Des Ryan's advice for young players

Academy Head of Sports Medicine and Athletic Development, Des Ryan, recently spoke to Vitality, our Official Wellness Partner, about the importance of exercise for young athletes and how to make it more fun by incorporating a ball.

Des has plenty of useful guidance on training, performance and recovery for younger footballers.  Here’s some of his advice:

On how to develop young players physically…

“There are some very good research-based guidelines from FIFA, called FIFA 11+, proven to reduce injuries by up to 30%. These include exercises that involve activating muscles and stabilising joints, like squats and lunges. These help with the general development of the player and prepares them for the activity.”

On how to assess their basic physical performance measures…

“At Arsenal, we use a variety of measures, such as speed through timing gates over 10, 20, 30 metres; endurance tests like the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery level 1, which is similar to the bleep test, and strength tests like the three rep max on various exercises.

“If you don’t have the facilities for these, it’s still good to have some basic assessment measures. For example, you can test times over a 3km run, alongside a simple strength test, like how many push-ups they can do in a minute.”

On how young players should come back from injury…

“Check in with a doctor and make sure they get the all clear. Then start off exercising slowly and build up. Make sure the activities are enjoyable as well as being light and easy, such as a parkrun or cycle. Measure the exercise and then gradually increase the intensity of activity as the weeks go by.”

On the mental benefits of young people playing ball sports…

“A lot of people talk about the body being separate to the mind, but it isn’t. It’s hard to have a healthy body without a healthy mind, they both help each other. Playing ball sports reduces stress levels, increases energy, and helps with quality of sleep. 

“As well as these, what you can’t forget is the enjoyment factor. It’s very beneficial, being able to get away from the school or workplace stresses, out in to the fresh air and a chance to socialise.”

Des was speaking to Vitality as part of their Bring a Ball campaign. To find out more about health and life insurance that rewards you for being active, go to

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