Fundamental Movement Skills and Physical Fitness Are Key Correlates of Tactical Soccer Skill in Grassroots Soccer Players Aged 8–14 Years

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Michael J. Duncan Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

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Neil D. Clarke Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

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Lee Bolt Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

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Emma Eyre Centre for Sport, Exercise and Life Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

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Clare M.P. Roscoe School of Human Sciences, University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom

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One hundred and twenty-one children (58 boys and 63 girls) aged 8–14 years (mean ± SD = 12 ± 1 years) who were regularly engaged in grassroots soccer participated in this study. Participants undertook assessments of fundamental movement skill (FMS) using the Test of Gross Motor Development-3, perceived ability using the Perceived Physical Ability Scale for Children, physical fitness via 15-m sprint time, standing long jump distance, and technical skill using the university of Ghent dribbling test. The Procedural Tactical Knowledge Test was employed as a measure of tactical skill from which metrics for positioning and movement and recognizing spaces were derived. Maturation was determined from anthropometric measures. Analysis of covariance examined gender differences in tactical skills accounting for FMS, fitness, perceived ability, technical skill, maturation, and age. Results indicated no significant differences in tactical skills between boys and girls (p > .05). For recognizing spaces, 56% of the variance was explained with FMS (p = .001), physical fitness (p = .02), and technical skill (p = .02) contributing to the model. For positioning and movement, a significant model explained 55% of the variance in this element of tactical behavior with FMS (p = .002) and technical skill (p = .02) significantly contributing to the model.

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