Research Article: Affective Decision-Making and Tactical Behavior of Under-15 Soccer Players

Date Published: June 30, 2014

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Adeilton dos Santos Gonzaga, Maicon Rodrigues Albuquerque, Leandro Fernandes Malloy-Diniz, Pablo Juan Greco, Israel Teoldo da Costa, Thomas Boraud.


Affective decision-making is a type of Executive Function related to cost benefit analysis in situations where gains and losses imply direct consequences for the subject. The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of the affective decision-making on tactical behavior in soccer players under the age of 15 years old. The System of Tactical Assessment in Soccer (FUT-SAT) was used to assess tactical behavior. To evaluate affective decision-making, we used the neuropsychological test called The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The values of the offensive, defensive and game tactical behavior of participants were used to create performance groups. The low (≤25%) and high (≥75%) groups, according to offensive, defensive and game tactical behavior, were compared and shown to be different. The values of the IGT net score of the participants with low and high tactical behavior were compared using the non-parametric Mann-Whitney test. Statistically significant differences between the groups were observed for Defensive Tactical Behavior (Z = −3.133; p = 0.002; r = −0.355) and Game Tactical Behavior (Z = −2.267; p = 0.023; r = −0.260). According to these results, it is possible to state that affective decision-making can influence the tactical behavior of under-15 soccer players.

Partial Text

For many years, physical features have received the most attention as the main factors for players achieving high levels of performance in soccer [1], [2], [3]. However, in recent years, some concerns have been allocated to the development of tactical skills as an important feature of successful performance in soccer players and teams [4], [5]. These concerns are justified by the dynamic and complex features of the game, which is characterized by a cooperation-opposition relationship between teammates and opponents [6].

Figure 1 presents the performance of players on the IGT. Comparisons of the IGT net scores achieved by players from low (≤25%) and high (≥75%) Offensive, Defensive and Game Tactical Behavior are shown.

The present study aimed to explore the influence of affective decision-making on tactical behavior in Under-15 soccer players. Statistically significant differences were observed in IGT net scores between players with low and high defensive tactical behavior (DTB) and game tactical behavior (GTB). These results revealed that affective decision-making ability was different between the lower and higher groups and may have influenced the tactical behavior of the players, specifically in the defensive phase and in the game itself. Thus, affective decision-making was shown to be an important measure in estimating the ability of young soccer players to achieve high levels of defensive and game tactical behavior.

From the results observed in this study, it is possible to affirm that tactical behavior influences affective decision-making in under-15 soccer players. It was found that differences in performance on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) neuropsychological test were linked to the tactical behavior scores of players. Players with high Defensive and Game Tactical Behavior presented better performance on IGT than those with low Defensive and Game Tactical Behavior. Such findings support the statement that affective decision-making is an important measure for predicting the level of tactical behavior to be achieved by young soccer players. Data from this study highlight the importance of developmental factors in soccer players, but there is a need for additional studies that analyze the influence of affective decision-making on the tactical behavior of young soccer players of different age categories and levels of competitiveness.