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Decision making in professional soccer: From match-play to training

Whelan, J (2022) Decision making in professional soccer: From match-play to training. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The aims in the current programme of research were to assess and analyse the perceptual-cognitive load of professional soccer players during match-play, training and coaching. In Chapter 2, an attempt was made to quantify and analyse the frequency, type and success of decisions executed as actions in professional soccer players during professional soccer matches in the English Premier League (EPL), as well as investigating the effect of positional role, time and phase of play. In Chapter 3, an attempt was made to examine the types of practice activities that coaches have youth soccer players engage in England to assess their opportunities for decision making. Additionally, practice specificity in relation to match-play was measured including; type of pitch surface, directional orientation and the size of the practice area used. Finally, Chapter 4 attempted to examine the effectiveness of a typical coaching course in changing coach behaviour related to designing practice so as to increase player decision making during that activity and, subsequently, player skill acquisition and transfer to match-play. In Chapter 2, soccer players executed 2,103 (SD = 149) actions per match, averaging 21.8 (SD = 1.5) actions per minute. They had 60 (SD = 20) ball possessions per match, of which 75% were successfully executed. More actions were executed in the first half (22.3 actions per minute (SD = 1.7)) compared to the second half (21.1 actions per minute (SD = 1.9)). In Chapter 3, the coaching sessions contained 58.7 (SD = 19.7%) of decision-making activity, 20.5 (SD = 18.5%) that was not, and 20.8 (SD = 7.4%) of transition between activities. Greater amounts of decision-making activity were found in child compared with adolescent teams. 96 out of 108 sessions (89%) were performed on artificial surfaces, whereas 12 out of 108 sessions (11%) were on natural grass. 39 out of 108 sessions (36%) were practiced in a quarter of the pitch, 44 out of 108 sessions (41%) were practiced in half of the pitch, with 25 out of 108 sessions (23%) practiced on a full pitch. In Chapter 4, decision-making activity significantly increased by 18% after compared to before the course, whereas non-decision-making activity significantly decreased by 10%. Coaches cited reasons for this change as their participation on the course, making their training sessions more game-realistic, attempting to develop the decision making of their players, and external reasons, such as the club curriculum. Game footage was analysed for the amount of visual search and success of decision making showing significantly more of these skills in the games after, compared to before the course. The course appears to have led to the coaches increasing the amount of decision making activity they used in their sessions. Across the same time period, the visual scanning and decision making of the players improved significantly. Findings have implications for theory and practice, extending research in the area of perceptual-cognitive expertise and overcoming some of the limitations with previous research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Decision making; Soccer
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports > GV711 Coaching
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2022 08:54
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2022 12:51
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00017017
Supervisors: McRobert, Allistair, Ford, Paul and Causer, Joe
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17017
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