In the first Football Psychology post, the football psychology characteristics (maintain) think action were described.

Players have brains and these brains allow them to think, amongst other things. The thinking actions of a player can be a limiting factor in their performance. In other words, the weak link in a players football ability or football fitness (capacity) could be their thinking actions. These thinking actions can contribute towards or detract from the football performance.

Think Next Action

When thinking actions occur during the execution of an action, they can impact the quality of the football action. In other words, the quality of the action can go down. If this occurs early in the game, then we can say the player struggles to focus on football and think action. If the player demonstrates the ability to focus on football in the first half, but becomes increasingly interested in the external factors (like the referee) late in the game, then it can be said that this player struggles to maintain think action.

Of course, players don’t only make thinking actions during the football action, but also in-between actions. In other words, while players are recovering between actions and maybe catching their breath, they could also have thoughts.

Let’s say that a striker makes a maximum action in behind the opponents back line. He sprints as fast as possible and shouts for the ball. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Play me!” The ball doesn’t arrive. The player throws his arms in the air and cannot believe his teammate didn’t give him the ball. The player is know thinking “Oh my God…I cannot believe he didn’t give me the ball.” While the player is having this thought, another opportunity has presented itself for him to get the ball. However, the striker is now offside. His teammate looks for the striker, but he is walking offside gesturing to the sky cursing his luck. As a result, his teammate loses the ball and the opponent makes a transition.

What just happened? The striker made an action. While recovering from that action, he thought about the last action. He couldn’t believe the ball didn’t arrive. As a result of this player thinking last action, he is unavailable to make an action seconds later. As a result, the frequency of this players actions has gone down. In other words, his thinking has led to less actions per minute.

Think Next Action? Or, Think Last Action?

We want players that perform more actions per minute. From a physiological perspective, this means catching their breath quicker between actions. This striker wasn’t out of breath. So, why did his frequency drop? His frequency dropped because the brain also plays a role in the football fitness of a player. A player that can make more actions per minute is not just a player that can make quick recoveries between actions. This player also must think next action. Rather than thinking about the last action, or other external factors while recovering, players that make more actions per minute also think about the next action. Therefore, the football psychology characteristic think next action is a critical component of the football fitness characteristic more actions per minute.

Players that make more actions per minute have a higher quality of thinking in-between actions. Rather than thinking about the last action or other external factors, they think next action.

Maintain Think Next Action

We want players that not only think next action in the first half, but for 90 minutes.

Picture the striker in the previous example. Imagine him making the same action to get in behind except this time the action occurs in the last minute. The player has the same low quality thinking in-between his actions, but this time it occurs in the final moments. The second opportunity for a pass presents itself, but the striker is once again in an offside position. This is forgivable in the first half, but this second opportunity is the last of the match. As a result of the lower tempo of his teammate, the player on the ball has to turn back and pass to his goalkeeper. Moments later, the referee blows the whistle to signal the end of the match. If the striker had been able to maintain think next action, then he could have gotten one more opportunity at goal.

Usually, the longer the match continues, the more likely it is that players (and coaches) struggle to think next action. It is easy to think next action when the game has just begun, but not after 80 minutes of situations. During a football match, there will be many situations like the one above. There will be mistakes, your team will concede goals, you will score goals, and there will be yellow cards, red cards, abuse from spectators, abuse from opponents, off the ball abuse, missed calls by the referee, etc. These situations accumulate in the brains of the players and it becomes a challenge to think next action. As a result, the playing tempo will go down. This is less than ideal if your team is chasing the game or hanging on to a lead. This is why the ability to maintain think next action is a critical component of the football fitness characteristic maintain many actions. Players that think external factors or last action in the later stages of a match will appear “less fit” even if they have no problem catching their breath. This is why physiology is only part of a players football fitness. It is only a piece of the puzzle. The actions of the brain, must also be considered.

Players that make maintain many actions per minute have a higher quality of thinking in-between actions. Especially in the later parts of the game. Rather than thinking about the last action or other external factors, they maintain think next action.

Takeaway

The brain is a critical component of a players football fitness. The ability to make more actions per minute and maintain many actions per minute is not only dependent on the physiological characteristics of the player, i.e. (maintain) quicker recovery between actions. It is also dependent on the thinking actions of the player. The football psychology characteristics think action and maintain think action refer to the thinking actions of a player during an action. The football psychology characteristics think next action and maintain think next action refer to the thinking actions of a player between actions. These characteristics are critical components of the football ability and football fitness (capacity) of a player.