Cognitive Functions in Elite and Sub-Elite Youth Soccer Players Aged 13 to 17 Years

Barbara C. H. Huijgen*, Sander Leemhuis, Niels M. Kok, Lot Verburgh, Jaap Oosterlaan, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser, Chris Visscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Soccer players are required to anticipate and react continuously in a changing, relatively unpredictable situation in the field. Cognitive functions might be important to be successful in soccer. The current study investigated the relationship between cognitive functions and performance level in elite and sub-elite youth soccer players aged 13-17 years. A total of 47 elite youth soccer players (mean age 15.5 years, SD = 0.9) and 41 sub-elite youth soccer players (mean age 15.2 years, SD = 1.2) performed tasks for "higher-level" cognitive functions measuring working memory (i.e., Visual Memory Span), inhibitory control (i.e., Stop-Signal Task), cognitive flexibility (i.e., Trail Making Test), and metacognition (i.e., Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System Design Fluency Test). "Lower-level" cognitive processes, i.e., reaction time and visuo-perceptual abilities, were also measured with the previous tasks. ANOVA's showed that elite players outscored sub-elite players at the "higherlevel" cognitive tasks only, especially on metacognition (p.05). In conclusion, elite youth soccer players have better inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and especially metacognition than their subelite counterparts. However, when training hours are taken into account, differences between elite and sub-elite youth soccer players remain apparent on inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility in contrast to metacognition. This highlights the need for longitudinal studies to further investigate the importance of "higher-level" cognitive functions for talent identification, talent development and performance in soccer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144580
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume10
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11-Dec-2015

Keywords

  • FIELD HOCKEY PLAYERS
  • TEAM BALL SPORTS
  • EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
  • SKILL DEVELOPMENT
  • EXERCISE CHARACTERISTICS
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • TALENT IDENTIFICATION
  • INHIBITORY CONTROL
  • PERFORMANCE
  • CHILDREN

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