Emergence of exploratory, technical and tactical behavior in small-sided soccer games when manipulating the number of teammates and opponents

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Torrents Martín, CarlotaTorrents Martín, Carlota - ORCID ID
Ric Diez, ÁngelRic Diez, Ángel - ORCID ID
Hristovski, RobertHristovski, Robert - ORCID ID
Torres-Ronda, LorenaTorres-Ronda, Lorena - ORCID ID
Vicente Vives, Emili
Sampaio, Jaime
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cc-by (c) Carlota Torrents et al., 2016
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The effects that different constraints have on the exploratory behavior, measured by the variety and quantity of different responses within a game situation, is of the utmost importance for successful performance in team sports. The aim of this study was to determine how the number of teammates and opponents affects the exploratory behavior of both professional and amateur players in small-sided soccer games. Twenty-two professional (age 25.6 ± 4.9 years) and 22 amateur (age 23.1 ± 0.7 years) male soccer players played three small-sided game formats (4 vs. 3, 4 vs. 5, and 4 vs. 7). These trials were video-recorded and a systematic observation instrument was used to notate the actions, which were subsequently analyzed by means of a principal component analysis and the dynamic overlap order parameter (measure to identify the rate and breadth of exploratory behavior on different time scales). Results revealed that a higher the number of opponents required for more frequent ball controls. Moreover, with a higher number of teammates, there were more defensive actions focused on protecting the goal, with more players balancing. In relation to attack, an increase in the number of opponents produced a decrease in passing, driving and controlling actions, while an increase in the number of teammates led to more time being spent in attacking situations. A numerical advantage led to less exploratory behavior, an effect that was especially clear when playing within a team of seven players against four opponents. All teams showed strong effects of the number of teammates on the exploratory behavior when comparing 5 vs 7 or 3 vs 7 teammates. These results seem to be independent of the players' level.
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PLoS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, núm. 12, e0168866