer specific athleticism is an important piece of the player development process and SPARQ has become a valuable resource to the Development Academy clubs and players,” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. “This year we are providing each Academy club with the tools to SPARQ self-test to more readily evaluate, record, and track progress in these areas throughout the course of the season while also using this information to help plan programs to best meet the physical needs of the individual and team.”

There are five tests conducted in order to receive a soccer-specific SPARQ rating: Body mass, vertical jump, 20-meter sprint, arrowhead agility and Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery. Once tests are administered and data is collected, athletes and their coaches will have a better understanding of areas in which each athlete must work on in order to improve.

During the 2008-09 Development Academy Season, soccer-specific SPARQ results demonstrated improvement in every category from the 2008-09 Winter Showcase to the 2008-09 Spring Showcase. Overall, in the Under-15/16 age group the average time for the 20-meter sprint decreased 0.6 percent, the result from the Vertical Jump increased 2.4 percent, the time for the Arrowhead Agility test decreased 3.9 percent and the score for the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recover test increased 6.7 percent. In the Under-17/18 age group, the 20-meter sprint time decreased 0.6 percent, the Vertical Jump result improved by 1.6 percent, the average time for the Arrowhead Agility decreased 3.8 percent and the result for the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recover Test improved 13.3 percent.

Body mass is determined by recording an athlete’s height and weight. SPARQ combines body weight and vertical jump to determine an athlete’s Peak Power. The Vertical Jump is a test to determine how high an athlete can jump from a stand-still position.

To quantify an athlete’s speed, a 20-meter sprint test is conducted, and agility is measured by way of an arrowhead agility test. The agility test involves placing six cones in the form of an arrow and measuring the time it takes an athlete to run around the cones. This helps quantify a soccer player’s ability to quickly switch directions.

The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery test, similar to the “beep test” is a 20-meter shuttle test. The athlete sprints for 20 meters and rests for 10 seconds at an increasingly faster speed. According to SPARQ, the test is an indicator of an athlete’s capacity to execute and recover from repeated bouts of high intensity exercise.

In 2009-10, clubs will be required to test twice and are encouraged to conduct tests periodically throughout the season in order to benchmark progress and receive the highest possible rating at the 2010 Spring Showcase.