Relations between skill assessments of youth players, practice & play, and success in men's soccer

Academy, male youth soccer players were evaluated at different time points by coaches and rated in terms of technical, tactical, physical and creative skill. These players also provided estimates of hours accumulated in soccer activities that were either coach-led (practice) or self-led (what we term play). Coaches assessment of players at ~14 years was related to whether they would be offered youth professional contracts (at age 16 yr), but not adult contracts at age 19 yr. Future professional players (youth and adult), were rated higher by coaches for all skills, with the exception of creative skill. Overall, there were few moderate relations between skill ratings provided at age 14 yr and hours accumulated in sport specific play and practice during childhood. Soccer-related self-led "play" did not show expected correlations with ratings of tactical and creative skill (or any skill) at any time point. Practice amount was correlated with ratings, particularly for the group of later professional athletes (youth and adult), where skill ratings given at age 16 year were positively related to practice and negatively related to the proportion of play vs. practice.