Accurate talent identification (ID) for aspiring young soccer players into professional club youth development programmes is critical for both club and player. For the club, it is essential to get optimal return on investment (time and financial) in terms of soccer performance and; for the player, it is important that they are embarking upon a career/programme that is appropriate for them. Historically, talent ID has involved a club scout (s) observing young soccer players perform in 2-3 competitive matches to ascertain suitability for enlistment into club programmes. The proposed limitation of such a strategy is that clubs are only getting a snapshot of the youth’s soccer playing potential; no reliable knowledge is obtained on critical components of psychology (attitude, tenacity etc), physiology (fitness, strength, dietary intake etc) and skill of the player that will strongly influence how well a player will develop. To effectively obtain this knowledge we propose the development of a tool that will gather reliable and valid data over a number of years (>8yrs - >16yrs). Importantly, the tool will also be used an effective means for developing players as they progress during their formative years. It will identify key areas of development that aspiring soccer players need to address in order to progress in soccer. Through an existing PhD studentship we have been developing a scientifically rigorous tool (https://www.soccerpdp.com/) quantifying the strengths and weaknesses within each athlete’s soccer game. Essentially, the tool serves to direct athletes to work on the area/s of their game that will be most beneficial for them progressing in soccer.
Moving forward the industry partner for this project (Soccer pdp) would like to further refine the tool encompassing more psychological and nutritional components and would like to facilitate this by funding a 3 year postdoctorial fellow.