Increasing Soccer Intelligence
Play with the best players possible
Best against best is the idea. From the top academies across the world, to playing with your older brothers or playing against the best players in your neighborhood, best against best makes everyone better.
Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule does make sense. If you want to become a highly skilled expert in your field, then start working on your 10,000 hours of training! You might hear people say that in the pro clubs the players do not train that long, as they fall way short of the 10,000 hours. What I would say to that is, from the ages of 5-13, before a player is signed to a pro contract in a country like Brazil, the players are on the street playing 4-6 hours a day until a pro clubs signs them at 13 or 14. You are looking at 8-9 years of 4-6 hours of soccer a day, that is between 10,000 – 19,000 hours of playing before signing pro at 13 years old! That’s what play often is!
Immerse yourself in a soccer culture 24/7
Total immersion is the most inclusive and quickest way to learn, it involves surrounding yourself with the game 24/7. If you can live in a rich soccer culture, where the community revolves around soccer, it will be set-up for a total immersion experience. Walk on the street and people are wearing soccer jerseys, turn on the television and the game is on, people’s conversations over coffee are about soccer, there are always pick-up games everywhere and the nations heartbeat can be traced to how well their team is doing. That is the start of total immersion.
Study your role models
Every player has an idol. Study the top players and emulate what they do, watch their games and breakdown what you see. Teach yourself the techniques that the top players use. Investigate their careers and see how they made it to the professional league, try and find the secrets behind their success, on and off the field.
Play in unique environments
Playing in unique environments can improve your game. Met Ozil grew up playing inside a small concrete field, that was fenced in with high walls, he called it the cage. Ozil played against his older brother and his friends in the cage for hours a day after school. The ball couldn’t go out of bounds because the field was fenced in, and every player was stronger, bigger and faster than him. Ozil credits this unique playing experience for the development of technique and ultra-fast decision making. Neymar credits futsal for his vast technical skill set, and Ronaldinho credits his beach soccer training for his extra-ordinary skills. The reality is that unique environments provide new challenges that players must overcome. The new challenges require the development of new skills and strategies in order to be successful. When a player has some type of constraint or restriction to deal with, they actually become more creative in order to find a solution. If all a player experiences is the same training experience each day, they will become less creative and go back to doing what they always did. Try playing beach soccer, you will notice dribbling the ball becomes really difficult, in order to become good at beach soccer, you must come up with different techniques and strategies. Ronaldinho would often say that the touches he took at Barcelona on the grass, other players didn’t understand because he was transferring some the skills he learned on the beach to the grass field.
Sleep 8-10 hours a day
Want to perform at a high level, both mentally and physically? Do you want to retain what you learned during the day and have the ability to think critically and make good decisions? You won’t be able to do any of those things without proper sleep. Recent studies prove that a lack of sleep significantly reduced athlete’s technical abilities, running speed and strength. If that isn’t bad enough, all problem solving ability and critical thinking abilities are negatively affected, as the executive functions of the brain are disrupted. The brains ability to decode and organize what you learned during the day, transferring the knowledge and experiences to long term memory when you sleep is severely diminished. Also, the waste products that build up in the brain during the day are cleansed at night during sleep, a lack of sleep will leave waste products in the brain, which will have a negative impact.
Eat Right & Hydrate
Want to think quickly, make good decisions and problem solve? Did you know that losing just 8 ounces of water can reduce your IQ, and impair your ability to make decisions on the field? In order to play your best, you must take in the right foods and have enough energy built up to sustain your performance over 90 minutes.
Practice mindfulness, positive affirmations and mental programing
Mindfulness training lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels, lowers blood pressure and calms the mind and body. The mindful athlete becomes more aware and better able to focus and play in the moment without distractions. Positive affirmations program your subconscious mind to be successful.
Use visualization techniques
Players that train the physical combined with visualization become proficient in the skill quicker.
Train technique on your own until its automatic, then train it in games, using strategic thought with the technique. Learn technique part to whole.
People often learn by touch, physical manipulation through the skill and sight. Break the skill down into small parts, perfect each part and then train the entire technique. After the technique is learned train the entire technique in many different conditions where adaption and strategy is needed.
Live in the moment but be sure to reflect after
Fully focus on being present in the moment. Do not let any type of pressure or external expectations make you lose focus on what is most important, which is focusing fully on the moment. The top X-Game and Adventure Sports competitors know this better than anyone, when even a slight wrong move or loss of concentration can mean death in those high risk sports, there is no choice but to be fully focused and living only in that moment. Train and play in the moment, at the end of the day reflect on your performance to determine what you may want to improve upon.
Teach the game to others
Deeper learning is achieved when people teach others. By teaching someone else, the material is further reinforced in the person teaching, creating deeper learning. At Sporting Lisbon, the players are given time to teach one another their favorite techniques, without the coaches present. This unique learning environment of peer-teaching, helps both the teacher and the student at Sporting Lisbon, allowing for deeper learning to occur.
Ask the big questions and make use of the internet
Players need to take ownership for their own learning. Search for the answers. An Olympic Javelin thrower from Africa had no coach, he watched youtube videos to learn his technique! We live in an age where information is free and literally at your finger tips.
Allow for down time and relaxation
In order to truly learn from your training, you must allow the brain down time to organize, settle and code the information, moving it from short term memory to long term.
Challenge your brain by taking on academics, art, design, languages
The more well-rounded you are, the more you challenge your brain, the better learner and problem solver you will become.
Be a good person
Humble and grateful people will always go further in life. Always give back.