Practitioner perceptions regarding the practices of soccer substitutes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0228790
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2020
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.

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