Physical performance testing is crucial to create and design more effective and tailored training programs. In addition, profiling athletes’ physical characteristics is important to understand the discrepancies in physical performance with aging, furthering the ability of soccer clubs to make informed and rational investments. Although physical measurements have been consistently conducted with female soccer players (Datson et al., 2014), longitudinal data to track the prospective evolution of physical performance with aging remains limited in this population. The vast majority of studies investigate changes in physical performance in adolescents (Emmonds et al., 2018) and senior international players (Vescovi, 2012), or simply compare older age categories (Manson et al., 2014). Although these previous analyses are essential to allow broader generalizations, they are unable to provide a more specific year-by-year progression. Investigating the yearly changes in physical performance that occur with aging across different age categories may provide more specific understanding of the evolution of physical performance in female soccer players.
This study investigated the progression of physical performance variables through a national program database of high-level and international-level female soccer players, from 12 to 34 years old.
After analyzing the data of 143 female outfield players from U15, U17, and U20 age categories, and Women’s Senior NationalTeams, the authors observed that:
- Two age clusters were identified, consisting of a “Youth group” and a “Senior group” for each physical performance test.
- Broad jump, countermovement jump (CMJ), and final velocity in the 30-15 intermittent fitness test (VIFT) improved and squat jump (SJ) decreased with age in the Youth group.
- 10-m sprint time slowed and SJ height declined with age in the Senior group.
- 40-m sprint time did not change in either age group.
- The rate of change of 10-m sprint time, CMJ, SJ, and VIFT significantly differed between Youth and Senior groups.
The current study provides useful information on the potential physical performance improvements and decrements for international level female soccer players with aging. Female soccer players can continue progressing their physical performance capabilities until approximately 23 years of age; at which point, they seem to start a decline in physical performance, possibly due to biological changes and/or a shift in training emphasis.
- Aerobic fitness increases at a higher rate in younger age categories, being almost stable in Senior players over the years.
- The progressive increase in the volume of soccer-specific content with aging possibly contributes to the decrements in acceleration and power performance observed in older categories.
- Constant monitoring of speed and power capacities is needed to avoid substantial decreases in these performance parameters during the prospective development of female soccer players.
- Training programs focused on the development of speed-power capabilities are strongly recommended over the entire age spectrum of female soccer players.
Datson, N., Hulton, A., Andersson, H., Lewis, T., Weston, M., Drust, B., & Gregson, W. (2014). Applied physiology of female soccer: an update. Sports Medicine, 44(9), 1225-1240.
Emmonds, S., Till, K., Redgrave, J., Murray, E., Turner, L., Robinson, C., & Jones, B. (2018). Influence of age on the anthropometric and performance characteristics of high-level youth female soccer players. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 13(5), 779-786.
Manson, S. A., Brughelli, M., & Harris, N. K. (2014). Physiological characteristics of international female soccer players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(2), 308-318.
Vescovi, J. D. (2012). Sprint speed characteristics of high-level American female soccer players: Female Athletes in Motion (FAiM) study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15(5), 474-478.