Cognitive Shape Associations: Training The Soccer Brain

Learning doesn’t take one linear path, true deep learning takes multiple diverse paths.  As a coach it is important to be open minded, continously exposing your players to a variety of meaningful learning experiences. When it comes to developing the soccer brain, I place a major importance one thinking creatively in teaching the game. Below are a couple exercises that you will find in my “Cognitive Soccer Instructors Diploma Course”  These exercises are meant to  present aspects of the game to players in a different way, in effect developing the soccer brain.

Exercise: Look at the pictures below and associate the shapes within a soccer context.  Be creative. There are no wrong answers. What do you see? What concepts or ideas do you see in the shapes that relate to the game of soccer?  Do you see formations, tactics or general concepts or principles of the game?

What do you see in the yellow picture? Is it a 3-5-2 formation? Do you see the yellow as the space that can be exploited in a 3-5-2? Do the red pictures represent the concepts of compactness and opening-up?  These types of exercises are important to get players interacting, collaborating, problem-solving and thinking in different ways.


The next exercise is about changing how a player see’s the field.  Lets start with a quote from the Italian midfielder Pirlo.  “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.”

In the diagram the red markers represent the open space where the ball can be played into.  By marking out the open space that “Pirlo” talks about, it can help take the focus off the player and re-direct it to the open space around the player.  Its the same picture but with a different focus.  I will post some functional exercises that use this concept soon.