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COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ANTHROPOMETRIC CHARACTERISTICS OF NIGERIAN FEMALE DEFENSIVE AND OFFENSIVE SOCCER PLAYERS IN ABUJA-FCT, NIGERIA
The purpose of this study was to compare the physical fitness and anthropometric characteristics of Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players. To achieve the purpose of this study, we used stratified sampling technique to obtain a representative sample of thirty (30) female defensive players and thirty (30) female offensive players from five female soccer teams participating in National Competition in Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Female defensive players included those playing as goal keeper, right full back, left fullback and centre half back positions whereas female offensive soccer players included those playing in right forward, left forward and centre forward positions, including outside right and outside left. The instruments used were stop watch, whittles, 400 meter running track, calibrated stool, weighing scales, cross bars, horizontal broad wooden blade, etc. Age, height, weight, total arm length and total leg length of these players were recorded using standard, validated and reliable methods to represent anthropometric characteristics. Similarly, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and explosive strength of the lower limbs were determined by administering valid and reliable field tests to represent physical fitness characteristics. The results indicated that (1) female offensive players demonstrated greater flexibility and explosive strength than female defensive players. (2) female defensive soccer players were significantly taller and heavier than the female offensive players, depending on their playing experience. It was recommended that: (1) taller and heavier female soccer players should be selected for defensive positions. (2) female soccer players with height and weight but greater flexibility and explosive strength should be selected for offensive positions in soccer.
1.0 Background of the Study
Football is the most popular sport globally (Witvrouw, Danneels, Asselman, D’Have & Cambier, 2003) and its growing interest has been on the increase in Nigeria. The national team Super Eagle’s ranking has been up and down in Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) currently ranked 46 and third in the continent of Africa in male football. While in the female category both in Africa and globally Nigeria is a force to be reckoned with. The ranking suggests that our playing standards need to be improved in line with three key areas previously reported to be related to successful football performance, namely physical, technical and tactical skills, (Hoff & Helgerud, 2004)
The advent of female football in the continent was through the organisation of African Women’s Cup in 1988 by Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) (Complete Football, 1998). This stirred up the development of female football in the nation, though proper female league did not start until 1990 and by 1991 Nigeria Football Federation organised the first female challenge cup competition for female footballs registered with the federation, (Ayodele, 1992).
There was a rapid growth of female clubs in the country an indication that the country is blessed with potential female players. The swift rise of Nigeria into dominance in the African continental female football, a mecca of female players and a confirmed force to be reckoned with in the world female football. The national senior female team Super Falcon having participated in almost all the FIFA female competitions having won the African Women Cup six times since its inception in 1988.
Historically physical fitness was concerned in a simple term as consisting of strength, endurance, speed agility, coordination and balance in 1950s. But with the passage of time it becomes more complex in computing level of strengths, endurance and flexibility. The present concept of physical fitness emphasizes two broad areas of fitness which includes health-related fitness and skill or performance related fitness. Health related fitness is made up of cardiorespiratory, endurance, muscular endurance, body agility.
Physiological characteristics that have been reported as essential for football players are aerobic fitness, agility, muscle strength, speed, and explosive jumping power, (Polman, Walsh, Bloomfield & Nesti, 2004). While aerobic fitness contributes up to 90% of energy utilization during football matches (McMllian, Helgerud, Macdonard & Hoff, 2005), typically high intensity bouts of sprinting are necessary to score goals. These efforts may be complemented by jumping used by footballers when controlling the ball in the air and to score or defend goals by way of heading. Sprinting accounts for approximately only five per cent of the duration; with each sprint covering up to 30 meters and most efforts not completed in a straight line. Thus, acceleration, speed, and agility are determined by the athletes muscle strength and power (Wisloff, Catagna, Helgerud, Jones & Hoff, 2004) and can be effectively trained through a well-developed and structured program. These key components have been shown to differentiate performance of players independent of their football specific skills such as ball control, dribbling, and tackling.
Success in sports has been associated with specific anthropometric characteristics, body composition and somatotype (Duquet & Carter, 2001). During a soccer match (90 minutes), the player’s movements are characterized by high intensity, short-term actions and pauses of varying length. To be successful in such a team sport, soccer players need an optimal combination of technical, tactical, physical characteristics (e.g. somatotype), and mental motivation (Bangsbo, 1994), among other sports characteristics. Hence, for soccer coaches, managers, sports physiotherapists, and scientists, an in-depth understanding of the determinants of success, such as the specific anthropometric characteristics of players may be important. Some studies showed evidence for position-specific anthropometric characteristics in soccer players (Rienzi, Drust, Reilly, Carter, & Martin, 2000; Gil, Gil, Ruiz, Irazusta & Irazusta, 2007). Goalkeepers are taller than central position players, Tahara, Moji, Tsunawake, Fukwda, Nakayama & Nakagaichi, 2006; Gil et al., 2007). Similar studies on position-specific anthropometric profiles have been reported for Australian football (Young, Newton, Doyle, Chapman, Cormack & Stewart, 2005; Pyne et al., 2006), Gaelic soccer (McIntyre, 2005; McIntyre & Hall, 2005) and American football (McGee & Burkett, 2003; Garstecki, Latin, & Cuppett, 2004).
It is well-known fact that there is a growing interest in improving the performance of players (Popovic, Bjelica, Petkovic & Muratovic, 2012) as well as identifying talent, strengths and weaknesses, assigning player positions and helping in the design of optimal training programmes all over the world. (Hadzic, Bjelica, & Popovic, 2012) However, in many places much more time is spent on increasing the physical fitness of athletes without taking into consideration the assessment of their body composition and their nutritional status (Triki, Rebaih, Abroug, Masmoudi, Fellmann, Zour & Tabka, 2012). Contemporary sport science is designed to improve the performance of players and to discover talents as precisely as possible. However, this process is very demanding, as various games/sport events require different body types to achieve maximum performance. Therefore, understanding the body composition of players, and then assigning corresponding competitive weights for the athletes, has been done for decades and is considered an essential part of the total management process. It is widely addressed in the scientific literature that adequate profiles are primarily important in various sports, mostly due to the reason that absolute size contributes a significant percentage of total variance associated with athletic success (Carvajal, Betancourt, Leon, Deturnel, Martins, Echeverria, Eugenia & Serviat, 2012). Therefore, scientists all over the world are looking for a standard formula that can improve the performance of players and discover talents as efficiently as possible.
The anthropometrical characteristics and body compositions of athletes have been the subject of many investigations as many researchers have hypothesized that practicing athletes might be expected to exhibit structural and functional characteristics that are specifically favourable for their specific sport (Singh, Singh &Singh 2010, Matic, & Bjelica, 2013). Since each sport has its own specific demands, every athlete should have specific anthropometrical characteristics and body composition figures for his or her own sports discipline. Some sports, such as martial arts, require much more knowledge regarding this topic than others, because of its weight limits. However, this fact does not decrease the need to investigate the anthropometrical characteristics and body composition numbers of soccer and basketball players, as adequate body composition and body mass figures, among other factors, contribute to optimal exercise routines and performance (Massuça & Fragoso, 2011). According to these two authors, body mass can influence an athlete’s speed, endurance, and power, whereas body composition can affect strength and agility. In other words, successful participation in both soccer and basketball games, next to the high level of technical and tactical skills, also requires from each athlete suitable anthropometrical characteristics and body composition.
This study aims to examine this in respect of Nigerian female soccer player. Hence, many previous studies have evaluated ideal anthropometric profiles of successful soccer player (Milanovic, Vuleta & Sisic, 2012; Reilly et al., 2000; Veale, 2010) as well as basketball player (Gualdi-Russo & Zaccagni, 2001; Bayios, Bergeles, Apostolidis, Noutsos & Koskolou, 2006) that provides insight into the requirements for competing in the zenith of their particular sports. Indeed, soccer is a team sport that is played in an outdoor field and requires a high standard of preparation through the development of physical performance skills, as well as tactical and technical expertise, in order to complete for 90 minutes of competitive play.
In football, physical, physiological and anthropometrics characteristics such height, weight, body mass, maximal oxygen uptake etc play important role in providing district advantage of specific playing position. According to Triki and his collaborators, soccer training is mainly based on movement implementing the endurance qualities consisting of moderate activity alternating with periods of intermittent high intensity, leading to a significant production of metabolic heat, mostly due to the reason that the average work intensity during a soccer match is usually about 75–90% of maximum heart rate, respectively 70–85% of VO2max (Rexhepi
& Brestovci, 2010b). Hence, the purpose of this study was to describe anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness of Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer.
Several studies have reported on anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics of athletes from different sports. The findings of most of these studies indicate significant differences in terms of anthropometric and physical fitness components, like speed, explosive strength, aerobic power, agility and flexibility not only between different athletic groups, but also between athletes with different positional roles in different sports (Tsolakis and Vagenas, 2010). On the contrary, recent studies have shown insignificant differences in vertical jump and velocity of movement between highly skilled and less skilled rugby players (Gabbet, 2009), in anthropometric data, strength and vertical jump, although winners tended to be more powerful in bench press and squat exercises (Roschel, Batista, Bamoso, Laturco, Ugrinowtsch, Trieoli, Franchini, 2009).
The importance of acquiring sports specific skills, developing anthropometric and physical fitness characteristics and performance in different sports is vital to understand athletic performance, as the importance of anthropometric and physical fitness qualities is not always measured in planning to improve performance (Gabbet, Georgieff & Domrow, 2007).
In this regard, studies have shown that performance of elite athletes could not be differentiated from that of novice athletes and athletes with different positional roles on the basis of physical fitness components alone. Recent studies found significant differences in ball velocity between first and second division handball players (Bayios, Anastasopoulus, Svoudus & Bordolos, 2007). Gabbett (2009, reported insignificant differences in anthropometric and physical fitness qualities among individual playing positions in junior rugby league players, although props were taller, heavier and lower in speed, agility and maximal oxygen uptake compared to other positional playing groups. These studies thus suggest that certain anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness levels must be taken into consideration while designing programmes to enhance performance in any sports. For example, body weight, height, body composition, limb length, speed, flexibility, agility and cardio-respiratory endurance are essential requirements for better performance in high intensity, intermittent sports like football (Janessens, Van Rentergham & Vrigen, 2004). In addition, this physical fitness qualities and anthropometric qualities seem to defer among athletes playing in different positions in team sports. Although, several studies have been reported from other countries as stated earlier on the differences among positional players of different team sports in their anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness qualities, this investigator has not come across any studies on the differences any positional players in team sports in Nigeria. This is specially so in football, which is the most popular sport in Nigeria. Although coaches as well as players are very much aware that certain body types, anthropometric characteristic and physical fitness qualities are more important for some positional players, like defense players, than other positional players, like offensive players. No research evidence has been reported to support these common believes in Nigeria. This is especially so in the case of female football players. This study was therefore conducted to compare anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness of Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. This game consists of two equal periods of 45 minutes, with a 15 minutes interval. There are 11 players from each team on the field. The players may be divided into four groups, which include goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. For the purpose of this study, goalkeepers and defenders are considered as defensive players, while midfielders and forwards are considered as offensive players. During the game, players are required to perform activities involving jogging, running forward and backward, kicking, turning, heading and throw-in. Several anthropometric characteristics, like body stature, weight, leg length and stride length, and fitness qualities, like speed, flexibility, endurance and strength are very important for high performance in soccer.
Fitness is important at all levels of the game, while it is being essential for top level players, it is beneficial for beginners who will improve their performances through good standards of fitness. Soccer is one of those rare games which demands not only speed but also agility,
strength, power, flexibility and endurance. It is characterized by short sprints, rapid acceleration or deceleration, turning, jumping, kicking, and tackling, (Bangsbo & Michalsik 2002).
Soccer is a high intensive but intermittent sport. Intense bursts of activity last less than 15 seconds each. These are interspersed with periods of less intense activity (Svensson & Drust, 2005). Thus, the game poses several physical and physiological demands on different components of physical fitness and metabolic pathways (Plateinou & Geladas, 2006). Very few studies on female soccer players have been reported on the anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness of soccer players. (Reilly et al; 2000).
Taiana et al (1993), have reported that with maximal strength of lower limbs of Soccer players’ speed in kicking performance was increased. Though it is widely accepted that speed and accuracy in kicking for goal shooting and passing are depend upon explosive strength, which is also known as power of lower extremities. Bjoern Ekblom in his book Football (Soccer) has reported that Strength in the lower limbs is of obvious concern in football, the Quadriceps, hamstrings and triceps groups must generate high forces for jumping, kicking, tackling, turning, and changing pace. It is evident from the review of literature that the performance in football is dependent on the skills, which is dependent on the physical fitness abilities of the players.
Some of these studies compared physical fitness profiles of male and female soccer players (Helgerud et al; 2002). This investigator has not come across any study on anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness levels of female soccer players with different positional roles in Nigeria. It was therefore the purpose of this study to compare the anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness levels of Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players.
1.2 Research Questions
The study was to answer the following specific research questions.
- Do Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players differ in their anthropometric characteristics?
- Do Nigerian female soccer offensive and defensive players differ in their physical fitness components?
1.3 Basic Assumptions
For the purpose of this study, the following assumptions were made.
- Anthropometric characteristics significantly suggest individuals for performance of specific tasks.
- Physical fitness is a necessary requirement for successful performance of different movements in soccer.
- There are individual differences in anthropometric characteristics of female soccer players.
- There are individual differences in physical fitness of female soccer players.
On the basis of the research questions, the following hypotheses were made for the purpose of the study.
There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness performance.
- There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their stature, body weight, leg and arm lengths.
- There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their cardio respiratory endurance and muscular strength.
- There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their muscular strength
- There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their flexibility.
- There are no significant differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in their lower limb explosive strength.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study is justified on the following basis.
- Certain anthropometric characteristics predispose individuals for performance in certain tasks. Although anthropometric characteristics of male soccer players have been reported in previous studies, no studies seem to have been conducted on the anthropometric characteristics of female soccer players, especially Nigerian soccer players. The results of this study would reveal the anthropometric characteristics of Nigerian female soccer players, which would be helpful in their selection and training.
- Several studies have been reported on the differences among players of different positional roles in such sports like handball, rugby, water polo, swimming and fencing. Similar studies on female soccer players have not been available. The findings of the study would show the differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players in the selected anthropometric characteristics, which would help in the selection and training of female soccer players for defensive and offensive positions.
- Several studies have shown that speed, cardio-respiratory endurance and muscular strength and endurance are very necessary for performance in team sports, like handball, rugby and football. Although, a few studies have shown the importance of these components of physical fitness for performance among male soccer players, no similar studies have been available on female soccer players. The results of this study would reveal the standards of Nigerian female soccer players in there components of physical fitness, which would be helpful in their selection and training.
- Lower limb explosive strength and flexibility are essential requirements for performance in different sports. The level of female soccer players in these components of physical fitness is not well established. The results of this study would show the level of Nigerian female soccer players in these components of physical fitness which may be used in selection.
- The standards of female soccer players in their lower limb explosive straight and flexibility vary according to positions they play. This view, however, has not been verified by any scientific evidence. The findings of this study would reveal the direction and magnitude of differences between Nigerian female defensive and offensive soccer players, which would be helpful in their selection and training for different positions.
- Findings from this study will add to the existing data in the area of exercise and sports science.
The importance of the specific physical fitness profile of different playing positions is already recognized in team sports (Abdelkrim, Chaouachi, Chamari, Chtara & Castagna, 2010; Markovic & Mikulic, 2011; Pyne, Gardner, Sheehan & Hopkins, 2006), but such studies are evidently scarce in female soccer players. Therefore, the results of the specific physical fitness tests we presented in this study are hardly comparable to previous findings.
1.6 Delimitation of the study
This study is delimited to the following;
- This investigation was only on anthropometric characteristics and physical fitness level of Nigerian female soccer player in defensive and offensive roles.
- All the subjects were female soccer players of clubs participating in Federal Capital Territory female soccer league, Abuja.
- Anthropometric measurements included stature, body weight, leg and arm lengths. Physical fitness components included cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, lower limb explosive power and flexibility.
1.7 Limitation of the study
This study was limited in the following respects which would be considered while interpreting the results. Intra and inter tester variability had been reported in the measurement of anthropometric characteristics. To minimize this variability, anthropometric measurements were taken only after all the testers produced evidence of reporting the same measurements within acceptable limit (0.02 millimeters).
As most of the equipment was not available to carry out the measurements, the variables in this study were measured by standard field tests. These tests were used in previous study.