What Do Top Soccer Players See While Playing?

Have you ever watched a really good magician and been completely fooled? The other day I was watching a master magician perform on youtube and I was completely blown away, unable to comprehend how this guy was able to pick-pocket an audience member.  I watched intently trying to figure out how he stole this guy’s watch, money and cell phone right before my eyes and everyone else’s without anyone knowing it. He then went on to explain how he was able to perform these pick-pocket techniques that fooled everyone. The magician spoke about distraction and diversion. The first method was pretty simple, it was simply using something physical as a distraction; in his trick he used a poker chip as a physical distraction. He moved the poker chip around making it the prominent source of  attention. He then had everyone imagine that inside their own brain is an imaginary person working, he called his imaginary person “Frank”. If he could get the audiences “Franks” to focus on the poker chip, their attention will be distracted and attention cannot be effectively divided into multiple areas. Meaning, if your brains “Frank” is focused on the poker chip, he won’t see everything else that is going on outside of the poker chip, opening up room in this case to steal wallets, phones and more! It made sense to me, especially since he was moving the poker chip around a lot and I know from my research that the brain tends to focus most on what is in motion. The magician then started to talk about another way you can divert “Franks” attention, this one really made an impact on me. He said that by asking people questions it causes Frank to turn around to get the answer. Ask “Frank” a question and for a split second he turns around and all attention is diverted to answering that question, leaving time for the pick-pocket to steal the mans watch and wallet again. What an amazing concept, asking questions to divert attention. He was literally playing with peoples brains, turning them on and off by asking questions and diverting their attention. I decided to watch the video over and over again with the volume turned off and I started to see what was happening in a totally different way. My brain was watching the exact same video but now I was looking at only the essential information and not getting distracted with non-essential information. By turning the volume off I started to see how the magician was stealing the watch, wallet and phone, compared to before I when I didn’t see any of it. Look at the picture below. Read the sentence and see what your initial impression is?



Did you pick up the fact that there is two “and’s” in the sentence? Your brain probably skipped over the first “and” like it wasn’t even there! Why though? It is clearly written with two “and’s” in the sentence. The answer is your brain is trained to skip over it, because it makes sense with only one “and”.

So what does this have to do with coaching soccer or becoming a better player? Top-level soccer players have the ability to focus their attention on only the essential cues while disregarding non-essential cues.   They also may have different visual scanning patterns compared to lower-level players, which makes a lot of sense when we think back to the magician. It is very interesting how two soccer players can be looking at the same picture on the field; yet see completely different things. Here is a quote from the great Italian midfielder playmaker Pirlo that helps re-enforce the concept, “I have reached one conclusion, though I think I’ve understood that there is a secret. I perceive the game in a different way. It’s a question of viewpoints, of having a wide field of vision being able to see the bigger picture. Your classic midfielder looks downfield and sees the forwards. I’ll focus instead on the space between me and them where I can work the ball through.”

As a coach I ask myself how can we teach the game so our players can use only the important information, process the critical information faster, make the best decisions and raise their overall Soccer IQ? The answer is not a simple answer, it is what I have dedicated my coaching career researching. What I will say is this is just the beginning of an entire new area of soccer coaching. I envision a day where every club will have a “Cognitive Soccer Coach” on staff!

To sign-up or get more information on the “Cognitive Soccer Instructors Diploma Course” visit www.soccersmarttraining.com