An international team of researchers from the University of Madeira and the University of Lisbon carried out a study to improve the performance of young footballers. The project focuses on youngsters between 13 and 16 years old. It found a relationship between balance performance, body composition, and physical fitness.
“We identified a gap in the study of balance performance in young footballers, a decisive ability to improve techniques such as dribbling, passing, and positioning among opponents,” says Cíntia França, a researcher at the Interactive Technologies Institute from the Instituto Superior Técnico.
The researchers found strong relationships between the balance ability of young athletes and the percentage of body fat. The higher this percentage, the worse the performance of athletes in balancing tasks. On the other hand, the strength training and flexibility of the athletes can contribute positively to a greater balance performance.
The research team, therefore, recommends that young athletes’ football coaches promote balance training together with other exercises. “Sports agents should consider including exercises focused on the development of physical fitness, including strength, in the training process. In addition, monitoring body composition, particularly the percentage of body fat, is essential to avoid its negative effect on physical performance,” adds Cíntia França.
Next step: longitudinal studies
To understand the impacts of the proposed methodology, the team has already outlined follow-up plans. “The objective is to follow up with these young soccer players longitudinally. We would need to study their progress in body composition and physical fitness. This way we can understand the effects of long-term training”, concludes the researcher.
This research was carried out within the scope o the Marítimo Training Lab project, which aims to develop a high-performance training center for the Marítimo da Madeira football club. In addition to Portuguese institutions, the study also included the collaboration of researchers from research institutions in Brazil, Switzerland, and Poland.