The development of a comprehensive protocol for quantifying soccer-specific skill could markedly improve both talent identification and development. Surprisingly, most protocols for talent identification in soccer still focus on the more generic athletic attributes of team sports, such as speed, strength, agility and endurance, rather than on a player’s technical skills. We used a multivariate methodology borrowed from evolutionary analyses of adaptation to develop our quantitative assessment of individual soccer-specific skill. We tested the performance of 40 individual academy-level players in eight different soccer-specific tasks across an age range of 13–18 years old. We first quantified the repeatability of each skill performance then explored the effects of age on soccer-specific skill, correlations between each of the pairs of skill tasks independent of age, and finally developed an individual metric of overall skill performance that could be easily used by coaches. All of our measured traits were highly repeatable when assessed over a short period and we found that an individual’s overall skill – as well as their performance in their best task – was strongly positively correlated with age. Most importantly, our study established a simple but comprehensive methodology for assessing skill performance in soccer players, thus allowing coaches to rapidly assess the relative abilities of their players, identify promising youths and work on eliminating skill deficits in players.
Bibliographical noteThe full text is available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2016.1151544
- soccer skill
- evolutionary sports science