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Development Academy Spring Showcase Continues as 58 Teams Complete Sparq Testing to Help Improve Fitness Levels


ROCKFORD, Ill. (May 24, 2008) - As the on-the-field action continued with 34 games at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Spring Showcase, players from 58 teams learned their SPARQ Soccer Rating which will help each athlete and team evaluate its fitness level and improve in areas that need improvement.

The testing comes via U.S. Soccer’s partnership with Nike and SPARQ to enhance training for all the players in the Development Academy. SPARQ is an acronym that stands for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness, which are measured via four soccer-specific physical tests that determine each athlete’s SPARQ Soccer Rating.

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“The SPARQ soccer rating is representative of that athlete’s overall soccer-specific athleticism,” said SPARQ Soccer’s Eric Hakeman. “We distill it into one number because it allows for a comparison. Because the tests are standardized any athlete that has a rating can compare him or herself to any other athlete that’s tested too and then those individual test results will serve as a foundation for training programs that we can deliver to all the teams in the Development Academy.”

The tests the athletes participated in on Saturday include the vertical jump, the 20-meter sprint and the arrowhead agility test. Eight teams were scheduled in one-hour blocks and were led through the tests by a series of SPARQ trainers. The teams had previously completed the fourth component of the test, the yo-yo test, off-site.

Each athlete was then able to take a personalized card to kiosks where they could scan a bar code to receive their individual results instantaneously.

“I think it’s great,” said U-17/18 Schulz Academy’s Mark Lyons who took part in the testing on Saturday. “All of our players at Schulz, we loved doing the agility tests and we loved testing each other to see the fastest scores and fastest times and I think everything SPARQ training does is great, the 20 meter run, the vertical jump. I loved testing myself to see where I am.”
The results serve as the foundation for individualized training programs that SPARQ will provide each athlete and each team after the Showcase. Each Academy club has also been put in contact with a local SPARQ trainer who can follow up and continue to assist with the SPARQ Training.

“Testing in isolation for me is not good enough,” said Paul Winsper who worked on developing SPARQ testing while working with Newcastle United in the EPL. “We need to then give the athletes ideas on how they need to train to be better athletes and then put that into their competition. If they can be faster on the field and more dynamic and pick up less injuries, then SPARQ has done its job.

Winsper has conducted the same tests he is conducting this weekend on some of the world’s top players including Michael Owen, Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy. He said that he believes that all players should be given the opportunity to become better athletes and enjoyed his first day working at the Spring Showcase.

“So far (the Academy has) supported everything,” Winsper said. “They’re trying to do it the right way and they’re giving a lot of children a chance to have a look at this and to have a go at being athletic and powerful, so it’s good.”

Tracking an athlete's improvement is another way the SPARQ Soccer Rating helps the Development Academy. Rather than just assume an athlete's speed, agility and endurance improve over the course of the season, now coaches can test athletes numerous times a year to prove it. Athletes who improve their soccer-specific athletic ability are undoubtedly going to become better players on the field. Drills that emphasize speed and agility translate onto the field of play and help players become more dangerous on the ball, and more effective off of it.

Another 63 Academy teams will participate in SPARQ testing on Sunday after not having a game on Saturday. The teams that completed SPARQ testing on Saturday will play as part of Sunday’s slate of 30 games.

Launched in the fall of 2007 after a detailed review of player development systems in the U.S. and across the world, the Development Academy provides players, coaches and referees a nationally-coordinated program designed to enhance their development environment. The Academy has improved the training environment, provided relevant, high-level matches on a consistent basis, increased the level and efficiency of scouting for the national teams and provided players, coaches and referees with structured programming. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, log on to ussoccer.com.
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