The developmental activities of 328 elite soccer players aged under-16 years from Brazil, England, France, Ghana, Mexico, Portugal and Sweden were examined using retrospective recall in a cross-sectional research design. The activities were compared to the early diversification, early specialisation, and early engagement pathways. Players started their involvement in soccer at approximately 5 years of age. During childhood, they engaged in soccer practice for a mean value of 185.7,s=124.0 h · year −1, in soccer play for 186.0,s=125.3 h · year−1, and in soccer competition for 37.1,s=28.9 h · year−1. A mean value of 2.3,s=1.6 sports additional to soccer were engaged in by 229 players during childhood. Players started their participation in an elite training academy at 11 to 12 years of age. During adolescence, they engaged in soccer practice for a mean value of 411.9,s=184.3 h · year−1, in soccer play for 159.7,s=195.0 h · year−1, and in soccer competition for 66.9,s=48.8 h · year−1. A mean value of 2.5,s=1.8 sports other than soccer were engaged in by 132 players during this period. There were some relatively minor differences between countries, but generally the developmental activities of the players followed a mixture of the early engagement and specialisation pathways, rather than early diversification.
Bibliographical noteThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Sports Sciences on 12/07/2012, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/02640414.2012.701762
- expert performance
- skill acquisition
- talent development
- deliberate practice