Practice and play in the development of German top level professional football players

Practice and play in the development of German top level professional football players (European Journal of Sports Science 2014, Hornig et al, 2014).


A study of top-level German players (including national team players) in comparison with their amateur counterparts suggested that an interaction of playful and organised experiences had positive impact on the development of those that reached elite level.

Those that reached elite level “mostly combined moderate volumes of instructed exercise with extensive forms of game play where play shifted in large parts from non-organised play and other game sports in childhood/youth towards organised in-club play in adulthood” (Hornig et al, 2014).

Senior top level footballers

  1. Early engagement
  2. Moderate volumes of organised football training
  3. Extensive game-play within organised in-club practice/training
  4. A lot of non-organised leisure football-play during childhood and youth
  5. In many cases participation in other sports

National team players specialised later and played more spontaneous football in childhood. Played other sports in adolescence and more organized football only in adulthood compared to amateurs

This research corresponds with other research that stated that world class athletes did not differ from national class athletes in more sport-specific practice/training but in more variable involvements (Carlsson,1988,Gullich, 2014, Gullich and Emrich, 2014, Johnson 2006; VanRossum,2000)

Read the full report here


One thought on “Practice and play in the development of German top level professional football players

  1. […] It seems that this “start them early” campaign is driven by the idea that performance is a function of training time and that talent has all to do with practice. Yes, the flawed 10,000 hour’s theory (popularised in the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers) has raised its ugly head again. We know that practice is necessary but when should we practice the most? It is worth taking a look at Practice and Play in the Development of German top level Professional Football Players. See link here. […]

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