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Individual differences – Do you know the game?

Written By Themba Khumalo on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | Wednesday, May 02, 2012

One of the conditions which are a prerequisite in maximizing a player's performance is that the training concept must account for individual differences, many of them, apparently being of origin. The idea of  training "THE TEAM", in view of the reality that the performance level to which a player will progress depends upon the degree to which he/she develops own individual abilities, has lost its meaning. Training "THE PLAYERS" is actually the challenge and in the concept of Maximal Training where the exercise structures are defined to meet the individual needs and capacities of the players, can effectively address this objective.

Initially and as early as possible in the development of a player, individual characteristics and differences must be identified. Next, they should be carefully evaluated, and then, the process of influencing and integrating them into the specifics of performance requirements can begin.

Many factors contribute to individual variation in training response and match performance. The following are of greater significance.


Although performance in football is not decided by the players' physical constitution, some anatomic aspects should be considered. For instance players, who are tall and also have long limb segments, would encounter difficulties in executing sudden or rapid changes related to ball work or complex movement in conditions of fast or sprint running. This is due to high inertia of limb segments, particularly the legs, which in the game specificity could reach extreme demands on posture, balance, power and specific coordination. To optimize adaptation and response in such cases the training structures must provide systematic overloading for players who need to improve their movement efficiency, e.g., planning an increased rate of complex and rapid movement in the exercise structure.


It is unrealistic to expect different players to be in the same state of training or competitive form at the same time. A lengthy list of changes and characteristics of match performance imposed by external factors such as the opponents' game approach, own role in the line-up, micro-climate, etc., blended to individual differences on the mental and physiological performance, are responsible for visible variations in a player's competition form. By manipulating football brain stimulation, complex-intensity, duration, active rest and relaxation in a more individualised training approach, players' differences in performance output could be successfully addressed.

It is recognized that players with predispositions for superior endurance capacity, once it has been optimized, would be easily worn-out if continuously involved in a pure high intensity "team" endurance programme. Alternative exercise structures should enhance the other side of these players' functional identity, i.e., dynamic ball work creativity, tactical leadership and competitiveness.

It is only normal that a player who has, for example, natural capacity for superior work rate to be particularly exposed to intensive adaptations for accurate and consistent passing performance. The combination of both innate fatigue resistance and excellent ball distribution could decisively influence performance.

Consequently, it is counterproductive to insist that all the players respond to training the same way or at the same relative or absolute work rate. It is also unrealistic to expect all the players to respond to a given training dosage, e.g., warm-up routine, effort-rest ratio or active recovery procedure, strictly imposed tactical schemes, etc.

At least for players who show differences in their adaptation and response to training and match challenges, it would be that the best solution is to recognize, explore and influence such individual differences in a training approach capable of inducing maximal, and yet useful differentiated effects.

An extra from the Maximal Training book (Note: the book is no longer available in stores.)

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