Gender and soccer: Running smarter, not harder?

Researchers at Sunderland University, undoubtedly seeking a distraction from the local Premier League team’s dreary season, compared male and female soccer players in the Champions League. The conclusions:

1. Women complete fewer passes than men and give the ball away more easily.

2. Men run more at “high intensity,” though they don’t end up covering much more ground.

3. Women, particularly on the flanks, drop off in their running in the second half.

She Kicks editor Jen O’Neill didn’t dismiss the study but raised a couple of qualifiers:

The women’s game is constantly improving and the last few finals and latter knockout stages have included some fantastic matches but there are massive differences in fitness levels and playing status from team to team, even within the Women’s Champions League (only a handful of teams across Europe could be said to be ‘professional’ and this can sometimes lead to very lopsided results and hence less competitive second half contests), never mind comparing it to a men’s competition where every side contains players who are paid to play full time. It goes without saying that full time players will be able to sustain high intensity physical performance for a more prolonged period. Comparative studies between the men’s and women’s game are always riddled with such nuances and flaws because even with the best intentions they are rarely comparing like against like.

I wonder if tactics also play a part. Are men more likely to pick and choose their spot to run fast while women keep it in top gear for longer periods of time? And how different would this study be if we were comparing NWSL to MLS rather than European clubs?

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

One thought on “Gender and soccer: Running smarter, not harder?”

  1. There are so many variables, any comparison is meaningless b******t.

    For one thing, there is salary. The players on the men’s teams in the UEFA Champions’ League clearly get paid MUCH more than any of the players on the women’s teams in the Women’s UEFA Champions’ League. Perhaps if we were to do a comparison based on calories expended per dollar [or euro or pound sterling or…] of salary, we might get numbers that would prove to be interesting. Or run the numbers for cost per pass based on [dollars, euros, pounds sterling] per player. Statistics are always -fun-.

    The Mens’ game is professional and the women’s game is still overwelmingly amateur with a few exceptions. That is the biggest difference.

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