When evaluating soccer skills, there are various tools and metrics available. Specifically, this article delves into how to assess tactical abilities in soccer players.
Technical vs Tactical Skills: A Closer Look
Frequently, in the realm of soccer, we hear about technical and tactical skills. Fundamentally, technical skills encompass ball control techniques such as dribbling, passing, shooting, and heading. On the other hand, “tactics” is a term that in everyday language often refers to game strategies, playing style, formation, and team lineup. Scientifically, there are established tests for measuring technical skills, like the “Shuttle Sprint and Dribble Test” or the “Shuttle Sprint and Slalom Test”. But what about the tactical abilities? How do we measure them?
Insights from Dutch Research on Tactical Skills
In 2010, Rianne Kannekens, a Dutch researcher, published a dissertation titled “The Importance of Tactical Skills in Talent Development”. The research aimed to shed light on the role of tactical abilities in the talent development process.
The study distinguishes two core components of tactical skills:
- Declarative knowledge (knowing what to do) and
- Procedural knowledge (actually doing it).
This is further applied in both offensive and defensive scenarios. The assessment tool used was the Tactical Skills Inventory for Sports (TACSIS) comprising four scales:
- Understanding ball actions,
- Insights into other players,
- Position selection and decision-making,
- Adapting to changes.
While scales 1 and 2 relate to declarative knowledge for offense and defense respectively, scales 3 and 4 pertain to procedural knowledge. Through several sub-studies, Kannekens investigated the correlation between questionnaire responses and real-life soccer situations.
In a notable study of 191 talented young soccer players aged 14-18, it was found that defenders and midfielders had stable tactical skills during that age period, unlike attackers who improved their skills between 14 and 18. This research provides valuable insights into the variances in tactical skills based on field positions.
Furthermore, Kannekens’ study on 105 talented youth players (average age 17.8) highlighted a significant correlation between the “Position selection and decision-making” scale of TACSIS and achieving professional soccer levels.
Real-world Application of TACSIS
However, an intriguing question remains: do players who excel in written tests also make the right on-field decisions? In my perspective, the TACSIS questionnaire serves as an ideal reflection method to discuss tactical skills with players. Imagine a player rating themselves highly in a specific skill, contrasting with a coach’s view. Such disparities can be explored in a Personal Development Plan conversation, aiding in comprehensive player development. To make the TACSIS assessment more user-friendly, I’ve crafted a specialized Excel sheet, streamlining the scoring process.
Conclusion: Bridging Theory and Practice
The TACSIS, despite being an analytical tool, provides a foundation for constructive discussions around tactical skills. It fosters an environment where players and coaches can engage in productive dialogues, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.
Kannekens, R. (2010). The importance of tactical skills in talent development. Groningen: s.n.