During preparation and actual match day, many factors can or will influence team performance and of course the final result. This article attempts to describe these various factors involved in determining soccer performance. Fig 1 below illustrates the main areas which must be taken into account by both the coach and player.

Social Factors: Many factors such as pressure by family, friends, fans or the media can have a negative effect on players. Although family and friends can as well become role models, provide encouragement, or be companions during physical activity. Coping with social pressure is all important in order to succeed. As well, combining work or school with soccer is not always easy and a happy medium must be found.

Environmental factors: Evidence shows that playing at home generally offers an advantage to a team although home players are often more anxiety prone and this can affect game performance. A hostile crowd atmosphere can lead to teams making mistakes. Chances are great that a change in cultural or social environment may also affect performance especially when combined with jet-lag. Jet-lag comes about from travelling across different time zones and symptoms include fatigue and general tiredness, inability to sleep at night, loss of concentration, headaches and feeling sick and weak. The time of the day plays an important role in performance. Factors such as reaction time, isometric strength, coordination and agility depend on body temperature which is closely linked to the time of the day. Some players may feel less comfortable playing in the morning. For a detailed review of the effects of jet-lag and the time of the day read our special article.

It is well known that the environment plays an all important part in determining performance levels. We know that altitude, the weather and significant changes in temperature and humidity will affect performance. High altitude (e.g. above 2000m) is detrimental to performance. As well as lowering aerobic capacity and increasing muscle lactic acid levels, altitude sickness often occurs and can prevent any activity. Acclimatization combined with an optimized diet can help reduce the adverse effects of altitude. For a detailed review of the effects of altitude read our special article.

Players may tire earlier on water logged pitches and skills become harder to perform. Wet soccer balls can increase the risk of head injury due to harder impacts especially in younger players. The soil quality and drainage system of a pitch and the number of games affect the quality of a playing surface. Artificial surfaces can also increase risk of injury due to increased resistance to movement rotation and balls often have different bouncing effects and can confuse unaccustomed players. The size of a pitch is important as teams used to large pitches may find themselves struggling to play their normal game on a smaller surface.

Temperature has an important role to in match play. Both hot and cold conditions will adversely affect performance. Muscle performance deteriorates as muscle temperature falls. Evidence also shows that during hot & humid conditions players will run lesser distances and are more at risk of dehydration. For a detailed review of the effects of temperature read our special article.

Pollution adversely affects exercise performance. Research has found that carbon monoxide, a primary component of air pollution, affects the exercise performance of athletes by reducing their aerobic capacity. Ozone affects the physical capacity of players and levels are often high in the late afternoon on hot sunny days. Exercise increases the effects of ozone because more of it enters the lungs.

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