Perceptual-Motor and Perceptual-Cognitive Skill Acquisition in Soccer: A Systematic Review on the Influence of Practice Design and Coaching Behavior

Fynn Bergmann, Rob Gray, Svenja Wachsmuth, Oliver Höner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Facilitating players' skill acquisition is a major challenge within sport coaches' work which should be supported by evidence-based recommendations outlining the most effective practice and coaching methods. This systematic review aimed at accumulating empirical knowledge on the influence of practice design and coaching behavior on perceptual-motor and perceptual-cognitive skill acquisition in soccer. A systematic search was carried out according to the PRISMA guidelines across the databases SPORTDiscus, PsycInfo, MEDLINE, and Web of Science to identify soccer-specific intervention studies conducted in applied experimental settings (search date: 22nd November 2020). The systematic search yielded 8,295 distinct hits which underwent an independent screening process. Finally, 34 eligible articles, comprising of 35 individual studies, were identified and reviewed regarding their theoretical frameworks, methodological approaches and quality, as well as the interventions' effectiveness. These studies were classified into the following two groups: Eighteen studies investigated the theory-driven instructional approaches Differential Learning, Teaching Games for Understanding, and Non-linear Pedagogy. Another seventeen studies, most of them not grounded within a theoretical framework, examined specific aspects of practice task design or coaches' instructions. The Downs and Black checklist and the Template for Intervention Description and Replication were applied to assess the quality in reporting, risk of bias, and the quality of interventions' description. Based on these assessments, the included research was of moderate quality, however, with large differences across individual studies. The quantitative synthesis of results revealed empirical support for the effectiveness of coaching methodologies aiming at encouraging players' self-exploration within representative scenarios to promote technical and tactical skills. Nevertheless, “traditional” repetition-based approaches also achieved improvements with respect to players' technical outcomes, yet, their impact on match-play performance remains widely unexplored. In the light of the large methodological heterogeneity of the included studies (e.g., outcomes or control groups' practice activities), the presented results need to be interpreted by taking the respective intervention characteristics into account. Overall, the current evidence needs to be extended by theory-driven, high-quality studies within controlled experimental designs to allow more consolidated and evidence-based recommendations for coaches' work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number772201
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Dec 2 2021


  • dynamical systems
  • ecological dynamics
  • football (soccer)
  • information-processing
  • talent development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceptual-Motor and Perceptual-Cognitive Skill Acquisition in Soccer: A Systematic Review on the Influence of Practice Design and Coaching Behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this