Positioning and deciding: key factors for talent development in soccer

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Abstract

Talent identification and development implicate recognizing youth players who will be successful in the future and guiding them to the top. A major determinant of this success is tactical skills. To identify possible key factors that help in predicting success over time, this study assesses the tactical skills of 105 elite youth soccer players who participated in a talent development program at an earlier stage of their sport career (mean age 17.8±0.9). These skills were related to their adult performance level, specifically whether they became professionals (n=52) or amateurs (n=53). Defenders, midfielders and attackers completed the Tactical Skills Inventory for Sports with scales for declarative and procedural knowledge in either attacking or defensive situations. A logistic regression analysis was performed to identify the tactical skills that contribute to professional performance level in adulthood.Positioning and decidingappeared to be the tactical skill that best predicts adult performance level (P<0.05). This is especially true for midfielders, with the correct classification of elite youth players in the range of 80%. For players scoring high on this skill, the odds ratios indicated a 6.60 times greater chance that a player became a professional than players scoring low (P<0.05).

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