Objective: To evaluate the growth and maturity status and functional capacity of youth soccer players group by level of skill.
Subjects: The sample included 69 male players 13.2-15.1 years from clubs which competed in the highest division for their age group.
Methods: Height and body mass were measured and stage of pubic hair development was assessed at clinical examination. Years of experience in football was obtained at interview. Three tests of functional capacity were administered: dash, vertical jump and yo-yo run. Performances on six soccer-specific tests were used to classify players into quintiles of skill. MANCOVA, controlling for age, was used to test differences among skill groups in experience, growth status and functional capacity, while multiple linear regression analysis was used to estimate the relative contributions of age, stage of sexual maturity, height, body mass and years of formal training to the composite skill score.
Results: The skill groups differed significantly in the yo-yo intermittent endurance run (p<0.01) and 30 m sprint (p=0.05), but only the differences between the highest and lowest skill groups were significant. All except one player in the highest skill group were in the later stages of puberty. Age, pubertal status, years of experience and height accounted for 34% of the variance in the skill score; the coefficient for height was negative. Aerobic resistance added about 5% to the explained variance in the skill score.
Conclusion: Adolescent soccer players 13-15 years classified by skill do not differ in age, experience and body size, but differ in functional capacity, specifically at the extremes of skill. Age, experience, stage of puberty (positive coefficients) and height (negative coefficient) explained 34% of the variance in the composite skill score; aerobic resistance added 5% to the explained variance.
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