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Does height matter in soccer? The only time size doesn’t matter

In Talking Soccer by Josh WilliamsLeave a Comment

Height does matter in soccer to some extent.

But don’t get too excited. It’s not like basketball where you have to be a certain height to make it pro. Soccer allows all shapes and sizes to play professionally.

If you look across the professional leagues, the height of players vary so much. In the English Premier League the smallest outfield player is 5ft 4 inches. The Tallest is 6’7.

90% of the men in the world will fit somewhere in this region. If anyone tells you height is the reason you can’t go pro, they’re most likely lying.

Height can determine your position

Want to be a goalkeeper but you’re 5’5? I hate to tell you this but unless you get a massive growth spurt, odds are you will not be a professional goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper is one of the positions which has a height requirement. It is unspoken of course, however most professional keepers are 5’11 or taller.

Centre-back is another one of these positions. As a CB you’re job is to win headers, make last ditch tackles and more. The odds of you winning a header if you’re a shorter person significantly decreases.

We are seeing shorter centre-backs in the premier league now. Normally playing in a back 3 with 2 other taller defenders. That being said, the shortest starting CBs in the premier league is Ake & Azpilicueta at 5’10.

Height will also determine the role you play

If you’re a 5’10 Centre-back, Unless you have incredible jumping reach and physicality. you’re most likely going to be a ball playing defender.

As a shorter striker you’re not going to be playing as a target man. Coaches and teammates will play to your strengths. If you aren’t playing to your strengths you probably aren’t going to get played.

If you’re a shorter guy, find a position outside of Centre-back or Striker and start training hard.

Success isn’t determined by size.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. At youth level being bigger than the opponent could provide you with a considerable advantage.

But once you get older, smarter & better. you’ll learn that each person on the soccer pitch has their roles and will play to their strengths to increase the chances of winning the game.

Looking at the current top players in the world, you have Messi, Modric, Hazard, Kante all of which are small. Maradona was also 5’5. Whereas Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Harry Kane and Aubameyang are all 6ft+.

My point is that height has no correlation to how successful you will be as a soccer player. Only which positions & roles you’ll be able to play.

Average soccer player height

A study back in 2009 there was a study that stated the average height of professional soccer players is 5’11.

  • Goalkeepers average 6’2.
  • Defenders average 5’11
  • Midfielders 5’10
  • Strikers 5’11

The average defender height may be surprising to many. I know it was surprising for me until I remembered that full backs were most likely included.

The average height of a centre-back if I had to guess is probably 6’1. I don’t have stats to prove this however most centre-backs are 6’0+.

Advantages of being a short soccer player

1.) Fit into the mainstream tactical systems – In 2018 shorter players are excelling. Short players often excel with the ball at their feet, meaning they have great ball control, speed and agility. Having great agility also makes shorter players better at playing a high tempo passing game.

They’re often better at pressing too. While the traditional Ball Winning Midfielder may be big and clunky, look at how well 5’6 Kante is excelling. He’s fast, agile and is able to close down most attackers within seconds, especially the taller, slower forwards.

2.) Better Athletes – The human body size and the laws of scaling allows for shorter players to have a greater strength to weight ratio. This is why a lot of shorter athletes react faster, are more agile and are even more explosive. Players like Salah, Aguero & Sanchez are able to get in behind the opposition defence thanks to their explosive ability. It’s also likely they’ll leave the defender in the dust thanks to their quick acceleration.

3.) Low centre of gravity – Players that are shorter have a lower centre of gravity. This will allow players to stay on their feet and experience greater overall stability. Not only that but the lower your centre of gravity, the easier it is to turn.

Advantages of being a taller soccer player

1.) Winning Headers – Tall strikers are called target men for a reason. Launch the ball up to the 6’4 striker and he’ll be able to head it or chest it down to his smaller, pacier, more technical counterparts. Not only that but taller defenders should have greater success at defending set pieces and crosses. There is an exception though, shorter players may be able to get in front of the defender, if the cross is low or whipped, he may get an easy tap in.

Despite that, there’s a good reason why most centre-backs are 6ft+.

2.) Often more physical – Despite shorter players having a greater strength to weight ratio, taller players are often way more physical. This is because they tend to have a higher body weight and are more of a presence on the pitch. This will allow strikers to hold the ball up for teammates to make runs. Taller defenders will push opposition attackers off the ball a lot easier because of this size difference.

3.) Cover more of the goal – Tall players are in the wall for a reason. When you have 3 tall players in the wall it’s much harder for the opponent to get the ball up and over the wall. This will make it incredibly hard for the free-kick taker to score.

Taller goalkeepers will take up more of the goal too. Not only that but tall people have a great reach, this is a huge advantage when it comes to catching a cross or punching it away.

Ideal Build?

The ideal build in soccer is subjective. It’s very likely that shorter wingers see greater success, but that doesn’t stop players like Ronaldo, Bale & Callejon all having success out wide.

The same can be said for most positions, Modric is a short midfielder with a lot of success however Milinkovic Savic is 6’1 and is looking like the next big thing.

Does height matter in soccer? Yes but stop overthinking it. Find a role that suits your build and develop into the best possible player you can be. Many people look for excuses or reasons why they can’t be the best. These people are often lazy or just scared to try.

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