September 22, 2020In Calcio, Metodologia5 Minutes

The studies concerning the analysis of the game of football tell us about situations that change with a very high frequency, approximately every three to five seconds, for a thousand or more times in total, during a match. The player is therefore required to adapt and choose the right action to play at that particular moment. Among the many possible alternatives, the player must recognize the best solution, navigating the uncertainty of the complexity of the game.
For this to be possible, players need to be trained to be familiar with complexity. Training will therefore have to recreate an environment suitable for training players, in which there is therefore an objective to be achieved with the help of teammates, avoiding the intervention of opponents. The environment that we are going to propose will have to stimulate the perception of the relevant information which will have to be quickly selected in the “chaos” of the action, in order to be able to make the most effective decision to resolve the situation.

Based on this premise, decision-making must therefore be considered a central aspect of training, despite the fact that until now priority has been given to technique, the codification of certain plays and the constant and obsessive repetition of gestures and actions. So everything is wrong? Is there a way to help players approach racing situations more effectively?

Let’s try starting from an interesting consideration by J. Lewis Gaddis in his book “Strategy Lessons”. Gaddis defines first-rate intelligence as the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. The example he uses to clarify this concept is very simple: a compass shows you the north of where you are, but it doesn’t give you any advice on the swamps, deserts and cliffs you will encounter along the way. If, in search of your destination, you proceed forward, regardless of obstacles and all you achieve is drowning in a swamp…, what’s the point of knowing where the north is?
He goes on to explain that the simultaneous presence of opposing thoughts in our mind is normal. The psychologist Kahneman attributes this ability to an unconscious use of two ways of thinking. “Fast” thinking is intuitive, impulsive and often conditioned by emotions. It is resolved, when necessary, in an immediate action: it is what we do to avoid crashing into something or to prevent something from crashing into us. “Slow” thinking is intentional, directed, and mostly logical. It doesn’t necessarily have to result in an action: it’s the way we learn to know.
Sport, and team games in particular, are the typical example in which it is necessary to combine the apparently opposite principles of planning and improvisation.
In fact, a coach teaches the basics, strengthens morale, imposes discipline, encourages collaboration, shows how to fail and how to get back up after a failure. Once the game has started, however, the players will have to fend for themselves. However, they will be better thanks to the training they will have received.
During the game there is a plan that will be modified as needed and you will achieve a victory or defeat depending on whether the plan worked or not.

What to do then? I believe that it is important to train to have a general picture, without losing the ability to improvise which will allow you to resolve unexpected situations, while the execution of the gesture remains only the last phase of the process. I would put decision-making, i.e. the ability to choose, at the center of the learning process, an aspect that I consider extremely lacking in young people. In the following scheme I try to introduce some relevant aspects in decision making and which must absolutely be taken into consideration when preparing to train young footballers.


To know more:

  • “Strategy lessons” by J. Lewis Gaddis – Mondadori editions
  • “Train your perception” article by E. Battisti and F. D’Alesio published in n* 313 – February 2019 – of the monthly magazine “Il Nuovo Calcio”.
September 22, 2020In Calcio, Metodologia5 Minutes