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Leeds Trinity PhD student researches elite football goalkeeping at AFC Bournemouth

Posted on 05 October 2018

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​Leeds Trinity University is working with Premier League football club AFC Bournemouth to analyse the performance and physical responses of the club's elite football goalkeepers.

Leeds Trinity PhD student Anthony White, who works at the club as their First Team Assistant Goalkeeper Coach and Goalkeeping Specific Sport Scientist, is researching the physiological demands of goalkeeping, which will then be used to inform training and development.

Anthony's first-year research on the match play and performance test responses of goalkeepers has recently been published in the scientific journal, Sports Medicine, and is amongst the first to be published profiling the current evidence regarding football goalkeeping, match performance and training response.

Anthony's research found that: goalkeepers cover between 4-6km on matchday, and appear not to experience a drop in performance as a result of fatigue during the second half; and saving a goal occurs relatively infrequently during a match (between 2-10 times) but represents the most important phases of play and should remain a major training focus for goalkeepers.

Anthony, 26, previously worked as a Goalkeeping Coach at Oldham Athletic Football Club from 2013 to 2016, and as a player from 2008 to 2010. He lives in Bournemouth, but studies at Leeds Trinity University. He is one of the youngest UEFA 'A' licence holders in the world to hold both the goalkeeping and outfield coaching qualifications. 

Anthony said: "Working with world leaders in football research at Leeds Trinity University has a huge benefit on the research provided to the sporting community, but also helps Bournemouth Football Club and the goalkeepers performing week in, week out. The players and the coaches at the Club know that the knowledge and research being undertaken is some of the highest in elite football."

Anthony is supervised in his PhD by Professor Mark Russell, a leading academic in the field of Applied Exercise Physiology, Sports Nutrition and Strength and Conditioning at Leeds Trinity. Professor Russell's research interests include matchday strategies to enhance performance in team-sports athletes, which he has presented internationally and published widely on the subject.

Professor Russell said: "Despite the importance of the goalkeeper position to protecting a team's score line, it is somewhat surprising how little we know about the demands and responses to their matches and training, especially, when compared to the information available about outfield players. Our relationship with the performance and medical team at AFC Bournemouth is allowing us to provide specific information to the players and club regarding the demands of this unique playing position. This data allows a better tailoring of practices with a view to optimising what takes place on and off the pitch when preparing or recovering from professional training and match play."

AFC Bournemouth is at the forefront of goalkeeping technology and practices, and is one of the first clubs to employ hybrid coaches who are both qualified coaches and sports scientists. Currently no other club has a dual coach and scientist for the goalkeeping position.

The club also uses the Catapult G5 goalkeeper monitoring system, a GPS device which provides in-depth data for goalkeepers, which is then used in session planning and coaching. The next part of Anthony's research will use this global positioning technology to investigate the physical demands of match play and training.  

Anthony said: "Building on the progress made already we will look at gaining a deeper understanding of the physical demands of match play and training as characterised by Specific Global Positioning System (GPS) Units, and the responses of the body to such activities. We hope to be able to better understand the demands currently placed on goalkeepers throughout all activities completed in the competitive week so that training and recovery prescription can be better tailored for the players."

The PhD will take between four and six years and will help coaching and scientific goal keeping professionals by informing their practices to optimise performance of goalkeepers at elite level.  

Dr Craig Roberts, Head of Sports Medicine at AFC Bournemouth, said: "We are delighted to be working with Professor Russell and Leeds Trinity University to gain a deeper understanding of the demands being placed on our players and their responses to them. Professor Russell's reputation was the main driver for our initial approach to him to visit the club and present to our staff – it was off the back of this visit that the subsequent relationship and goalkeeper project was founded. Anthony and Professor Russell's work is already having a positive impact on our practices on a daily basis."

More information about research at Leeds Trinity University is available here.