Anthropometric profile, selected physical parameters, technical skills and match demands of university-level female soccer players
Female soccer has increased in popularity in recent years. No research exist on the physical and match performance of female soccer players in South Africa, while limited information discussing these components on sub-elite level across the world is available. Certain morphological characteristics seem to be a distinguishing factor between playing positions. Although morphological characteristics are important for sport performance, physical fitness and technical skills are factors that can distinguish players of different standard. More emphasis is placed on high-intensity training programmes of female players to enhance match performance. Sport coaches and conditioning specialist need an understanding of the physical traits of players and the match demands players face to plan training programmes for enhancing match performance. Consequently, the main objectives of this study were firstly to examine if there are position-specific differences in the morphological characteristics of South African sub-elite female soccer players. Secondly, to evaluate the effect of aerobic and anaerobic fatigue on the technical skills performance of sub-elite female soccer players. Thirdly, to assess the internal and external match demands of sub-elite female soccer players within and between matches during a tournament. Selected groups of university-level female soccer players were recruited to complete the physical assessments within a two-week period either before or after a tournament. The global positioning system (GPS) and heart rate (HR) data of the players were recorded during an official soccer tournament. The first objective of the study was achieved by using a quantitative research method through a descriptive design. The players were purposefully selected and representative of players competing on sub-elite level. Data from 101 female players (age: 21.8 ± 2.7 years, standing height: 160 ± 6.8 cm, body mass: 57.1 ± 9.1 kg) were collected with a demographics questionnaire and anthropometric datasheet. Twenty anthropometric sites were measured to determine body composition and somatotype. Body fat percentage (BF%) was 20.8 ± 5.7% and the somatotype indicated a balanced endomorph (4.0−2.4−2.1) body type. Significant (p≤0.05) differences between goalkeepers and the outfield playing positions were noted in morphological features. The outfield playing positions did not differ significantly (p≤0.05) from one another. Goalkeepers were taller, heavier, possessed the highest BF% and showed higher values for all skinfold, breadth, girth and length measurements. Defenders showed the second-highest breadth and girth measurements. Midfielders were the shortest and lightest players, with the lowest BF% and the lowest values in most measurements. Positional groups did not differ significantly (p≤0.05) in somatotype characteristics. Morphological differences therefore exist between different playing positions. In order to fulfil the second objective, a demographic questionnaire and a physical performance and technical skill datasheet were used. Data from 48 South African sub-elite female soccer players (age: 22.0 ± 2.7 years; standing height: 158.9 ± 5.8 cm; body mass: 55.5 ± 8.1 kg) were used for analysis. Players completed the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test before and directly following the execution of an anaerobic repeated sprint ability (RSA) test and an aerobic Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Level 1 (Yo-Yo IR1) test on two consecutive days. Penalty time (32.6%) and total performance time (10.1%) increased significantly (p<0.001) following the Yo-Yo IR1. Penalty time (20.4%) and total performance time (8.5%) also increased following the RSA test. Peak heart rate values of 190 bpm and 186 bpm were recorded following the aerobic and anaerobic fitness tests, respectively. Although aerobic fatigue will influence technical skill performance more than anaerobic fatigue, both forms of fatigue would affect performance negatively. The third objective was achieved through an observational study. Data from 30 sub-elite female soccer players (age: 22.8 ± 2.4 years; standing height: 158.6 ± 4.5 cm; body mass: 54.1 ± 6.1 kg) representing two university teams during a tournament were collected through GPS units sampling at 10 Hz, and equipped with 100 Hz accelerometer. The activity profiles of the starting line-up were recorded during all matches, providing 84 individual match files. Data of players who completed full matches were analysed. Players were categorised according to playing position, namely forwards, midfielders and defenders. Goalkeepers were excluded from the analysis. Each team was monitored for five matches during the course of a week-long tournament. The matches were played on a standardised soccer field and consisted of two 35 minute halves. Comparisons were made based on different GPS-derived variables, including total distance, distances covered in different velocity zones, low-intensity activities (LIA), moderate-intensity activity, high-intensity activities (HIA) and corresponding heart rates, work rate and player load (PL). Differences in match demands within and between matches were assessed using percent difference, effect size and 90% confidence intervals. Midfielders covered the greatest absolute and relative total distances, and achieved the highest LIA and PL per minute of play. Defenders covered significantly (p≤0.05) less relative distance and LIA per minute of play compared to midfielders. Forwards covered the greatest distance at high-intensity (HI), while the greatest percentage of time at high-intensity heart rate was measured among the defenders. Within match comparisons showed that player load decreased significantly (p≤0.05) in the second half (ES: 0.4). Relative distance, LIA and HIA also decreased in the second half with possibly trivial to likely small changes. Small to large differences in variables were observed throughout the tournament. The biggest magnitude of change was seen with a large decrease (ES: -1.2) in relative distance covered between Match 2 and 5. Evidence suggests that accumulated fatigue throughout a multi-day tournament would affect performance negatively.
- Health Sciences