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A multidisciplinary selection model for youth soccer: the Ghent Youth Soccer Project


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.

  • BAH, bent arm hang
  • ESHR, endurance shuttle run
  • HGR, hand grip strength
  • MANCOVA, multivariate analysis of covariance
  • SAR, sit and reach
  • SBJ, standing long jump
  • SHR, shuttle run
  • STR, shuttle tempo run
  • SUP, sit-ups
  • VTJ, vertical jump
  • longitudinal design
  • maturation
  • performance tests
  • talent development

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