Adjusting to the Speed of the Game

No matter the level of play, what distinguishes the best players from all others is their anticipatory skills. Over the years here at the CBA Soccer Blog we have devoted much time discussing the ideas of the game being played with the brain and the importance of being a game watcher. As a coach I spend a lot of time teaching players visual cues for various facets of play.  This spring our club team will use the mantra of Space and Pace as we pursue a style of play that allows us to play as fast as possible.

Space Equals Time is an age old soccer adage whose meanings are both overt and subtle at once. Obviously the time element concerns having enough space to perform a required skill successfully. Acquiring the space required to perform successfully in is a skill often overlooked.

When talking to my teams about possessing the soccer ball I used to ask them to think of the soccer ball as a golden egg. I wanted them to appreciate how precious possession of the soccer ball is in the game. Ideas behind this included reduction of 50 / 50 balls and expending our energy in maintaining possession of the ball.  Flash forward to the present and I stress the concept of Space to my teams as being of equal importance to possession of the soccer ball.  If the soccer ball represents the crown jewel of the game, then space represents the Tower of London.  The Tower of London is where the Crown Jewels of England are kept safe from those who would steal them.  Space is where teams in possession play in order to keep the ball away from opponents until a shot on goal is generated.

When we wrote of the malaise associated with Ballwatchingitis the idea was to encourage players to see more of the game than the 10 yard square around the location of the ball.  A broadening of a players field of vision is one means of improving in-game anticipatory skills.  With some of the cues we teach the focus is much narrower - the potential shooter's head going down to the ball, the soccer hop and the back swing of his leg are cues to be read indicating the goalkeeper needs to become set in his ready position, for example.

The point of today's writing is to impress upon you the fact adjusting to the speed of the game is a mental process even more so than a physical process.  Players need to gather and assimilate as much game related information as possible in pursuit of increasing the speed at which they are capable of playing the game.  Recognizing, creating and utilizing SPACE is a king consideration in this process and within this idea the identification of various cues that indicate specific play is crucial.

When training goalkeepers my mantra is The feet get the hands to the ball and while this is true, it is the brain that tells the feet the movements required to get the hands to the ball and the eyes that provide the information the brain requires to put the feet and hands in action.

Field players must take a similar approach in using their eyes (and all senses) to provide the brain with information that can be used to anticipate the flow or run of play.  It is the brain that puts the body in motion to make the play.  So it stands to reason training the brain is at least equally important as training they body in preparing to play the game.

Players, ask yourself when was the last time a coach devoted practice time specifically to training the brain?   Coaches, ask yourself if you are finding a proper balance between training the body and training the brain.  If you need help with this concept, contact us and we will be glad to help you out,

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