Selected Cognitive Abilities in Elite Youth Soccer Players

Open access


The identification of talent in soccer is critical to various programs. Although many research findings have been presented, there have been only a few attempts to assess their validity. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between talent and achievement variables in the Vienna Test System. The participants were 91 Czech soccer players, representing four youth soccer teams, who were born in the year 2000. These boys were divided into two groups according to their coaches’ assessments using a TALENT questionnaire. A two-factor model (component 1: “kinetic finesse”; component 2: “mental strength”) was designed to interpret the responses of the coaches on the questionnaire. The Vienna Test System was used to determine the level of players’ cognitive abilities. In total, the subjects performed seven tests in the following order: Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM), a reaction test (RT), a determination test (DT), a visual pursuit test (LVT), a Corsi Block-Tapping Test (CORSI), a time/movement anticipation test (ZBA), and a peripheral perception test (PP). To analyze the relationship between talent and achievement variables within the Vienna Test System, correlation analyses were performed. The results revealed that the talented group attained significantly better results on only 1 of the 16 variables, which was ZBA2: movement anticipation - deviation of movement median (r = .217, p = .019). A comparison of the two talent components showed that component 1 (“kinetic finesse”) was a more significant factor than component 2 (“mental strength”). Although we observed statistically significant correlations, their actual significance remains questionable; thus, further research is required.

Abernethy B, Neal RJ, Koning P. Visual-Perceptual and cognitive differences between expert, intermediate and novice snooker players. Appl Cognitive Psych, 1994; 8: 185-211

Christensen MK. “An eye for talent”: Talent identification and the “practical sense” of top-level soccer coaches. Sociol Sport J, 2009; 26: 365-382

Ericsson KA, Krampe RTh, Tesch-Römer C. The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychol Rev, 1993; 100: 363-406

Goldsmith W. Top ten talent I.D. Tips for high performance sport - the T.O.P. approach. Available at:; accessed on 01.05.2015

Gonaus Ch, Müller E. Using physiological data to predict future career progression in 14- to 17-year-old Austrian soccer academy players. J Sport Sci, 2012; 30(15): 1673-1682

Gonçalves CEB, Rama LML, Figueiredo AB. Talent identification and specialization in sport: An overview of some unanswered questions. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 2012; 7: 390-393

Helsen WF, Baker J, Michiels S, Schorer J, van Winckel J, Williams AM. The relative effect in European professional soccer: Did ten years of research make any difference? J Sport Sci, 2012; 30(15): 1665-1671

Huijgen BCH, Elferink-Gemser MT, Lemmink KAPM, Visscher CH. Multidimensional performance characteristics in selected and deselected talented soccer players. Eur J Sport Sci, 2014; 14 (1): 2-10

Janelle ChM, Hillman ChH. Expert performance in sport: current perspectives and critical issues in Starkes J, Ericsson K. Expert performance in sports: advances in research on sport expertise. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 19-49; 2003

Gierczuk D, Ljach W. Evaluating the coordination of motor abilities in Greco-roman wrestlers by computer testing. Hum Movement, 2012; 13(4): 323 - 329

Ljach V, Witkowski Z, Gutnik B, Samovarov A, Nash D. Toward effective forecast of professionally important sensorimotor cognitive abilities of young soccer players. Percept Motor Skill, 2012; 114(2): 485-506

Loffing F, Hagemann N. Skill differences in visual anticipation of type of throw in team-handball penalties. Psychol Sport Exerc, 2014; 15: 260-267

McPherson SL. The development of sport expertise - mapping the tactical domain. Quest, 1994; 46: 223-240

Reilly T, Williams AM, Nevill A, Franks A. A multidisciplinary approach to talent identification in soccer. J Sport Sci, 2000; 18(9): 668-676

Roca A, Williams AM, Ford PR. Developmental activities and the acquisition of superior anticipation and decision making in soccer players. J Sport Sci, 2012; 30(15): 1643-1652

Roca A, Ford PR, McRobert AP, Williams AM. Perceptual-cognitive skills and their interaction as a function of task constraints in soccer. J Sport Exercise Psy, 2013; 35: 144-155

Ryu D, Kim S, Abernethy B, Mann DL. Guiding attention aids the acquisition of anticipatory skill in novice soccer goalkeepers. Res Q Exercise Sport, 2013; 84: 252-262

Schuhfried G. Sport psychology. Sport test battery for diagnostics and training. Mödling: Dr. Schuhfried; 2001

Sowden PT, Davies IR, Roling P. Perceptual learning of the detection of features in X-ray images: a functional role for improvements in adults´ visual sensitivity? J Exp Psychol Human, 2000; 26(1): 379-390

Ste-Marie DM, Law B, Rymal AM, O J, Hall C, McCullagh P. Observation interventions for motor skill learning and performance: an applied model for the use of observation. Int Rev Sport Exerc Psychol, 2012; 5(2): 145-176

Unnithan V, White J, Georgiou A, Iga J, Drust B. Talent identification in youth soccer. J Sport Sci, 2012; 30(15): 1719-1726

Vaeyens R, Lenoir M, Williams AM, Philippaerts RM. Talent identification and development programmes in sport. Sports Med, 2008; 38(9): 370-376

Vandendriessche JB, Vaeyens R, Vandorpe B, Lenoir M, Lefevre J, Philippaerts RM. Biological maturation, morphology, fitness, and motor coordination as part of a selection strategy in the search for international youth soccer players (age 15-16 years). J Sport Sci, 2012; 30(15): 1695-1703

Vickers J. Perception, cognition, and decision training: the quiet eye in action. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2-10; 2007

Vila-Maldonado S, Abellán J, Sáez-Gallego NM, García-López LM, Contreras OR. Decision-making and visual perception skills in youth volleyball players and non-players. J Sport Health Res, 2014; 6(3):265-276

Whiteside A, Parker G, Snodgrass R. A review of selected tests from Vienna Test System. Selection and Development Review, 2003; 19(4): 7-11

Williams AM. Perceptual skill in soccer: Implications for talent identification and development. J Sport Sci, 2000; 18(9): 737-750

Williams AM, Reilly T. Talent identification and development in soccer. J Sport Sci, 2000; 18(9): 657-667

Witkowski Z, Gargula L, Ljach W. Factor structure of technical and coordination potential of soccer players aged 15-18. J Hum Kinet, 2006; 15: 83-96

Journal of Human Kinetics

The Journal of Academy of Physical Education in Katowice

Journal Information

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.174
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.634

CiteScore 2017: 1.31

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.516
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.906

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 273 227 21
PDF Downloads 128 114 9