Psychological factors may counterbalance physical disadvantage of late maturation among African junior soccer players
Biological growth and maturation influence the selection of young athletes to teams as early developers (EDs) tend to be selected above average developers (ADs) and late developers (LDs), due to their size, speed and power advantage. The aim was to determine differences in the sport psychological skill levels of African junior soccer players of different maturation levels. Male football players (N = 149) with a mean age of 16.24 ± 1.10 years participated in this study. Based on a synthesis of previous research a biological maturation questionnaire was used to classify the participants as EDs (n = 27), ADs (n = 77), and LDs (n = 45). The Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 was used to measure their sport psychological skills. The LDs had significantly higher coping with adversity (p = .032, d = 0.35), as well as goal setting and mental preparation (p = .014, d = 0.76) scores than the EDs. Psychological factors could potentially have counterbalanced some of the physical disadvantages of late maturation. Coaches, selectors and talent scouts should be careful not to exclude later maturing soccer players from talent development programmes.
Keywords: Football; Growth; Sport Psychology; Talent development.