You Play Football With Your Mind
Apart from physical fitness, strong technique and good mental ability, a football player also needs developed psycho-motoric skills, meaning attention and concentration abilities, multi-tasking, implied perception (ability to perceive in advance), space orientation, information processing (input-output) pace, motoric memory and the like.
In order to illustrate this matter, let us look into the process of information processing and performance of Barcelona’s midfielder, Chavi Hernandez, from the point of receiving the ball to its release- the moment of the pass:
A. Identifying an open space in the direction of a passing angle and moving into it.
B. Realizing that the ball is being passed towards him.
C. Moving his look away from the ball and screening his surroundings.
D. Pointing his look at the ball, while it is half underway, anticipating where it is heading to and its strength in the moment of absorption.
E. Receiving the ball (Almost blind absorption), while taking a look at the surrounding area and estimating potential moves.
F. Passing the ball with supreme accuracy to his teammate or towards an open space, where a teammate is moving to.
Now we can better understand Chavi’s sentence in an interview: “When you arrive in Barcelona as a child, the first thing that you are taught is: think, think, think and fast. From the age of ten you are taught that it is a shame to lose the ball.”
Chavi actually speaks about the brain and thinking functions during physical effort, or in simpler words about training the brain.
In his book “A User’s Guide to the Brain” (Zmora-Bitan Publishers 2005), Dr. John Ratey, Neuro-Psychiatrist from Harvard Medical School, concentrates influential insights with respect to the training perception of athletes:
“Imagine what happens inside your head when you have to make a decision. You receive information from the different brain functions: facts, opinions, thoughts, memories and predicting outcomes. You arrange the fractions of information, add reason test possible results and instruct a response. Phases of this process are based on motorial functions, organizing by sequence, adding analyzing and instructing, the neural networks that work within those processes are those that work in motorial processes”. He further emphasizes that: “parts of the brain that are used to organize sequences and timing of cognitive function are the same parts that organize a sequence and timing of physical actions”
These kinds of insights are applicable in an effective manner using psycho-motoric training, which is customized to a player individually. In other words: Since it is possible to train a football player and improve his physical fitness, technique and coordination and, as already known, it is possible to train a chess player to improve his decision making skills, then why won’t we able to train both at the same time?