Player and expertise development in football


Place: NIH


The overall purpose of the project is to identify characteristics which may explain why some players manage to progress to professional football while others do not. Specifically, this thesis focus on the practice engagement characteristics throughout the career of male Norwegian elite youth and senior football players, and how such engagement relates to recommendations arising from prior research. The main research question for the thesis is: How and why does engagement in different sport activities contribute throughout the development of Norwegian male elite football players?


The project has consisted of three parts: The first part of the project sought to provide an overview of available research related to the overall aim, resulting in a review-paper that guided further progression of the project. In the second and third part, we addressed the engagement characteristics and perceived contributions of such engagement of Norwegian elite youth and senior players through retrospective questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, respectively.


The overall findings indicate that those players who progress to a professional status have spent large amounts of time playing and practicing football from early ages and throughout their development, which consequently appear to represent an important prerequisite for obtaining a professional contract. In comparison, non-football activities seem to represent only a minor part of the players’ overall amount of practice engagement. The findings, however, show that progressing to a professional status cannot singularly be explained through the extensive engagement in football: the timing and combination of different football activities, the quality of engagement, and the underlying motivation of such engagement appear to be necessary to take into account. Moreover, it appears that participating in non-football activities is perceived to have relevance for developing football-specific skills, especially those activities which characteristics share similarities with football. Additionally, the non-football activities may have positively affected the sustained commitment to prolonged engagement into football. In combination, the results indicate that it is important to acknowledge that the abovementioned factors can interact and combine into a variety of individual developmental trajectories towards elite level football.

The project is funded by and conducted in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre of Football Excellence.

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