I can remember sitting in a Psychology of Sports class at CCSU, as the professor walked in and asked us if we wanted to see a video. He proceeded to tell us that the video was violent, but said we should watch it. He loaded the video, on the projector appeared two local high school teams playing a soccer game, it was a private catholic school playing a high school for deaf students. Everything seemed fine and then suddenly, out of nowhere, the worst fight I have ever seen broke out, it was absolutely brutal. I thought to myself, why did this fight explode into such a violent scene? The answer that finally came to me was, imagine if you were in the middle of a fight between two teams and couldn’t hear anything. Take away a person’s ability to hear, and suddenly the things that we take for granted, the things that keep us safe are gone, we are at risk to our surroundings. The deaf students were in a position of extreme danger, without having the important sense of hearing to keep them safe, making them feel they were literally fighting for their lives. Another example of losing the sense of sound, is when I walk across the busy NYC streets with headphones on, I can no longer hear car horns, engines, tires squealing, cars braking, buses accelerating, police car sirens or people shouting. In order to make up for the loss of hearing, I instinctively visually scan like crazy, many more times compared to if I didn’t have headphones on, my head is literally on a swivel. Why? It’s simple, the ability to hear helps keep me safe when crossing the street, by wearing headphones it has have removed a major sense of information that my brain relied on to ensure I crossed the street safely.
Now I want you to imagine playing soccer as your teammates shout to you, “Watch behind you. I’m square. Shift left. Turn. Play it first time.” What happens when you can no longer hear your teammates? The same thing that happened to me when I was crossing the street in NYC, it forces you to have more head movement and be extra attentive to other details in order to make up for the lack of sound. Want your players to scan and have more head movement, want them to be more focused and attentive, want them to pick up essential cues not related to sound? Try buying your team some ear plugs or have them play with their earphones on. Pretty soon hand signals will become more prevalent along with rapid head movement. I have written many times about the players who scan more complete 2/3 more passes, complete more forward passes and score more goals. Also, players who have more current information are able to make better decisions, combine the current information with high level technique and proper timing of movement, and it points to a high level player.
I will have some cognitive soccer videos out this winter demonstrating training while taking away the ability to hear. In the meantime, try doing some of your everyday tasks without the ability to hear, and notice what adaptions you will have to make. Remember the future of the game is in the brain, the body and the brain must be trained together but the future of elite sports performance is in the brain! www.soccersmarttraining.com