Objectives: To determine the relationships between physical and performance characteristics and level of skill in youth soccer players aged 12–16 years.
Methods: Anthropometry, maturity status, functional and sport-specific parameters were assessed in elite, sub-elite, and non-elite youth players in four age groups: U13 (n = 117), U14 (n = 136), U15 (n = 138) and U16 (n = 99).
Results: Multivariate analyses of covariance by age group with maturity status as the covariate showed that elite players scored better than the non-elite players on strength, flexibility, speed, aerobic endurance, anaerobic capacity and several technical skills (p<0.05). Stepwise discriminant analyses showed that running speed and technical skills were the most important characteristics in U13 and U14 players, while cardiorespiratory endurance was more important in U15 and U16 players. The results suggest that discriminating characteristics change with competitive age levels.
Conclusions: Characteristics that discriminate youth soccer players vary by age group. Talent identification models should thus be dynamic and provide opportunities for changing parameters in a long-term developmental context.
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Published Online First 15 September 2006
The Ghent Youth Soccer Project was supported by grants from the National Lottery Belgium (Nationale Loterij België) and DEXIA Bank.
Competing interests: None declared.
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