When we analyze high-level players it provides us with important clues into the secrets behind their elite performance on the soccer field. Is it possible that by saving seconds on the ball that these top players are actually using a fraction of the time saved to make better decisions? A recent neurology study supports this idea, indicating that people will make better more accurate decisions when allowed as little as an extra fragment of a second to make the decision. When a top player selects the proper angle to receive the ball, times their run, uses correct technique, scans and does the things top players do, these actions without a doubt save them a second or two on the ball, this preparation combined with the use of proper technique allows the player to take an extra fragment of a second to make the final decision (pass, shoot, dribble), this fragment of a second most likely won’t even be noticed by people watching, but it can make the different between a lower level and higher level player. Often I hear younger players talk about the next level of the game being so much faster; but is it really that much faster? As the levels go up the players tend to be better athletes for sure, but what makes the game faster is everything else the top player is trained to do, most of which is before the ball even gets to them. I remember the great Liverpool FC midfielder Steven Gerrard commenting on a skilled player from Mexico saying, “He is so good because he has done all the work before the ball even gets to him”. He makes a great point for why cognitive soccer development is so important in that statement; Gerrard is speaking about soccer intelligence with nothing to do with the physical aspect of the game.
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