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Matthew Ellis, Mark Noon, Tony Myers, and Neil Clarke

Context: High doses of ∼6 mg·kg−1 body mass have improved performance during intermittent running, jumping, and agility protocols. However, there are sparse data on low doses of caffeine, especially in elite adolescent soccer players. Methods: A total of 15 elite youth soccer players (177.3 [4.8] cm, 66.9 [7.9] kg, and 16 [1] y) participated in the study, consuming 1, 2, or 3 mg·kg−1 caffeine in a gelatin capsule or a 2-mg·kg−1 placebo in a single-blind, randomized, crossover study design. Testing consisted of a 20-m sprint, arrowhead agility (change of direction [CoD] right or left), countermovement jump (CMJ), and Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 (Yo-Yo IR1). Postexercise CMJ performance was assessed as participants exited the Yo-Yo IR1. Data were analyzed using a Bayesian multilevel regression model to provide explained variance and probabilities of improvement (P = %). Results: Compared with placebo, 3 mg·kg−1 caffeine presented the highest probabilities of change across a range of tests (mean [SD], P = %). Times for 20-m sprint were 3.15 (0.10) s vs 3.18 (0.09) s (P = 73%), CoD-right times were 8.43 (0.24) s vs 8.55 (0.25) s (P = 99%), CoD-left times were 8.44 (0.22) s vs 8.52 (0.18) s (P = 85%), Yo-Yo IR1 distance was 2440 (531) m vs 2308 (540) m (P = 15%), and preexercise CMJ height was 41.6 (7.2) cm vs 38 (8.5) cm (P = 96%). Postexercise CMJ was higher with 3 mg·kg−1 than with placebo (42.3 [8] cm vs 36.6 [8] cm; P = 100%). Doses of 1 or 2 mg·kg−1 caffeine also demonstrated the ability to enhance performance but were task dependent. Conclusion: Low doses of caffeine improve performance but are dose and task dependent. A dose of 3 mg·kg−1 caffeine improved performance across the majority of tests with potential to further improve postexercise CMJ height.

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Matthew Ellis, Tony Myers, Richard Taylor, Rhys Morris, and Ibrahim Akubat

Purpose: To manage physical performance in soccer, practitioners monitor the training load (TL) and the resulting fatigue. A method frequently used to assess performance is the countermovement jump (CMJ). However, the efficacy of CMJ to detect fatigue from soccer matches and training remains uncertain, as does the relationship between TL and change in CMJ performance. The aims of the present study were 2-fold. One was to observe the changes of CMJ force–time components and jump height (JH). The second was to examine dose–response relationships between TL measures and CMJ over a 6-week preseason. Methods: Twelve male academy soccer players (17 [1] y, 71.2 [5.6] kg, and 178 [5.8] cm) were recruited. Daily changes in CMJ were assessed against baseline scores established before preseason training, along with internal and external TL measures. A series of Bayesian random intercept models were fitted to determine probability of change above/below zero and greater than the coefficient of variation established at baseline. Jumps were categorized into match day minus (MD−) categories where the higher number indicated more time from a competitive match. Results: JH was lowest on MD − 3 (28 cm) and highest on MD − 4 (34.6 cm), with the probability of change from baseline coefficient of variation highly uncertain (41% and 61%, respectively). Changes to force–time components were more likely on MD − 3 (21%–99%), which provided less uncertainty than JH. Bayes R 2 ranged from .22 to .57 between TL measures and all CMJ parameters. Conclusions: Force–time components were more likely to change than JH. Practitioners should also be cautious when manipulating TL measures to influence CMJ performance.

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Mark R. Noon, Emma L.J. Eyre, Matthew Ellis, Tony D. Myers, Rhys O. Morris, Peter D. Mundy, Ryan Penny, and Neil D. Clarke

Purpose: To investigate the influence of recruitment age on retention and release across the development pathway and to explore the influence of anthropometric and physical characteristics on retention and release at different ages throughout the development pathway and the likelihood of obtaining a professional contract. Methods: Following receipt of ethics approval, a cross-sectional study tracking 4 cohorts of players over 5 years assessed 76 male youth football players (11–16 y) from an English football academy on 3 occasions annually in anthropometry, countermovement jump height, and linear (30 and 15 m) and multidirectional sprint time. Players were categorized based on their start and release date. Results: Starting early (ie, before U12) in an academy was a key indicator of obtaining a professional contract, representing 87% of the players signed. Bayesian regression models suggest that the majority of differences in physical characteristics between players that were released and retained are trivial, small, and/or uncertain. Players who attained a professional contract at 18 had slower 15- and 30-m sprint times at U13 to U15 (P > 0 = .87–.99), slower multidirectional sprint times at U14 (P > 0 = .99), and lower countermovement jump height at U13 to U16 (P > 0 = .88–.99) compared with players who did not gain a contract. Conclusion: Players recruited early have an increased likelihood of gaining a professional contract. Physical assessments lack utility when used in isolation as a talent-identification tool.