Our Game: Declarative Tactical Knowledge as success promoter

Author: João Faria Rodrigues

Master’s Degree in Sports Coaching by Faculty of Human Kinetics and Assistant Coach SL Benfica U-17 team


The aim of this study was to evaluate the declarative tactical knowledge about a European elite youth academy team game model. The results, obtained through video and audio format filming, show that the players from the periphery (center-back, full-back, wingers), especially the most backward, present higher scores which can be explained because they are not constantly in the center of the game and have more time to observe.


The declarative tactical knowledge is related to the structural component of knowledge which is the base for the procedural knowledge that represents the game actions and behaviours. As a bidirectional process, if the transition from the declarative to procedural knowledge is facilitated by training and exercising, in reverse order, the procedural knowledge promote the specific declarative knowledge acquisition and retention [1].

The training process main goal is to allow the players to assimilate, develop and consolidate certain contents, so it is important to periodically evaluate the different performance domains, better knowing their develop state [2]. These evaluations provide important information about the necessity to change the planification and training structure [3], and do pedagogical adjustments [4]. Since declarative knowledge translates the players ability to know “what to do” in certain game situation [5] and that these tasks are embodied in the game model, it is important to measure the knowledge the interpreters have about it.

According to the literature, both declarative and procedural knowledge are necessary for the context specificity in the sense that it is crucial to know the actions and also conceive how to use it [6].

Declarative KnowledgeProcedural Knowledge
VerbalizationAchievement / Execution
“Know”“How to do”
Not ObservableObservable
Figure 1. Declarative and procedural knowledge distinction


10 video situations were selected, comprising a total of 59 contents from 11 categories such as Pressure in “Defensive Transition” or Front Support in “CC Creation”. These were individually viewed by 23 players from a high-performance U-17 team in April prior to the Final Phase. The players were proposed to verbally identify all positive and negative content.

Figure 2. Method: Steps to design the Assessment Instrument (Game Model, Game Moments, Categories, Video Situations)

The answers were analyzed and recorded in an excel sheet as shown in Figure 3, respecting a checklist logic where each identified content was equivalent to 1 point. Through this, individual scores were obtained and grouped by sector (DEF, MID, FOR).

Figure 3. Registration grid (Microsoft Excel 2016)

As shown in figures 4 and 5, in OFF ORG and DEF ORG moments, the DEF sector presented higher values as happened in the “Pressure” category in positions CB, FB, W. In the categories “SC Creation” and “Defensive Line” the highest values were presented by positions Full-back, Center-midfielder and Winger and Center-back, Full-back and Center-midfielder respectively.

Figure 4. Results: Game Moments (Defensive Organization, Defensive Transition, Offensive Organization and Offensive Transition) by Sector.

Figure 5. Results: Predominant Category Scores (Low Build Up, High Build Up, Side Channel Creation, Center Channel Creation, Defensive Transition, Pressure and Defensive Line) by Position.

Pratical applications

From a pedagogical perspective, it may be beneficial to increase the training volume in certain backward positions (for example: center-midfielder to center-back or winger to full-back). To ensure a fairer knowledge of certain moments and game phases one of the strategies is to ensure that players also have practice volume and regular contact in other positions.

In order to change some behaviors or dynamics in competition, it may be more helpful to mostly direct feedback to the defenders since with the ball they are the first decision-making elements and without the ball they can see all the behaviors from colleagues and opponents.

This tool allows to evaluate the tactical component without any physiological wear. A regular apply can help to determine the learning state of players at different times of the season. It can also be used for players performance self-evaluation by videos analysis to gauge whether the players themselves can identify positive and negative aspects of what they have observed.

Bibliographic references

[6]Anderson, R.J. (1982). Acquisition of cognitive skill. Psychological Review, 89, 369-406.

[6] Anderson, R.J. (1990). Cognitive psychology and its implications. W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.

[2] Costa, I.T. (2010). Comportamento tático no futebol: contributo para a avaliação do desempenho de jogadores em situações de jogo reduzido. Dissertação de Doutoramento (Não Publicada). FADEUP, Portugal.

[1] Garganta, J. (1997). Modelação táctica do jogo de Futebol. Estudo da organização da fase ofensiva em equipas de alto rendimento. Dissertação de Doutoramento (Não Publicada). FCDEF-UP, Portugal.

[5] Giacomini, D.S., Soares, V.O., Santos, H.F., Matias, C.J. & Greco, P.J. (2011). O conhecimento tático declarativo e processual em jogadores de futebol de diferentes escalões. Motricidade, 7 (1), 43-53.

[4] Marques, A. (2006). Desporto: Ensino e treino. Pedagogia do Desporto. G. Tani, J.O. Bento & R. Petersen (Eds.). Guanabara Koogan, Rio de Janeiro.

[3] Vaeyens, R., Coutts, A.J. & Philippaerts, R.M. (2005). Evaluation of the “under-21 rule”: Do young adult soccer players benefit? Journal of Sports Sciences, 23 (10), 1003-1012

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