Book review: Soccer science

Soccer Science

Tony Strudwick (Editor)

Human Kinetics, 2016, p. 649

The book is very interesting for the reason that it provides to the reader a global and in the same specific vision of what soccer is today, played by 250 million of persons in more than 200 countries. It’s the world’s most popular sport. Goal of the book is to describe how to use the scientific principles to optimize the players’ performance and the preparation. All the chapters are relevant for soccer  but in my review I selected the chapters and the topics that could be more useful for the sport psychologists. The section 2 concerns the talent selection and the player development. In the Mujika and Castagna’s chapter, titled “Practical aspects of player selection and development”,  emerges very clearly that in soccer the relative effect age continues to be a resource to select the players, influencing the drop-out at the age of 12 years and not giving the consideration needed to the role of maturation in the player development. The authors conclude that the talent identification continues to be a critical point in soccer. The following chapter by Unnithan and Iga, titled “Development of the young soccer player”, treats the development of the young soccer players, it’s an updated presentation about the integration among growth, maturation, demands of match and the physiological components concerning the youth soccer players. From the side of sport psychologist also the contribute by Paul Ford, titled “Skill acquisition and learning through practice and other activities”, provides many useful and updated information. He reviews the perceptual-cognitive skills and the decision making processes involved in what in soccer is called “reading the game” and “affecting the game.” These two processes run in parallel and interact together. The chapter presents also the two categories of activities practiced during the training to improve these skills; the drill-type activities (focused on technique and skills) and the game-based activities (containing match-like situations). The author provides also information about the situation where the players use the fast thinking, so called intuition, compared to slow thinking, called reasoning.

In the world are produced each year 85 million balls and one chapter by Andy Garland and Henry Hanson has been published in this book: “Soccer ball dynamics.” Topics like the history of soccer ball development, material, design and construction, social responsibility, ball performances are presented. Other parts of the book regard the soccer biomechanical and physiological aspects and demands, the conditioning programs, the nutritional needs, the environmental  stressor, (altitude, temperature), soccer boots and playing surfaces.

The first chapter devoted to sport psychology is by Geir Jordet, titled “Psychology and elite soccer performance.” He identified 11 key skills showed by the players. They refer to self-determination, motivation, recovery processes and learning from mistakes. A second level of competences regards the players’ interpersonal skills and the ability to be adapted at the new contexts. A third level is composed by different conditions to cope with (adversity, pressure, success). The last emerging factors are the control game dynamics trough the anticipation processes, about what is going to happen in few seconds and the desire to innovatively provide, following the Anders Ericcson’s words, “a unique innovative contribution”. The second chapter of this part by Matt Pain, titled “Mental interventions”, is about the 5Cs mental of toughness regarding the assessment and the development of the following skills: commitment, communication, concentration, control, confidence. It’s the model used by Football Association in England to develop the youth’s psychological competences. The chapter provides case studies based on one-to-one work with players, coaching interventions and team practices to develop this mental approach. Its interest is in numerous practical situations proposed and developed to cope with these five mental skills. The third and last chapter is by Mark Nesti, titled “Performance mind-set.” The author identified four key topics as important for sport psychologists and coaches, they are: anxiety, identity, critical comments and life beyond the training ground. It must be noted that compared to the two contributes these chapter is more based around the authors’ professional experiences with several teams of the English Premier League. Nesti worked more in one-to-one situation with players and coaches than with team, for the concrete limitation to engaging in group works in professional teams. The author said that this approach was useful to meet better and in deep the needs of the players and the type of challenge they had to face. The last two parts of this book are related to the Tactics and strategies (four chapters) and Match performance and analysis (four chapters). It’s a very informative book useful for all are involved in soccer at different levels.

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