In the football fitness (capacity) post, the football fitness characteristics were defined. A “fit” player is a player that can execute his football ability (100%) more frequently and for longer.
Obviously, there are a number of supporting characteristics that contribute to a players ability to make more actions per minute, maintain good actions, and maintain many actions. This makes it considerably more difficult to ‘pinpoint’ where a player is hitting his football fitness limits. Is the player struggling to catch his breath between actions? Is it his ability to think next action? Some other component? Even this presents a false dichotomy. A players football fitness has many contributing factors including his physiology and psychology. In other words, there isn’t just one component, but many components that contribute to a players football fitness.
In the (maintain) think action post, a practical example concerning football sprints with minimum rest was described. In that example, it was proven that maintaining maximum actions is a byproduct of thinking action. If a player thinks about how tired he is, or thinks ‘I can’t get to the ball first’, he will slow down during his maximum actions and make a sub-maximum actions instead. As a result, the training adaptation is compromised.
Similarly, a player that is still thinking last action has no chance to make his next action regardless of his breathing. Therefore, it is entirely possible for a player to have fully recovered between actions, but still be thinking about the last action. In the (maintain) think next action post, an example was given of a striker that makes a maximum action in behind. The striker is so fed up with the fact that he wasn’t given the ball that his thinking actions become his primary way of interacting with the football context. Rather than making football actions, he is thinking. Sometimes, these thoughts even become words, or gestures. He might start shouting at his teammates to ‘give me the ball!’ rather than focus on playing football. Obviously, if the player can shout at his teammates, he has no problem catching his breath. However, he is making less actions per minute due to his thinking.
What these examples prove is that the football psychology characteristics are of a higher order than the football physiology characteristics. It doesn’t mean that quicker recovery between actions is unimportant, it means that a player that is thinking about the referee cannot play at a high tempo. One comes before the other.
Of course, it was also explained in the (maintain) think action post that there is a limit to this idea. The football psychology characteristics are the first limiting factor that a player needs to overcome in order to stretch his physiological boundaries. But, once this is a given, and the player is able to think action and think next action, then his ability to catch his breath between actions can finally be overloaded. A player that is too busy yelling at his teammates during a 4v4 is not going to be overloaded in terms of more actions per minute. How can he? Instead of getting open and transitioning, he is shouting at his teammates.
A player that thinks next action will automatically stretch his quicker recovery boundaries. A player that thinks last action will never stretch his quicker recovery boundaries.
Football fitness is the ability of a player to execute his football actions more often and for longer. The three football fitness characteristics are more actions per minute, maintain good actions, and maintain many actions. There are a number of components that influence these characteristics. There isn’t just one component that is the “be all, end all” for fitness. Many fitness coaches think fitness is predominately physiological. However, this is clearly not the case. A player that thinks external factors will never stretch the boundaries of his physiological limits. His thinking will keep him in his comfort zone so that he doesn’t have to push his boundaries.
As a result, the football psychology characteristics are the starting point during a football fitness training. The players need to think action, think next action, and maintain those for the duration of the session in order to have a chance of stretching their fitness boundaries. Of course, the psychology characteristics are only the starting point. Once it is a given that players are not thinking last action or thinking external factors, then close attention can be paid to the breathing of the players and the maximum of the actions to determine when the training session has stretched the boundaries sufficiently enough.