Not too long ago there was a study done comparing the 1936 100M-sprint champion Jesse Owens to the current 100M-sprint champion Usain Bolt. It was determined that Bolt would have finished 14 feet ahead of Owens based upon their best times. However if we take a closer look, things are not always as they seem. Usain Bolt was able to use modern starting blocks to get a faster start; Owens had to dig a hole in the soft track to help him get a decent push-off to start the race. Bolt also had the advantage of running on the fastest synthetic track in the world using high tech track shoes; Owens ran on a track of burnt wood cinders, which robbed his legs of energy and power, never mind the inferior track shoes he wore at the time. When scientists factored in all those things to determine both men’s actual relative speed, the 14-foot lead Bolt had would be reduced to almost nothing. In fact its even possible that Jesse Owens would have even beaten Usain Bolt!
What does all that tell us about the body and human physical development? It indicates that even with all the new advances in training, nutrition and technology, the physical component is still very hard to improve dramatically at the elite level. It’s been 80 years since Owens ran the 100M and he would still be one of the worlds best if not the best today. Yes, overall athletes have improved but there are limits to the physical improvement. The question is how much more can we really squeeze out of our bodies? I studied exercise science in college and trained for years myself trying to improve my physical ability. What I found was that physical improvements can be made, but it can only go so far and last so long, one injury can set you back months. The good news is that soccer is not just a physical game; in fact it is more of a thinking game than anything else. If I start sprinting before you, it doesn’t matter if you are actually faster than me, what matters is that my anticipation of the play made me faster than you! That’s the soccer brain in action. The best player I have ever coached was an average college athlete, but he possessed an incredible soccer IQ along with superior technique. I fully expect him to be in the MLS in the next couple years. The famous Johan Cruyff said, “football is a game you play with your brain.” He understood better than anyone that intelligence could over come the physical elements. I would be interested in knowing how increasing your maximum bench press or lifting your biceps will help your soccer ability? I see so many teams and players nowadays putting on too much muscle and losing all their fluidity, flexibility and quickness on the field, they actually end up making themselves slower and bigger. It flat out doesn’t make sense to me. Ryan Giggs played into his 40’s by doing yoga and maintaining a very low body weight, he sheds some light into what intelligent training is comprised of. Giggs stayed light, agile and flexible and in return he had a long successful career. I could write forever on the physical aspects of soccer training but let me try and sum it up quickly. The future of the game isn’t in the weight room or on the running track. The future of the game is in developing the soccer brain. Think about this, how many professional teams this year are not winning the championship because of their lack of fitness? The answer in my opinion is zero; plain and simple, fitness is not the determining factor to winning at any level. The physical component is not the answer, of course all teams need to be fit but that’s a pre-requisite. Does Barcelona win because they are fitter, bigger and can bench press more? Nope! If you look at the body type of high level soccer players the gluteus maximus and core (abdominals, low back) are the areas that matter the most. Look at Sergio Aguerro, Messi, Suarez and Hazard , they all possess powerful strong glutes for maximum power which equals speed, add to that a strong core and fluid, lean and flexible upper bodies with a low body fat percentage and bodyweight. The science behind the physical conditioning in soccer is fairly simple to understand. However, the science behind developing the soccer brain is still in its infancy.
The brain is the next frontier and the potential is massive. Cognitive soccer coaching methods have the ability increase players attention spans, increase their ability to focus, program their subconscious minds for success, help them become overall better learners, train them to be better problem solvers, teach them the game in a way the brain naturally is meant to learn and will help them to execute upon their decisions with expert technique. The future of cognitive soccer development will ultimately encompass more than just soccer, it will require a cognitive centered lifestyle in order for players to reach their full potential. In five or ten years from now I can see clubs and teams employing many types of specialized coaches, one of those specialists will certainly be a cognitive soccer development coach.
If you are interested in taking my “Online Cognitive Instructors Diploma Course” visit www.soccersmarttraining.com