Practitioner perceptions regarding the practices of soccer substitutes

Samuel Hills, Jon Radcliffe, Martin Barwood, Shawn Arent, Carlton Cooke, Mark Russell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite empirical observations suggesting that practitioners value the use of substitutions during soccer match-play, limited research has sought to substantiate such claims. This study used online surveys to assess the perceptions of practitioners within professional soccer about the use and practices of substitutes. Thirty-three practitioners completed one of two surveys (each requiring both open and closed questions to be answered), depending upon whether their primary role related mostly to tactical (‘tactical practitioners’; n = 7) or physical (‘physical practitioners’; n = 26) aspects of player/team management. Thematic content analysis of responses identified four higher-order themes: ‘impact of substitutions’, ‘planning and communication’, ‘player preparation and recovery’ and ‘regulations’. Eighty-five percent of practitioners believed that substitutes are important in determining success during soccer match-play, with the primary justification being the perceived ability of such players to provide a physical and/or tactical impact. However, contextual factors such as the match situation, timing of introduction, and players undergoing adequate pre-pitch-entry preparation, may be important for realising such aims. Although many practitioners believed that there was a need for substitutes to engage in bespoke non-match-day preparations and recovery strategies that differ from starting players, logistical considerations, such as scarcity of resources, often limit their scope. Notwithstanding, 96% of respondents indicated that substitutes frequently perform extra conditioning sessions to account for deficits in high-speed running loads compared with players exposed to a longer period of match-play. Substitutes’ pre-match warm-ups are typically led by team staff, however practitioners reported providing varying levels of input with regards to the practices adopted between kick-off and pitch-entry. Uncertainty exists as to the efficacy of current pre-pitch-entry practices, and 100% of practitioners highlighted ‘preparatory strategies’ as at least a ‘moderately important’ direction for future research. This study presents novel insights and highlights areas that are considered future research priorities amongst those working in the field.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0228790
    JournalPloS one
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020


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