Importance of Speed and Power in Elite Youth Soccer Depends on Maturation Status

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Murtagh, CF, Brownlee, TE, O'Boyle, A, Morgans, R, Drust, B, and Erskine, RM. Importance of speed and power in elite youth soccer depends on maturation status. J Strength Cond Res 32(2): 297–303, 2018—Maturation status is a confounding factor when identifying talent in elite youth soccer players (ESP). By comparing performance of ESP and control participants (CON) matched for maturation status, the aims of our study were to establish the importance of acceleration, sprint, horizontal-forward jump, and vertical jump capabilities for determining elite soccer playing status at different stages of maturation. Elite youth soccer players (n = 213; age, 14.0 ± 3.5 years) and CON (n = 113; age, 15.0 ± 4.4 years) were grouped using years from/to predicted peak height velocity (PHV) to determine maturation status (ESP: pre-PHV, n = 100; mid-PHV, n = 25; post-PHV, n = 88; CON: pre-PHV, n = 44; mid-PHV, n = 15; post-PHV, n = 54). Participants performed 3 reps of 10- and 20-m sprint, bilateral vertical countermovement jump (BV CMJ), and bilateral horizontal-forward CMJ (BH CMJ). Elite youth soccer players demonstrated faster 10-m (p < 0.001) and 20-m sprint (p < 0.001) performance than CON at all stages of maturation. Mid-PHV and post-PHV ESP achieved greater BV CMJ height (p < 0.001) and BH CMJ distance (ESP vs. CON; mid-PHV: 164.32 ± 12.75 vs. 136.53 ± 21.96 cm; post-PHV: 197.57 ± 17.05 vs. 168.06 ± 18.50 cm; p < 0.001) compared with CON, but there was no difference in BV or BH CMJ between pre-PHV ESP and CON. Although 10 and 20 m and sprint performance may be determinants of elite soccer playing status at all stages of maturation, horizontal-forward and vertical jumping capabilities only discriminate ESP from CON participants at mid- and post-PHV. Our data therefore suggest that soccer talent identification protocols should include sprint, but not jump assessments in pre-PHV players.

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