They say that football is one half physical and one half mental. You can have all the skills, tricks and fitness in the world, but if you don’t use it wisely through the decisions you make on the pitch, all that talent is wasted.
On the other hand you can be technically or physically poor, but your intelligent enough to get by on great decision making.
As a player growing up, I didn’t make the smartest decisions on the field. I was a pretty ‘dumb’ player. If you were watching me play, you could tell that sometimes I looked lost on the pitch because I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be on the field. I wasn’t sure when I should go out of position or when I should defend or attack. I would ask myself, do I commit to the attacker or do I hold back? Do I go one on one or pass it back? Do I shoot or cross?
I know a lot of you reading this will ask yourself the same kinds of questions. These answers are not easy to come by and you can’t just do some drill on the pitch so you learn and remember the answer. It takes work off the field. This is why the ‘game brain’, the part of you which is tactically aware, is the most difficult part to train and improve upon because football is a dynamic sport, every situation is unique and changing all the time.
You might be thinking well… What can do I do now? I searched and searched for the best way to train my game brain and improve my intelligence. Luckily, I have a few solutions for you so you don’t have to go through the years of struggle that I did.
Tip 1: Get Up Close
If you’re lucky enough to have a professional team in your area, get yourself a ticket and watch their matches. Getting up close and personal with the players allows you to see how players move and react on and off the ball, at all times of a match. Bring a notepad or take notes on your phone when you notice something worth remembering.
Perhaps it’s a little check over the shoulder, or a sneaky way to drag a defender out of position. Better yet, go with someone you know that wants to learn or someone who has the experience to teach you a thing or two. Some of the best coaches suggest to watch the player in your position for the whole game and carefully analyse what they do.
Tip 2: Download and Watch
In a time span of three years, I downloaded, watched and self-analysed over 400 full-length matches. I owe that to being one of the most crucial ways I became a more intelligent player. I still do this today and learn through the Effective personal soccer training program.
Recently I found out that even premier league players are known to do the same! Everton and Belgian superstar Romelu Lukaku saves and watches EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of EVERY English Premier League match. He says: ’It’s true that I watch every single game in the league – 90 minutes. I take my time to study and to learn other strikers’ movements and to learn about other defenders. I take my time,’ he said. ‘Really I want to be one of the best in this league so you can only learn from the best by watching the best.’
You can find matches to playback by saving them on a DVR. But if you don’t have access to that, you can go to football highlight forums (Match Highlight etc.) or searching on torrent sites.
Then download a video player that plays lots of different file formats. (I recommend Media Player Classic or VLC) and have a setting so you can easily pause, rewind and fast forward. Take notes or film short clips of an action so you can play it back later. I recommend you watch 1-2 professional games a week.
Tip 3: Film Yourself
There’s just some things you just won’t understand about yourself unless you look from the outside in. When you see yourself on the pitch with 21 players around you, you look at yourself from a completely different angle. Now you can see in detail the way you move off the ball, the way you act, what it looks like when you have the ball, if you’re making the right decisions and if you’re losing the ball, you can see why that’s happening.
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Fieldoo user Nick Humphries, 20, is a footballer who played in England (Wimbledon), Scotland (Montrose), Holland (Volendam), Hungary (Vasas) as well as with the Australian U20 national team. At 16 years of age, he was just an average amateur player with limited skills. Only one year later he was offered $120k+ in scholarships. Two years later he received a contract to play professionaly in Europe. How did he get better? He trained in his own way! Learn more about the training program he’s creating to help players improve on their own terms.