J10 Changes over a decade of fitness within a Scottish soccer academy and the impact of first team relegation on academy physical profiles


  • Thomas P Craig Robert Gordon University
  • Patrick Maughan Robert Gordon University
  • Dave R Clark Robert Gordon University
  • Michael McArdle The Scottish Football Association
  • Jack W Ritchie Robert Gordon University
  • Donald Reid University of Glasgow




Introduction: academy soccer practitioners have a responsibility to prepare youth players for the demands of first team. The development of physical capabilities to sustain the high intensity locomotor activities that have been reported in elite soccer is essential. Challenges exist monitoring locomotor targets as resource limitations mean that often academies will not have locomotor data, instead relying on physiological testing to assess whether a player is ready for first team transition. Physiological testing results have a direct relationship with locomotor activity. Physical development has been shown over various longitudinal periods with established progression in speed, change of direction, lower body power and endurance in elite Austrian youths, increases in VO2max in an elite regional French academy and in the interval shuttle run test of over 50% in elite Dutch academy. The success of a club’s academy can lead to increased resource allocation however some organisational challenges such as relegation can have a severe financial impact. The initial aim of the present study was to establish whether previously observed changes in physical capacity were observed in a professional Scottish soccer academy over a ten-year period. A further aim was to assess the impact of first team relegation on academy physical profiles considering the resource implications of relegation. Methodology:  a retrospective analysis was completed where Linear Mixed Effect (LME) Models were fitted to explain variation across each measure of physical capacity. Model selection was undertaken with Likelihood Ratio Tests where initial complex models were compared to simpler nested models to arrive at the final model by maximum likelihood. The impact of relegation was assessed by LME models to assess whether physical capacity measures changed post relegation. Ethical approval was granted. Results: 5 m best time reduced by 0.0055 s per year (t = −11.8, p < 0.001), 10 m best time reduced by 0.008 s per year (t = −9.2, p < 0.001), 20 m best time reduced by 0.011 s per year (t = −7.8, p < 0.001).  CMJ increased each year depended on age group with the older cohorts showing greater improvement and the YYIR1 distance increased each year varying across age group.  Performance of aforementioned physical capacity measures significantly reduced with relegation, except 20 m best time (t = −1.4, p = 0.16). Application: reference values within clubs that establish first team requirements will contribute to appropriate transition strategies.  By conducting analyses related to uncontrollable challenges, practitioners can use these results to protect against criticism and withdrawal of resource when physical progression is negatively impacted. 

Author Biography

Thomas P Craig, Robert Gordon University

Presenting author Twitter/X handle: @ThoCra83