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Developing Sporting Expertise in Elite Junior Soccer Players

Expertise is evident in every facet of life; whether it is science, art, music or sport there are individuals who excel compared to the majority. The development of expertise in sport is a complex area that involves the interaction and development of multiple factors over several years. Young athletes could take two pathways to expertise with different benefits; play numerous sports while growing up before specialising in one sport later, or specialise from a young age to increase the amount of deliberate practice undertaken. Studies within soccer have shown that early specialisation is the typical pathway towards obtaining expertise, for example, among English soccer players (Ford & Williams, 2012). Additionally, the Football Federation Australia (FFA) National Curriculum encourages deliberate practice to improve technical skills from six years of age, in an effort to develop an Australian game style.

In light of this, the proposed study will investigate the development of expertise in elite junior soccer in Australia. The current study will use the Expert Performance Approach which involves capturing expert performance, identifying underlying mechanisms and examining how expertise is developed.

Study one will capture expert performance through notational analysis of various skill levels of soccer matches. Studies two and three will identify underlying mechanisms of expert performance. Study two will examine the duration spent performing different training activities, whilst also monitoring weekly training load. Study three will use a principal component analysis to establish which physical, technical or decision-making abilities have the most influence on elite status in junior soccer players. Finally, study four will examine which pathways have led to the development of expert performances in junior soccer players through the use of a quantitative questionnaire that will be analysed using non-linear methods.

Project duration



Mr Bradley Keller
Associate Professor Annette Raynor
Mrs Fiona Iredale
RMIT University (Aus), Dr Lyndell Bruce

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