Data_Sheet_1_Fundamental Motor Skills Mediate the Relationship Between Physical Fitness and Soccer-Specific Motor Skills in Young Soccer Players.pdf

Fundamental motor skills (FMS) are the basic elements of more complex sport-specific skills and should be mastered at the end of early childhood; however, the relationship between FMS and sport-specific skills has not yet been verified in prepubertal soccer players. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the role of FMS in the process of acquiring soccer-specific motor skills (measured using speed dribbling) with regard to physical fitness and biological maturation. Forty male soccer players (11.5 ± 0.3 years of age) at the highest performance level participated in the study. The test of Gross Motor Development – second edition and Unifittest 6–60 were used to assess FMS and physical fitness, respectively. The role of FMS in a complex theoretical model with the relationships between physical fitness, biological maturation and speed dribbling was analyzed by multiple regression path analyses (MRPA). Moderate to strong correlations were found between FMS, physical fitness, and speed dribbling (r = 0.56–0.66). Biological maturation did not appear to be a significant predictor of physical fitness or speed dribbling. The MRPA model using FMS as mediator variable between physical fitness and speed dribbling showed a significant indirect effect (standard estimation = −0.31, p = 0.001; R2 = 0.25). However, the direct correlation between physical fitness and speed dribbling was non-significant. Our results showed that FMS significantly strengthened the influence of physical fitness on the performance of speed dribbling, a soccer-specific motor skill, and thus play an important role in the process of acquiring sport-specific motor skills in prepubertal soccer players. When considering the long-term training process, especially during childhood and before puberty, a wide range of FMS activities should be applied for better and possibly faster acquisition of soccer-specific motor skills.