BACKGROUND: It is less-common for athletes to be assessed on their ability to detect and process implicit sources of information.
AIM: This study aimed to investigate age-group differences in executive functions within youth soccer players, with the inclusion of a new implicit precued choice response time task.
METHOD: Seventy-four male soccer players: U12 (n=15), U13 (n=17), U17 (n=21) and U19 (n=21) representing a representing a youth academy of an elite German Bundesliga club participated in this study. Players conducted a battery of computer-based cognitive function tests: a precued choice response time task (PCRTT), a stop signal reaction time task (SSRT), a multiple-object-tracking task (Helix), and a reactive stress tolerance task (RSTT).
RESULTS: The MANOVAs revealed a multivariate effect of age group on the RSTT (p<0.001, ES=0.38) and the SSRT (p<0.001, ES=0.20). A one-way ANOVA revealed an age group effect for response accuracy in the Helix (p=0.01, ES=0.14). Lastly, a within-subjects effect of congruency on the PCRTT (p<0.001, ES=0.41) and a between-subjects effect of age group (p=0.008, ES=0.15) was observed.
CONCLUSION: The results provided support for including an implicit precueing task, while the overall testing demonstrated that the magnitude of the increase in executive functions between ages was greater across the younger age groups compared to the older age groups.