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Characteristics of youth soccer players aged 13–15 years classified by skill level
  1. Robert M Malina1,
  2. Basil Ribeiro2,
  3. João Aroso3,
  4. Sean P Cumming4
  1. 1Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, USA
  2. 2Instituto Superior da Maia, Avenida Carlos Oliveira Campos, Castero da Maia, Avioso S Pedro, Portugal
  3. 3Sporting Lisbon Football Club, Lisbon, Portugal
  4. 4University of Bath, School for Health, Norwood House, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr R M Malina
 10735 FM 2668, Bay City, TX 77414, USA; rmalina{at}


Objective: To evaluate the growth, maturity status and functional capacity of youth soccer players grouped by level of skill.

Subjects: The sample included 69 male players aged 13.2–15.1 years from clubs that competed in the highest division for their age group.

Methods: Height and body mass of players were measured and stage of pubic hair (PH) was assessed at clinical examination. Years of experience in football were obtained at interview. Three tests of functional capacity were administered: dash, vertical jump and endurance shuttle run. Performances on six soccer-specific tests were converted to a composite score which was used to classify players into quintiles of skill. Multiple analysis of covariance, controlling for age, was used to test differences among skill groups in experience, growth status and functional capacity, whereas multiple linear regression analysis was used to estimate the relative contributions of age, years of training in soccer, stage of PH, height, body mass, the height×weight interaction and functional capacities to the composite skill score.

Results: The skill groups differed significantly in the intermittent endurance run (p<0.05) but not in the other variables. Only the difference between the highest and lowest skill groups in the endurance shuttle run was significant. Most players in the highest (12 of 14) and high (11 of 14) skill groups were in stages PH 4 and PH 5. Pubertal status and height accounted for 21% of the variance in the skill score; adding aerobic resistance to the regression increased the variance in skill accounted for to 29%. In both regressions, the coefficient for height was negative.

Conclusion: Adolescent soccer players aged 13–15 years classified by skill do not differ in age, experience, body size, speed and power, but differ in aerobic endurance, specifically at the extremes of skill. Stage of puberty and aerobic resistance (positive coefficients) and height (negative coefficient) are significant predictors of soccer skill (29% of the total explained variance), highlighting the inter-relationship of growth, maturity and functional characteristics of youth soccer players.

  • PH, pubic hair
  • RAE, relative age effect

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  • Published Online First 15 January 2007

  • Competing interests: None declared.