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The goal for training is to help players be best prepared for competing. It is about designing situations that simulate what may happen in the game, allowing players to confront what they will later experience in a match. Researchers and coaches try to find out what are the most demanding competition scenarios within a game. If it can be quantified, then the football players preparation can be better guided.
A recent research1 has studied the difference in the maximum demand scenarios between the first and the second half in football considering the different specific positions of the players. The study, published in the Biology of Sports magazine in 2019, was based on the analysis of 23 professional football players belonging to the reserve team (age: 20,8 ± 1,8 years, weight: 70.5 ± 6.7 kg and height: 1,78 ± 0,67 m) during 37 competition games in the 2016/17 season. The players were grouped according to their specific position. Center Back (CD; n=3, 49 records), Fullbacks (DL; n= 5, 65 records), Midfielders (MC, n=3, 44 records), Attacking Midfielders (MO, n=5, 48 records) and Forwards (D, n=7, 59 records). The activity of the players was tracked using a portable 10 Hz GPS device. The maximum demand scenarios were analyzed during 5 different time periods (1, 3, 5, 10 minutes and each half of the game) measuring the distance covered (m.min-1), the maximum metabolic distance (m.min-1) and the average metabolic power (W.Kg-1).
The results show that there are no significant differences in the maximum demand scenarios between the first and second halves when short time periods are compared between them (1,3 and 5 minutes). However, when the 10 and 45 minute periods are compared, the distance covered, the metabolic distance, and the average metabolic power are reduced by 6.4% and 8.9%, 7.0% and 9.0% and 8.4% and 13.5%, respectively. Besides, the CDs are the players that show a greater loss of performance when the two halves of the game are compared. For the rest of the positions, no significant differences were found.
These results can help design training situations capable of simulating better the demands that competition requires. The quantification of the training load to understimulate or overstimulate the exercises based on the needs of the preparation is an important advance to improve the preparation of the players. It seems necessary to highlight some additional questions. Maybe we should not associate the apparent loss of performance in the game with strictly physical aspects. We know that the athlete is made up by a series of hypercomplex structures that relate with each other in an interactive and retroactive way. Apart from conditional support, there are other structures that explain individual performance: emotions, desire, interpersonal relationships, etc. It might be necessary to incorporate the perception that players themselves have of the competition scenarios. We already know that, for example, the perception of self-efficacy (i.e., the confidence we have in our abilities to achieve a goal) has a lot to do with our interpretation of difficulty or demand of a certain situation. Other variables such as the score, playing at home or away, or playing against a strong or weak rival can modulate the demand of these competition scenarios. In a sport where the ability to identify what to do in each moment and self-organize to come up with the most appropriate way to solve a given situation successfully, it seems necessary to take into account the vision of the players.
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Casamichana D, Castellano J, Gómez Díaz A, Gabbett TJ, Martín-García A. The most demanding passages of play in football competition: a comparison between halves. Biology of Sport. 2019; 36(3):233–240.
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