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

(2015) PLOS ONE. 10(9).
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Abstract
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 & 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 & 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 age-group 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.
Keywords
SUCCESS, BIRTH, MATURITY, RUNNING SPEED, PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL, YOUTH SOCCER, BIOLOGICAL MATURATION, PERFORMANCE, CHILDREN, TESTS

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Chicago
Lovell, Ric, Chris Towlson, Guy Parkin, Matt Portas, Roel Vaeyens, and Stephen Cobley. 2015. “Soccer Player Characteristics in English Lower-league Development Programmes : the Relationships Between Relative Age, Maturation, Anthropometry and Physical Fitness.” Plos One 10 (9).
APA
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).
Vancouver
1.
Lovell R, Towlson C, Parkin G, Portas M, Vaeyens R, Cobley S. Soccer player characteristics in English lower-league development programmes : the relationships between relative age, maturation, anthropometry and physical fitness. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(9).
MLA
Lovell, Ric, Chris Towlson, Guy Parkin, et al. “Soccer Player Characteristics in English Lower-league Development Programmes : the Relationships Between Relative Age, Maturation, Anthropometry and Physical Fitness.” PLOS ONE 10.9 (2015): n. pag. Print.
@article{6923107,
  abstract     = {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 \& 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 \& 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 age-group 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.},
  articleno    = {e0137238},
  author       = {Lovell, Ric and Towlson, Chris and Parkin, Guy and Portas, Matt and Vaeyens, Roel and Cobley, Stephen},
  issn         = {1932-6203},
  journal      = {PLOS ONE},
  keyword      = {SUCCESS,BIRTH,MATURITY,RUNNING SPEED,PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL,YOUTH SOCCER,BIOLOGICAL MATURATION,PERFORMANCE,CHILDREN,TESTS},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {9},
  pages        = {14},
  title        = {Soccer player characteristics in English lower-league development programmes : the relationships between relative age, maturation, anthropometry and physical fitness},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137238},
  volume       = {10},
  year         = {2015},
}

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