Match running performance and skill execution improves with age but not the number of disposals in young Australian footballers Academic Article uri icon


  • This study investigated age-related differences in maturity, physical and functional characteristics and playing performance in youth Australian Football (AF). Young male players (n = 156) were recruited from 12 teams across 6 age groups (U10-U15) of a recreational AF club. All players were tested for body size, maturity and fitness. Player performance was assessed during a match in which disposals (kicks and handballs) and their effectiveness were coded from a video recording and match running performance measured using Global Positioning System. Significant main effects (P < 0.01) for age group were observed for age, years to peak height velocity, body mass, height, 20 m sprint, maximal speed over 20 m, vertical jump, 20 m multistage shuttle run, match distance, high-speed running distance, peak speed, number of effective disposals and percentage of effective disposals. Age-related differences in fitness characteristics (speed, lower body power and endurance) appeared to transfer to match running performance. The frequency in which players disposed of the football did not differ between age groups, however the effectiveness of each disposal (i.e., % effective disposals) improved with age. Match statistics, particularly those that evaluate skill execution outcome (i.e., effectiveness), are useful to assess performance and to track player development over time. Differences between age groups, and probably variability within age groups, are strongly associated with chronological age and maturity.

publication date

  • 2017