Executive Functions, Physical Abilities, and Their Relationship with Tactical Performance in Young Soccer Players

Daniel Carnevale, Marije Elferink-Gemser, Alberto Filgueiras, Barbara Huijgen, Caique Andrade, Julia Castellano, Davi SiIva, Fabrício Vasconcellos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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While tactical performance in soccer is associated with the players’ and teams’ collective actions in the context of game stimuli, how tactical performance relates to players’ executive functions (EFs) and physical abilities should be examined. In this study, we examined these relationships among 81 Under-15 male soccer players who underwent tactical evaluation (FUT-SAT), EF tests (i.e.,(Stop-Signal Test and Design Fluency Test)), and physical tests (i.e.,(Maturity Offset, Yoyo Endurance Test II, Sargent Jump Test, and Sprint Test)). Multiple linear regression modeling with the stepwise method showed that approximately 48% of overall game tactical performance variance was explained by inhibitory control, biological maturation, and sprint capacity (p =.004; d =.54; r2 =.479), whereas 35% of offensive tactical performance variance was explained by the same dimensions (p =.001; d =.91; r2 =.353). In addition, approximately 28% of defensive tactical performance variance was explained by cognitive flexibility and aerobic resistance (p =.007; d =.39; r2 =.280). These results reflect the combined importance of EFs and physical abilities for tactical performance in young soccer players, suggesting that these abilities may be targets for training when trying to improve young players’ performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1477-1491
Number of pages15
JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Issue number5
Early online date6-Jul-2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2022


  • biological maturation
  • cognition
  • motor profile
  • sports
  • talent development
  • youth

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