Actual and perceived motor competence mediate the relationship between physical fitness and technical skill performance in young soccer players

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Abstract

This study examined the role of fundamental movement skills (FMS) and perceived competence in the relationship between physical fitness and technical soccer skills in children. Seventy boys aged 7-12 years of age (Mean ± SD = 9 ± 2 years) who were regularly engaged in grassroots soccer participated in the present study. The Test of Gross Motor Development-2 (Ulrich, 2001. Test of gross motor development (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: PRO-ED) was used to assess FMS and the Perceived Physical Ability Scale for Children (Colella, Morano, Bortoli, & Robazza, 2008. A physical self-efficacy scale for children. Social Behavior and Personality: an International Journal, 36, 841–848) was used to assess perceived competence. Technical skill was determined from three tests reflecting dribbling, passing and shooting. Z-scores of each measure were summed, creating a composite measure of technical skill. Three measures of physical fitness were employed; 15m sprint time, standing long jump, and seated medicine ball (1kg) throw. Z-scores for each measure were summed creating a composite measure of physical fitness. The relationship between technical skill and FMS, fitness, perceived competence and age was examined via path analysis. Results indicated two significant mediated pathways: from physical fitness to technical skills via FMS, and from physical fitness to technical skills via perceived competence. Once these mediators had been accounted for, there was no direct link from physical fitness to technical skills. Coaches should therefore seek to avoid one-sided delivery of practice by not solely focusing on football type drills, and focusing on a range of activities which enhance a broad foundation of FMS and promote strategies to positively influence a child’s perception of their own competence. Highlights Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are considered the foundation for physical activity and sport performance yet they tend to be overlooked, in favour of physical fitness, in the development of soccer talent. We examined mediating effects of FMS and perceived competence in the relationship between physical fitness and technical soccer skills in 70, 7-12 year old grassroots soccer players. We suggests there is no direct effect of physical fitness on technical skills in soccer but both FMS and perceived competence act as mediators of the physical fitness-technical skill relationship in children aged 7-12 years old. Coaches should therefore look to develop a broad base of FMS and a higher perception of competence to improve children's technical soccer skills.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Volume(In-Press)
Early online date11 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Keywords

  • Motor competence
  • Children
  • Grassroots
  • Talent identification
  • path analysis

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