DOI: 10.1177/2325967119832399; PMCID: PMC6437330
© The Author(s) 2019.
Background: Soccer is an increasingly popular sport for children and adolescents in the United States. Little is known about participation patterns related to sport specialization.
Purpose: To investigate soccer participation levels and sport specialization characteristics among youth soccer athletes.
Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Adolescent athletes aged between 12 and 18 years completed an online survey addressing participant demographics, sports and soccer participation history, and level of specialization. Descriptive analyses characterized participation, while chi-square and Kruskal-Wallis tests assessed the influence of specialization, sex, and grade on survey variables.
Results: Overall, 83.7% of 746 respondents participated in an organized soccer league outside of school, and 37% played in multiple leagues concurrently. Nearly three-quarters of respondents trained in soccer more than 8 months of the year, with those who participated in club soccer being more likely to train more than 8 months of the year. More respondents were classified as high specialization (37.5%), followed by moderate (35.6%) and low (28.6%) specialization. No differences between sexes were noted for level of specialization or quitting other sports to specialize in soccer, but male athletes were more likely to train more than 8 months per year compared with female athletes. Respondents in older grades (9th-10th and 11th-12th grades) were more likely to be highly specialized and quit other sports to focus on soccer. No differences between grade levels were found among respondents training more than 8 months per year.
Conclusion: The study findings suggest that many youth soccer athletes participated in multiple teams or leagues at the same time and trained more than 8 months of the year. Characteristics including participation on a club team, level of specialization, and male sex were associated with a greater likelihood of exceeding the 8-month training recommendation.
Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
American development model; long-term athlete development model; overtraining; sport sampling
McLeod, T., Israel, M., Christino, M. A., Chung, J. S., McKay, S. D., Lang, P. J., Bell, D. R., Chan, C. M., Crepeau, A., Davis, E., Fletcher, A. L., Laniak, J., McCaffrey, K., Pacicca, D. M., Riederer, M., Rizzone, K., Rush, J. K., Zaslow, T. Sport Participation and Specialization Characteristics Among Pediatric Soccer Athletes Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine 7, (2019).