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Physical Match Demands in Youth Football: Informing Recruitment Strategies and Pathways to Elite Professional Football for Home-Grown Academy Youth Football Players

Maher, O (2022) Physical Match Demands in Youth Football: Informing Recruitment Strategies and Pathways to Elite Professional Football for Home-Grown Academy Youth Football Players. Masters thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Traditionally, the process of identifying talented individual football players is subjective, and less informed by scientific evidence. There is also a lack of knowledge and understanding about the process of identifying and developing talent in young footballers (Larkin and Reeves, 2018). With the Elite Player Performance Plan setting regulations for academy football, a wide range of physical data is accessible from Global Positioning System (GPS). It is relatively unknown how the information from GPS units may facilitate in the pathway of talent development and may help to predict future professional football players. Therefore, the aim of the study was two-fold. Firstly, to understand which physical key performance indicators were influential in the selection and deselection of category one academy football players, and its interaction with age. Secondly, to understand the interaction that position had with selection, and age. Two separate statistical linear mixed models were processed. The first was for players aged between under-14 to under-18. The second accounted for player position aged between under-16 and under-18 due to the imbalances in players at age groups when position was factored. The linear mixed model was used to account for the varied sample sizes and repeated measures. Results revealed a significant main effect of high-intensity accelerations and decelerations, and total accelerations and decelerations, with selected players having a higher frequency compared to deselected players. There was a significant interaction between player selection and age for individualised high-speed running and individualised sprint distance. Selected players individualised high-speed running was consistently steady between under-14 and under-18, whilst individualised sprint distance decreased consistently between under-15 and under-18. Deselected players saw inconsistent patterns between under-14 and under-18 for both metrics. There were no significant interactions for position and selection, and age and selection. It is assumed that selected players had superior tactical awareness, therefore being reactive to game-specific situations resulting in a higher frequency of high-intensity accelerations and decelerations, and accelerations and decelerations. It was also assumed that selected players are more selective with their high-intensity bouts during matches, more specifically at the scholarship age (under-17 to under-18) and is in line with previous research findings. As no significant main effects were found for distance metrics, it was concluded that most academy players were well physically conditioned when part of an academy, meaning the differences in running performance are non-significant. Future research should integrate all aspects of talent identification and development in football in a multi-dimensional way.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Talent Development; Talent Identification
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2022 13:45
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2022 13:45
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00017190
Supervisors: McRobert, Allistair, Olthof, sigrid and Enright, kevin
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17190
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