How do high-level youth soccer players approach and solve game problems? The role of strategic understanding

Price, Amy, Collins, Dave and Stoszkowski, John Robert orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1968-5770 (2021) How do high-level youth soccer players approach and solve game problems? The role of strategic understanding. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy . ISSN 1740-8989

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Invasion team sports such as soccer require teams and individual players to understand the game and problem solve. One aspect of problem solving that has recently been more prominent in team sport literature is the role of metacognition.

The purpose of the current study was to examine how high-level youth soccer players approach and solve problems, with a particular focus on the role of strategic understanding. We were interested in the range and sophistication of cognitive strategy and process used by players when tackling game problems. Also, the ways in which they plan, monitor and evaluate how they approach and solve problems.

Eighteen high-level youth soccer players took part in semi-structured interviews which adopted Applied Cognitive Task Analysis (ACTA) protocol. Interview data were analysed using deductive content analysis to distinguish the use of cognitive and metacognitive thinking.

Results showed that players displayed a range of cognitive processes when solving problems, but more sophisticated processes were least employed. Furthermore, there was little evidence of a strategic approach to problem solving.

Players would benefit from practicing their problem-solving skills. Coaches should pay due attention to ‘what’ and ‘how’ players think when problem solving. Coach education might consider how to educate coaches to better equip players to solve stubborn game problems. One possibility is to present coaches with methods that make player thinking overt.

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