UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the developmental activities that describe highly elite men and women soccer players and the relation of these activities to indices of motivation, soccer related skills and progressions. Hendry, David T.


A multivariable measurement approach was used to determine relationships between talent development pathways in soccer and outcomes related to future elite success, soccer skill ratings and motivation. In Study 1, elite “Academy” youth soccer players in the UK were followed over 5-years to ascertain the developmental activities that distinguished players which progressed to youth and adult professional levels. Professional players followed an early majority engagement pathway characterized by predominant involvement in high volumes of soccer practice and play (i.e., self-led activities) from an early age. They participated in other sports but the majority time was in soccer. Adult professional players accumulated more hours in soccer play compared to youth professionals, but not practice. In Study 2, coach ratings of soccer skills were related to attainment of youth and adult professional status. Coach ratings of technical, tactical and creative skill were higher in players that achieved professional youth status, versus de-selected academy players. Only tactical skill, and somewhat, technical skill, differentiated adult from youth professionals. Technical and tactical skill ratings were primarily related to hours in soccer practice, but there were no relations to hours in play. In Study 3, practice amounts were related to markers of self-determined motivation (SDM) but soccer play hours were not related to SDM. Through comparisons with recreational, age-matched soccer players, SDM was shown to become less self-determined from 15 -17 yr, but only among elite players. In Study 4, the developmental pathways engaged in by elite (National-team) and sub-elite (Varsity) adult women soccer players were assessed. National players followed an early majority engagement pathway, engaging in more soccer play than sub-elites, which was also rated as more challenging. In summary, success in elite soccer is characterized by an early, majority engagement pathway consisting of early childhood involvement in soccer, relatively high volumes of practice and play, and majority time in soccer, in comparison to other sports.

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