Testing football skills

Skill seems to be a very broad term that describes the application of cognitive, perceptual or motor skill (or everything at the same time) (3) - see references below.

Those three components are more or less evident throughout football performance and therefore skills were described as open or closed skills (7).


Both type of skills seemed to be present in football, however while closed skill (such as a free kick) are evident in football, it seems that the execution of skills in a dynamic context are more important and therefore mainly open skills are performed in football (7).

“Skill can be seen as selecting and performing a learned technique as determined by the demands of the situation” (1) and therefore involves decision making and/or (a possible) fatigue state of the player.

With those information in mind, it seems plausible why testing for football skills and the application of those results seems to be highly debatable (as the “true” skill depends on cognitive, perceptual and/or motor skills and fatigue).

However, as there has been multiple publications regarding testing football skills we want to elaborate on why, what and when should be tested?



Why testing for skills in football?

Testing for skills in football can have following purposes:


  • Talent identification/discrimination
  • Measuring pre- and post-intervention
  • Measuring individual strength and weaknesses



What skills should be tested in football?

As mentioned already, cognitive, perceptual and/or motor skills are important in football and several tests are present to test for one, two or all of the three (1).


Typical motor tests, included heading (11), juggling (5, 11, 15), wall-volley (9, 10, 15), dribbling (6, 8, 10, 14), shooting (2, 10, 11), passing (2, 4, 11, 12), or multi faceted tests (13, 16) which combined multiple tests.


Interestingly, cognition was also tested whilst performing a football specific task (dribbling a ball) in female youth football players (15).



When should coaches test for skills?
As mentioned earlier, testing for skills might be an important aspect in talent identification therefore appropriate between the ages 9-14 (or whenever coaches feel the importance of talent identification).



1. Ali, A. Measuring soccer skill performance: a review. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports.: 1-14, 2011.

2. Ali, A., Williams, C., Hulse, M., Strudwick, A., Reddin, J., Howarth, L., Eldred, J., Hirst, M., and

McGregor, S. Reliability and validity of two tests of soccer skill. J Sports Sci 25: 1461-1470, 2007.


3. Bate, D. Soccer skills practice, in: Science and soccer. Reilly, T., ed. London: E & FN Spon, 1996, pp


4. Haaland, E. and Hoff, J. Non-dominant leg training improves the bilateral motor performance of soccer

players. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports. 13: 179-184, 2003.

5. Hoare, D.G. and Warr, C.R. Talent identification and women's soccer: an Australian experience. J Sports

Sci 18: 751-758, 2000.

6. Huijgen, B.C., Elferink-Gemser, M.T., Post, W.J., and Visscher, C. Soccer skill development in

professionals. Int. J. Sports. Med. 30: 585-591, 2009.

7. Knapp, B. Skill in sport: The attainment of proficiency. London: Routledge, 1977.

8. McGregor, S.J., Nicholas, C.W., Lakomy, H.K., and Williams, C. The influence of intermittent

high-intensity shuttle running and fluid ingestion on the performance of a soccer skill. J Sports Sci 17: 895-903, 1999.


9. McMorris, T., Gibbs, C., Palmer, J., Payne, A., and Torpey, N. Exercise and performance of a motor

skill. Res Suppl Exeter 15, 1994.

10. Reilly, T. and Holmes, M. A preliminary analysis of selected soccer skills. Phys Ed Rev 6: 64-71, 1983.

11. Rosch, D., Hodgson, R., Peterson, T.L., Graf-Baumann, T., Junge, A., Chomiak, J., and Dvorak, J.

Assessment and evaluation of football performance. Am. J. Sports. Med. 28: S29-39, 2000.

12. Rostgaard, T., Iaia, F.M., Simonsen, D.S., and Bangsbo, J. A test to evaluate the physical impact on

technical performance in soccer. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 22: 283-292, 2008.

13. Rumpf, M.C. and Cronin, J.B. Does skill assessment support national selection process, in: World

Congress on Science & Football. Osake, 2011.

14. Smith, M.D. and Chamberlin, C.J. Effect of adding cognitively demanding tasks on soccer skill

performance. Percept. Mot. Skills. 75: 955-961, 1992.

15. Vanderford, M.L., Meyers, M.C., Skelly, W.A., Stewart, C.C., and Hamilton, K.L. Physiological and sport

specific skill response of olympic youth soccer athletes. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 18: 334-342, 2004.

16. Zelenka, V., Seliger, V., and Ondrej, O. Specific function testing of young football players. J. Sports.

Med. Phys. Fitness. 7: 143-147, 1967.

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