Being one of the most prominent globalized sports, soccer played at club, national, and continental levels has a relevant societal role. At present, the specific competencies, interests, and languages of the different actors involved in the selection, development, and support of long-lasting careers of players might limit opportunities for potential talented players. Unless the cultural environment of soccer resolves the gaps between empirical results and actual soccer strategies, scientific discussion relating to the effectiveness of talent selection and development remains limited. This commentary is intended to highlight the need for developmental programs to prepare soccer personnel for a transdisciplinary dialogue, which could foster a future development of this sport. Finally, in considering the wide soccer-related employment opportunities at local, national, and international levels, the need for a clear qualification framework is crucial.
António J. Figueiredo, Carlos E. Gonçalves and Antonio Tessitore
António J. Figueiredo, Manuel J. Coelho e Silva, Sean P. Cumming and Robert M. Malina
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.
Pedro Figueiredo, Ana Silva, António Sampaio, João Paulo Vilas-Boas and Ricardo J. Fernandes
The aim of this study was to evaluate the determinants of front crawl sprint performance of young swimmers using a cluster analysis. 103 swimmers, aged 11- to 13-years old, performed 25-m front crawl swimming at 50-m pace, recorded by two underwater cameras. Swimmers analysis included biomechanics, energetics, coordinative, and anthropometric characteristics. The organization of subjects in meaningful clusters, originated three groups (1.52 ± 0.16, 1.47 ± 0.17 and 1.40 ± 0.15 m/s, for Clusters 1, 2 and 3, respectively) with differences in velocity between Cluster 1 and 2 compared with Cluster 3 (p = .003). Anthropometric variables were the most determinants for clusters solution. Stroke length and stroke index were also considered relevant. In addition, differences between Cluster 1 and the others were also found for critical velocity, stroke rate and intracycle velocity variation (p < .05). It can be concluded that anthropometrics, technique and energetics (swimming efficiency) are determinant domains to young swimmers sprint performance.
J. Paulo Vilas-Boas, Lígia Costa, Ricardo J. Fernandes, João Ribeiro, Pedro Figueiredo, Daniel Marinho, António J. Silva, Abel Rouboa and Leandro Machado
The purpose of the current study was to assess and to compare the hydrodynamics of the first and second gliding positions of the breaststroke underwater stroke used after starts and turns, considering drag force (D), drag coefficient (CD) and cross-sectional area (S). Twelve national-level swimmers were tested (6 males and 6 females, respectively 18.2 ± 4.0 and 17.3 ± 3.0 years old). Hydrodynamic parameters were assessed through inverse dynamics from the velocity to time curve characteristic of the underwater armstroke of the breaststroke technique. The results allow us to conclude that, for the same gliding velocities (1.37 ± 0.124 m/s), D and the swimmers’ S and CD values obtained for the first gliding position are significantly lower than the corresponding values obtained for the second gliding position of the breaststroke underwater stroke (31.67 ± 6.44 N vs. 46.25 ± 7.22 N; 740.42 ± 101.89 cm2 vs. 784.25 ± 99.62 cm2 and 0.458 ± 0.076 vs. 0.664 ± 0.234, respectively). These differences observed for the total sample were not evident for each one of the gender’s subgroups.
João Valente-dos-Santos, Manuel J. Coelho-e-Silva, Filipe Simões, Antonio J. Figueiredo, Neiva Leite, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser, Robert M. Malina and Lauren Sherar
This study evaluates the contributions of age, growth, skeletal maturation, playing position and training to longitudinal changes in functional and skill performance in male youth soccer. Players were annually followed over 5 years (n = 83, 4.4 measurements per player). Composite scores for functional and skill domains were calculated to provide an overall estimate of performance. Players were also classified by maturity status and playing position at baseline. After testing for multicollinearity, two-level multilevel (longitudinal) regression models were obtained for functional and skill composite scores. The scores improved with age and training. Body mass was an additional predictor in both models [functional (late maturing): 13.48 + 1.05 × centered on chronological age (CA)—0.01 × centered CA2—0.19 × fat mass (FM) + 0.004 × annual volume training—1.04 × dribbling speed; skills (defenders): 7.62 + 0.62 × centered CA—0.06 × centered CA2 + 0.04 × fat-free mass—0.03 × FM + 0.005 × annual volume training—0.19 × repeated-sprint ability + 0.02 × aerobic endurance]. Skeletal maturity status was a significant predictor of functional capacities and playing position of skill performance. Sound accuracy of each multilevel model was demonstrated on an independent cross-sectional sample (n = 52).