Relative age and physical maturity status of elite Scottish youth soccer players: effects on physical performance

McCunn, Robert (2014) Relative age and physical maturity status of elite Scottish youth soccer players: effects on physical performance. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Youth soccer in Scotland is structured according to chronological age with the intention of creating fair competition. Eligibility for a squad is a date of birth between 1st January and 31st December of the relevant year, which allows for an almost one-year difference in chronological age between players in the same squad. The relative age effect (RAE) is the widely reported observation that athletes born at the start of a selection year are over-represented and those born at the end are under-represented compared with the birthdate distribution in the general population. Differences in physical maturity status between relatively older and younger players are most commonly cited as the explanation for this observation. The implication is that advanced physical maturity status is associated with superior physical performance. However, few studies have investigated this relationship in youth soccer players within the context of one-year age-bands. The aims of the present study were firstly; to investigate the extent to which the RAE existed within a Scottish Premiership club academy and secondly to reveal if advanced physical maturity status was associated with superior physical performance within the context of one-year age-bands. Data was collected from youth players registered at a Scottish Premiership club academy over the course of six seasons from 2007 to 2012. Players in the under 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 age categories were assessed each year in measures of physical performance (0-15m sprint, T-test and a bespoke change of direction test) and anthropometry. An unequal birthdate distribution was observed within all age categories. Within most of the age categories players born in the first quarter were more physically mature than those born in the last. However, more advanced physical maturity was only associated with superior sprinting speed within the under 14 and 15 age categories. Similarly, superior change of direction ability was only associated with advanced physical maturity in the under 14 age category. Potentially large differences in physical maturity status between players within the under 14 and 15 age categories due to variability in the timing and tempo of peak height velocity may contribute to the RAE. It is less clear why a RAE should exist among the under 11, 12 and 13 age categories. Practical measures to counteract the RAE are suggested and discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Soccer, physical maturity, relative age effect, youth, performance
Subjects: Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Q Science > QP Physiology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: MacFarlane, Dr. Niall
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Mr Robert McCunn
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-4794
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2014 11:36
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2014 11:44

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