An international team of researchers from the University of Madeira and the University of Lisbon (Portugal) conducted a study at the Marítimo Training Lab - the first club of Cristiano Ronaldo - to improve the performance of young footballers. The project focuses on youngsters between 13 and 16 years old and finds a relationship between balance, body composition, and physical fitness.
We identified a gap in the study of balance performance in young footballers, a decisive ability to improve techniques such as dribbling, passing, and positioning among opponents."
Cíntia França, Researcher, Interactive Technologies Institute from the Instituto Superior Técnico
The researchers found strong relationships between the balance ability of young athletes and the percentage of body fat: the higher this percentage, the worse the performance of athletes in balancing tasks. On the other hand, the strength training and flexibility of the athletes contribute positively to superior balance performance.
Therefore, the research team recommends that balance training in football, especially for young athletes, should be promoted together with other exercises. "Sports agents should consider including exercises focused on developing physical fitness and strength in the training process. In addition, monitoring body composition, particularly the percentage of body fat, is essential to avoid its negative effect on physical performance," adds Cíntia França.
To understand the impacts of the proposed methodology, the team has already outlined follow-up plans. "The objective is to follow up with these young soccer players longitudinally, studying their progress in body composition and physical fitness, to understand the effects of long-term training", concludes the researcher.
This research was carried out within the scope of the Marítimo Training Lab project, which aims to develop a high-performance training centre for the Marítimo da Madeira football club. In addition to Portuguese institutions, the study also included the collaboration of researchers from research institutions in Brazil, Switzerland, and Poland.