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Soccer player characteristics in English lower-league development programmes: The relationships between relative age, maturation, anthropometry and physical fitness

Lovell, Ric; Towlson, Chris; Parkin, Guy; Portas, Matt; Vaeyens, Roel; Cobley, Stephen

Authors

Ric Lovell

Guy Parkin

Matt Portas

Roel Vaeyens

Stephen Cobley



Contributors

Alejandro Lucia
Editor

Abstract

© 2015 Lovell et al. The relative age effect (RAE) and its relationships with maturation, anthropometry, and physical performance characteristics were examined across a representative sample of English youth soccer development programmes. Birth dates of 1,212 players, chronologically age-grouped (i.e., U9's-U18's), representing 17 professional clubs (i.e., playing in Leagues 1 and 2) were obtained and categorised into relative age quartiles from the start of the selection year (Q1 = Sep-Nov; Q2 = Dec-Feb; Q3 = Mar-May; Q4 = Jun-Aug). Players were measured for somatic maturation and performed a battery of physical tests to determine aerobic fitness (Multi-Stage Fitness Test [MSFT]), Maximal Vertical Jump (MVJ), sprint (10 and 20m), and agility (T-Test) performance capabilities. Odds ratio's (OR) revealed Q1 players were 5.3 times (95% confidence intervals [CI] : 4.08-6.83) more likely to be selected than Q4's, with a particularly strong RAE bias observed in U9 (OR: 5.56) and U13-U16 squads (OR: 5.45-6.13). Multivariate statistical models identified few between quartile differences in anthropometric and fitness characteristics, and confirmed chronological agegroup and estimated age at peak height velocity (APHV) as covariates. Assessment of practical significance using magnitude-based inferences demonstrated body size advantages in relatively older players (Q1 vs. Q4) that were very-likely small (Effect Size [ES]: 0.53-0.57), and likely to very-likely moderate (ES: 0.62-0.72) in U12 and U14 squads, respectively. Relatively older U12-U14 players also demonstrated small advantages in 10m (ES: 0.31-0.45) and 20m sprint performance (ES: 0.36-0.46). The data identify a strong RAE bias at the entry-point to English soccer developmental programmes. RAE was also stronger circa-PHV, and relatively older players demonstrated anaerobic performance advantages during the pubescent period. Talent selectors should consider motor function and maturation status assessments to avoid premature and unwarranted drop-out of soccer players within youth development programmes.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 2, 2015
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 9
Article Number e0137238
Pages e0137238
APA6 Citation Lovell, R., Towlson, C., Parkin, G., Portas, M., Vaeyens, R., & Cobley, S. (2015). Soccer player characteristics in English lower-league development programmes: The relationships between relative age, maturation, anthropometry and physical fitness. PloS one, 10(9), e0137238. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137238
DOI https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137238
Publisher URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0137238
Copyright Statement © 2015 Lovell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Copyright Statement
© 2015 Lovell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.





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