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How important is variability in football?

Variability is an essential principle in the complexity and dynamism of sport. In football, a fluid and ever-changing game, each situation, movement and scenario present a unique diversity that requires players to adapt and respond effectively.

From a scientific and pedagogical perspective, understanding variability means recognising that game situations are never static or repetitive. Each confrontation, whether in a real match or in a training session, presents a unique combination of variables that influence the development of the play.

This versatility can include factors such as the position of the players, the location of the ball, the time remaining in the match, the score, among others.

According to Seirul-lo (2017), football is characterised by the absence of predictable cyclical movements. Instead of following rigid patterns, players must be able to adapt and respond dynamically to the changing demands of the game. This acclimatisation is essential for success in football, as it allows players to make informed decisions in real time and adjust their behaviour as needed.

EN MASTER How important is variability in football? MBP School of coaches

In the context of training, variability also promotes the adaptability of players. ‘Adaptability’ refers to the ability to adjust and respond effectively to changes and challenges in the environment. Individuals who are quick to adapt to new situations have a significant competitive advantage on the pitch.

In the context of training, variability is essential to develop both adaptability and automation in players. Exercises that incorporate a wide range of stimuli and real-life situations help athletes develop a more complete understanding of the game and improve their decision-making skills on the pitch.

For example, the centre-backs’ IFP  “Reduce the space to the forward dismarking in support to feet” offers different solutions depending on what is happening in the game: if there is another striker who can take advantage of the space created, how the ball is coming, etc. This means that the player has to adapt to the context and situation at hand.

The player must therefore adapt his response according to the context and situation of the game. In training, they must therefore experience the different situations several times in order to learn which behaviour is most appropriate in each case.

Click here to see an example of a task related to this training content.

This highlights the need to design contexts that are conducive to the emergence of adaptive, flexible and contextually coherent behaviours, in line with the complex contextual demands of sport itself. For this reason, the need to train from and for complexity is raised (Ibarra, 2019).

At the same time, variability in training can also help prevent stagnation and mental fatigue. Players who are constantly faced with new challenges and playing situations tend to remain more committed and motivated throughout the season.

In summary, variability in football is essential to developing intelligent and adaptable players who can deal with the complexities of the game confidently and effectively. By designing training sessions that incorporate this variability, coaches can help their players develop a deeper and more complete understanding of the game, as well as improve their ability to make informed decisions on the field.

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