Change of direction frequency off the ball: New perspectives in elite youth soccer


The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of change of directions (COD) and examine the influences of position, leg dominance and anthropometrics on COD in elite youth soccer match play. Twenty-four elite male English Premier League (EPL) academy players (19.0 ± 1.9 years) were individually recorded during ten competitive U18s and U23s matches. Video footage of individual players was analysed using a manual notation system to record COD frequency, direction, estimated angle and recovery time. The influences of position, anthropometrics and leg dominance were accounted for. Elite youth soccer players performed on average 305 ± 50 CODs with on average 19.2 ± 3.9 seconds of recovery. The frequency of CODs was independent of position, leg dominance, anthropometry and occurred equally between left and right direction and forwards and backwards direction. CODs were mostly ≤90° (77%) and there were significantly less CODs in the 2nd half (−29, ES = 1.23, P< 0.001). The average and peak within match demands within 15 and 5-minute periods were 49 and 62 CODs, and 16 and 25 CODs, respectively. This study is the first to illustrate COD frequencies of elite youth soccer match play, providing practitioners guidance to prepare soccer players for competitive match demands.

Science and Medicine in Football