Complex football concepts and development




Today, we are the product of an educational system, we are the reflection of almost 400 years of the influence of this paradigm which is Descartes' paradigm; when we talk about a problem we go step by step!

We teach and say that we have to do the easy things first, then move on to the hard things! We talk about the logical approach that we have been taught, about reductionism, about mechanicism.

In a period when this Cartesianism and reductionism was dominant in sports theory, the theories developed from individual sports, which were the only ones in place at the time, had a strong influence on team sports. As a result, the theories of weightlifting (strength) and athletics (endurance and speed) were 'adopted' by team sports.

The Soviet scientist LP Matveiev, professor at the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow, first set out his thoughts in the treatise on the "Periodisation of Sports Training", published in the early 1950s

Training was defined as "a physical, technical-tactical, intellectual, psychic and moral preparation of the athlete carried out by means of physical exercises" (Matveiev, 1978). His studies, however, were entirely based on the pioneering discovery of another Russian scholar, who had theorised the existence of the conditioned reflex, Ivan Pavlov.

The father of training methodology, took up the concept of "sports form", emphasising that, through training with constantly evolving content, it must be developed in the pre-competitive period and maintained in the competitive phase.

During the pre-competitive period, which will be a first stage that aims to perform high volumes of low intensity work (basic resistance, resisted strength with low loads), and a second stage in which the volume of work will follow a proportional increase in intensity.

The resulting shape is then maintained during the competitive period by organising a programme that envisaged reducing the amount of each type of work done during the pre-competitive period.

Over the years, other models of training periodisation have followed, but the constant factor in these models is the Cartesian conception of performance, i.e., they tend to separate performance into its elementary parts to train them individually, in the hope of putting everything together.

One of the scientific undercurrents of Matveiev's "sports form" was the conception that mobility should be manifested in a unique way, i.e., by the work of three distinct brain areas activated successively (sensitive areas, associative areas and motor areas).

It was mistakenly thought that there was a "memory place" in the brain: therefore, during training, the activity deemed most useful for improving performance was repeated several times with the aim of storing it in the brain and consulting it later when needed.

These well-defined theoretical assumptions led to the notion of the football athlete as an organism assembled from different components.

- reductionist approach to performance, with separation and analytical stimulation of the different components of performance (fitness exercises, technique improvement exercises, tactics improvement exercises, etc.).

- motility seen only as a recall of motor programs stored in neuronal cells through a linear relationship between brain impulse and motor effect.

- mechanical repetition of sporting gestures with the aim of making them automatic in the context of the game.

With the need and desire to develop the game, the participants started to try to understand how they could improve.

Realising that football was a fundamentally technical game, they tried to develop the player technically, with improvements implying better performances, individually and collectively.

The way in which improvements were achieved reflected the scientific paradigm of the time. Different skills were taught and trained separately and once you mastered them, you played. The epitome of this method was the beginner swimmer being laid on a stool to learn the skills, which once learned "in the dry" would allow him... to jump in the water.

Later, as things evolved, it was understood that football was not only a technical game, but also tactical and physical. From this new understanding of the game, the evolutionary process of football (and its formation) continued to emphasise these three dimensions.

However, playing football had to be expressed mechanically, and the separation between physics, technique and tactics was unquestionable.

This reality persisted and solidified the association of football with certain sciences such as physiology, biology, and biomechanics, among others, whose mechanistic paradigm was evident.

In this constant search to reduce the elements of the whole, we have managed to control the evolution of these elements and have become experts in procedures, thanks to the considerable development of the biological sciences applied to sport, sports tests have become a constant tool in the control of "performance" and training, and also indicate to us how we stand in different biological aspects and at different times of the competition. We do aerobic, anaerobic, strength, speed, technical, effort tests.

To put it more bluntly, the best player in terms of these results could be the one who has the most conditions to play football. The collective performance in a match is determined by the sum of the individual results of each test.

Following this Cartesian line, there was a clear separation of factors and its application in football training: physical, tactical, technical, and psychological. We practised the physical, and within the physical, endurance, strength, speed, and the mixture between them; there was a part of the practice, or the whole training, for the technical or tactical.

From the 90's - 2000's several coaches developed the idea, like Mombaerts, of having a training methodology closer to the analysis of the game.

"All pedagogical concepts are derived from scientific theories... Since almost the beginning of time in sport, our way of transmitting knowledge is mainly based on a so-called directive analytical pedagogy, techno-centric, also called model pedagogy.

In a subsequent period, young physical trainers also brought a vision of a more "integrated" physical training.

With this biological approach came the phrase "the football player is an athlete" or "if you want to play good football, you have to be well prepared athletically".

Built on a new stream of scientific thinking - the systematic paradigm - sees the game of football as the interaction between tactical, technical, physical, and psychological dimensions. It attempts to create a training methodology that allows for the interaction of the different dimensions in what is called "integrated training".

The ball became a constant presence in the training units; however, most of the time it was simply an ornament because the final objective remained to train the physical element. The drills were often situationally focused and did not express the desired improvement of the game, and the physical component continued to be the "driver" of the whole process.

In integrated training, we start from the footballer's performance model and then structure the whole training methodology. For example, scientific evidence suggests that during a football match, a sprint is made every 90 seconds, each lasting an average of 2-4 seconds.

Based on these data, the training sessions are structured, i.e., we try to structure exercises with the ball in which these physiological parameters are reproduced: in this case, we ensure (by means of specific instrumentation) that the players during the exercise perform an average sprint of 2 to 4 seconds every 90 seconds. The tactical contents are present in the exercises, but they are only a consequence of the physiological requirements that we are trying to obtain.

"For me, integrated athletic work is a decoy because we make the players believe that we are working technically - tactically when in reality the aim is athletic." (A. Casanova ibidem)

Often, when talking about using an integrated method, coaches and educators think that it is enough to simply put the ball in the training session. Although the ball is used 90% of the time during training, there is a difference between training with the ball and training to use the ball to tactically build a group.

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