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27 July 2012
How far and fast do children run when they are playing football? A Deakin University and Australian Football League project will find this out and in the process discover whether modified rules for junior footballers aged 8-12 years are effective.
Associate Professor Pamm Kellett who is leading the research team, which includes fellow Deakin University researchers Dr Paul Gastin, Associate Professor Michael Spittle, Dr Andrew Dawson, and Kylie Wehner said a novel part of the data collection for the project was the use of GPS trackers on the young players during the game.
“The use of GPS technology is now common practice in many sports, including Australian Rules football,” Associate Professor Kellett said.
“The GPS units that children wear in this study are the same as the ones used at the elite level of the sport.
“The unit is approximately the size of a small mobile phone, positioned between the shoulder blades and worn in a light custom fitted vest.”
Associate Professor Kellett said the project was part of the AFL’s ongoing examination of all parts of the game.
“Junior football is no different,” she said.
“Broadly, in this project we are looking at the actual versus the intended outcomes of the Australian Football League (AFL)’s Junior Match Policy where rules have been modified.
“Modified rules can include using smaller grounds; allowing coaches onto the field of play; and no or minimal tackling.”
Associate Professor Kellett said that adopting modified rules is not compulsory for leagues therefore some have not fully adopted the modified rules, while others have. This gives the researchers a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of the presence or absence of Junior Match Policy on enjoyment and skill development of participants and how it is delivered.
“We are half way through data collection at the moment and as well as the GPS tracking of players we are also collecting information on the frequency of skill execution, for instance tackling, kicks, handballs, use of zones and other match day observations.
“The project has been really well received,” she said.
“We are getting fantastic support from coaches, team managers, and parents.
“There has been a great deal of interest in actually seeing how far and fast children run when they are playing football.”
Associate Professor Kellett said team coaches received feedback from the GPS data throughout the season.
“Information includes team averages with regards to distance run, maximum speeds reached and maps of where most of the play occurred during the games,” she said.
“This will assist them with football specific information such as coaching tactics and information about skill development, as well as devising strategies to ensure that all children get opportunities to be part of the play.”
Associate Professor Kellett said the study was a first in that Deakin University are collecting important data about junior sport participation and the health outcomes from it.
“This research can also assist the AFL to continue to ensure the game is safe to play at junior level, but it also facilitates our understanding of the broader health benefits of sport,” she said.
“This research will help us better understand the way in which the game can be a viable way to ensure children have fun while being active and ultimately be a tool to encourage healthy lifestyles.”
The full findings and recommendations of the research will be provided in December 2012.
Deakin Media Relations
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Auskick is a part of the AFL's junior footballer development. Photo courtesy AFL