The purpose of the study was to compare the anthropometric, functional and sport-specific skill characteristics and goal orientations of male youth soccer players at the extremes of height and skeletal maturity in two competitive age groups, 11–12 and 13–14 years. The shortest and tallest players, and least and most skeletally mature players (n = 8 per group) within each age group were compared on chronological age; skeletal age (Fels method); pubertal status (pubic hair); size, proportions and adiposity; four functional capacities; four soccer-specific skills; and task and ego orientation. The tallest players were older chronologically, advanced in maturity (skeletal, pubertal) and heavier, and had relatively longer legs than the shortest players in each age group. At 11–12 years, the most mature players were chronologically younger but advanced in pubertal status, taller and heavier with more adiposity. At 13–14 years, the most mature players were taller, heavier and advanced in pubertal status but did not differ in chronological age compared with the least mature players. Players at the extremes of height and skeletal maturity differed in speed and power (tallest > shortest; most mature > lest mature), but did not differ consistently in aerobic endurance and in soccer-specific skills. Results suggested that size and strength discrepancies among youth players were not a major advantage or disadvantage to performance. By inference, coaches and sport administrators may need to provide opportunities for or perhaps protect smaller, skilled players during the adolescent years.
Figueiredo and Coelho e Silva are with the Faculty of Sport Science and Physical Education, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal. Cumming is with the School of Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK. Malina is with the Dept. of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, and the Dept. of Kinesiology, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX.