Whole and Peak Physical Characteristics of Elite Youth Female Soccer Match-Play

Alice Harkness-Armstrong, Kevin Till, Naomi Datson, Stacey Emmonds

This study quantified whole and peak physical characteristics of Under (U)14 and U16 elite youth female soccer and compared them by position and age-group. Data were collected using 10 Hz GPS units from 431 match observations during 50 matches involving 201 players (U14 n = 93; U16 n = 108) representing Regional Talent Centres in The Football Association’s Girl’s England Talent Pathway League. Whole match data were reported as absolute and relative, including total distance (TD), high-speed running (HSR; ≥3.46 m·s−1), very high-speed running (VHSR; ≥5.29 m·s−1), sprinting (SPR; ≥6.26 m·s−1) distance, and maximum velocity. Moving average analysis determined peak data (1–10 minute durations). Linear mixed models established position-specific differences.

Results showed that U16s covered greater absolute distance at all speeds (small-moderate ESs; p < 0.001) and relative VHSR and SPR m·min−1 (small-moderate ESs; p < 0.001) compared to U14s. U16s also exhibited higher peak TD and HSR m·min−1 (small ESs) across several peak durations, as well as VHSR m·min−1 (small ESs; p < 0.001) across all peak durations compared to U14s. Position-specific differences were observed across all positions between and within both age-groups, highlighting that whole and peak physical characteristics are age- and position-dependent within elite youth female soccer match-play. These findings may inform coaching practices, training program design, and talent identification and development processes.

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