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Planning Football Training Schedule Based on GPS Data

1 Introduction

Training is the crucial part in football (or any other sports, or even everything) that makes your team or players better. Theorically, the more you train, the better you will become. It reminds me of the AI player AlphaGo, it trains millions of time everyday, thus it beomes the best go player ever, better than any other human beings.

Wait… Human Beings? Yeah that’s who we are, we are not machines. In physical games, if the training loads exceed the threshold, injuries will come. So we have to train in a scientific way, try to reach maximal performance improvement, and keep our body out of injury at the same time.

The key is, find that threshold. GPS devices offer an objective and convenient way to measure workloads, to define thresholds, to let players train in a most optimal way.


2 Training Sessions

Training sessions can be simply categrized into two:

  • High load sessions, or performance improving sessions. In these sessions, high load stimulus are given to players, so they gradually get used to the load and improve.
  • Moderate/Low load sessions, or recovery sessions. In these sessions, players are not fully loaded, so they gradually recovery their body and mind status.


3 Common GPS Performance Parameters

There are several GPS Performance Parameters that are common in football, they are:

  • Total distance
  • Running distance (15-20 km/h)
  • Sprinting distance (20 – 25 km/h)
  • High intensity distance (>25km/h)
    (High intensity distance is one important parameter. The total distance of Dutch League and Premiere League are almost the same, but the high intensity distance of Premiere League is 240m, 100m longer than the dutch league. That makes the Premiere League a better league.)
  • Number of accelerations


3 High Load Sessions

The coach is responsible for what to train. If the data shows the team is leading in total distance, but lacks high intensity distance, high intensity distance will obviously be the central topic in their trainings later on. Coaches may add additional high intensity distance training sessions to the training day plan.

The basic principle of football training is simple: imitate game scenarios. In tactical trainings, coaches will arrange different game scenarios, like 2 vs 1, 3 vs 2, counter-attack, freekick, etc. GPS devices focus on physical performance, not tactical performance. But it applies the same training principle. If a player ran 10km in a game, he should run the same amout of distance in his training.

With above ideas in mind, we can draw the flow diagram of how to build a high load session.


4 Improve the Efficency of a High Load Session

In paragraph 3 we mentioned “Coaches may add additional high intensity distance training sessions to the training day plan”. This is totally doable, but it brings another question. With the additional trainings added, the training length will also be extented. How do we keep adequate training load, meanwhile not extending the training time?

The anwser is quite straightforward, increase the training efficency. Here a new concept will be introduced: Intensity. That is, the work load done in a given time (usually minute). The comparison between intensity and training load are listed below:


Load Unit


Intensity Unit

Total Distance


Total Distance Per Minute




Accelerations Per Minute


Sprint Distance


Sprint Distance Per Minute


How to set a reasonable intensity? As we just said in part 3, we imitate game scenarios.

For example, here is a chart illustrating the distribution of the average sprinting distance of a player, in a 90 minutes game. In the 80-85 game period, players sprint the most, averaging 14m/min. So we will choose this number as our high load training intensity reference.

Here is a similar chart, but for a traning. (P.E. = Passing Exercise, H.S.L.R. = High Sprint Low Rest) The highest sprint intensity happens in the HSLR training, sprint intensity = 9.5m/min. Compared to the game reference value 14m/min, we can see that there are spaces for us to improve.

There’re many ways to increase the intensity:

  • Competitions
    when players do a print test, arrange 2 players run together, so that they will compete
  • Change of Rules
    limit the touches of the ball to 2 or 1 times each time
    change the number of players/ size of the field


  • Change the game time

A small sided game played 3 mins x 6 will be more intensive than a game played 6 mins x 3


5 Training Schedule of 1 Week

In Part 3 and Part 4 we talked about how to build one high load session. As we mentioned in Part 2, training sessions can be simply categorized into 2: improving (high load) and recovery (moderate-low load). To build a training schedule of 1 week, we must put the the 2 types of the sessions together.

There’re some basic principles when we build our training schedule of 1 week:

  • The 1st day after one game, the training load must be decreased to minimum, so that players can recover from fatigue. Then increase it gradually.
  • The training load before one game should be decreased gradually. The last day before the game, training load should be decreased to minimum, so that the player can be adjusted to best physical condition.
  • When we decrease the load, we keep the intensity level, so that the players can receive enough stimulus, but not getting tired at the same time.
  • Players usually have one day rest after the high load training session day.

Based on these principles, we can generate a reference weekly training schedule as below:


6 Training Schedule of Several Weeks

Basically there’s not much changes to schedule a training schedule of several weeks. But one thing to note, is that we increase the load gradually week by week.

Usually the load increase percentage is around 10%. Depending on the athelete level. For trained athletes, 10% is hard to achieve, but for untrained athletes, 10% is not enough.


7 Other Considerations

For one game, there will be starting players, substitutes, and bench players. For substitutes and bench player, they may not get enough exercise in the game. So the day after the match, while the workload of starting players are decreased to minimum, subs and benches are required to have heavy training load.

For wingers, they will have more sprint distance in the game but less total distance. But for a densive midfielder they will have more total distance but less sprint distance. It should be taken care of when assigning the workload to players of different position.


8 Conclusion

Coaches are trying to find an optimal way to reach best training effects. GPS is the tool that helps. With GPS data, a simple but useful approach can be established for those coaches who want to start building their training plan. Note this is a rough reference, more details should be input into this structure based on your own requirements.

SAP Sports One is the central data platform that manages and integrates all your data from various sources, including all kinds of 3rd party GPS data tracking solutions. With the help of SAP Analytics Cloud, these GPS data can be converted to your club- or association-specific analytics.



Men’s football study by: V. Di Salvo et al.(2008)

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  • while some soccer teams and countries are fenced off from playing matches, others follow some safety precautions and play matches. Why does this happen if simple rules have been known for a long time, the observance of which makes it safe to play games?
    Link I think about these simplest rules you need to know. after all, as they say: forewarned, forearmed. I don’t see any point in canceling your favorite game if you can follow the simplest rules, because not everything is as critical as it might seem

  • Great to see people sharing info and knowledge on soccer training load and upcoming technologies. Thanks for spreading the word!

    Also, I really appreciate you using my content from the online course on SoccerHub and that it was helpful for you. Just be careful not to just copy paste the bulk of the course content without correct citations or source referencing. I noticed a substantial part of the text is exactly copied (including the images) that is likely labeled as plagiarism, which isn't really fair for the people who worked hard to put it all together.

    Other than that, keep spreading the word to help coaches develop themselves and get better at what they do. They deserve it!

    If you'd to get in touch or something, feel free to reach out on Linkedin!

    Cheers, Kevin