This study examined the maintenance of passing performance following soccer-specific high-intensity intermittent exercise in elite (n = 9) and subelite (n = 11) Western Australian female soccer players (19.5 [2.5] y).
A total of 20 participants completed the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test (LSPT) prior to, during, and following 90 minutes of a modified, female-specific, individualized exercise protocol (Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test [LIST]) to simulate 2 halves of a soccer match. Performance in the LSPT was calculated by adding “raw time” to the accumulated “penalty time” for each test.
Elite players recorded greater distances (t58 = 4.671, P < .001, effect size [ES] = 1.21) and higher derived VO2max values (t58 = 4.715, P < .001, ES = 1.20) for the LIST exercise protocol over the subelite players. The total performance times for each LSPT were longer in the subelites in comparison with the elites, with a very large ES difference seen in post-LIST1 (t18 = -6.64, P < .001, ES = 2.99) and post-LIST2 (t18 = -9.143, P < .001, ES = 4.12). No between-groups differences were identified for "raw time" at any time point. Hence, all reported LSPT performance differences are attributed to "penalty time."
These data suggest that elite players can sustain their passing performance more efficiently throughout match play that can subelite female soccer players. These findings may contribute to future talent-identification testing by helping to distinguish between elite- and subelite-level players through sustained passing performance. Coaches may also use this information to better inform best-practice training methods through modification of male soccer-specific high-intensity intermittent exercise to a female cohort.