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Waldron M., Gray A., Murphy A.
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, School of Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, USA
This study, firstly, established the between-match variability of soccer-match performance among under-14 players and, secondly, investigated the relationship between match performance variability and both maturity and chronological age. Participants were recruited from two under-14 youth squads in England. The between-match variation of each player was quantified using the Coefficient of Variation (CV %) over a minimum of two and a maximum of five matches (N.=110). Measurements included passing frequency per minute, heart rate (bpm), post-match Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and both total and high-intensity metres per minute (total m·min-1 HIM m·min-1, respectively), derived from Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Assessments of physical maturity (age at peak height velocity; APHV) were also conducted. Passes·min-1 (15.2±5.4%) were the most variable, followed by HIM m·min-1 (13.9±4.9%) and RPE (13.7±4.4 %). The least variable components were HR (4.1±2.6%) and total m·min-1 (5.5±4.7 %). There were strong relationships between APHV and CV% of HIM m·min-1 (r=0.69, r2=0.47), APHV and CV%of average match HR (r=0.54, r2=0.29) and APHV and CV%of RPE (r=0.63, r2=0.40). Physical maturity, but not the chronological age, of youth soccer players explains between 29% and 47% of the variance in components of match performance. Our findings reaffirm, for different reasons, the importance of differentiating between maturational status and chronological age when evaluating youth soccer players’ performance.