Do You Have To Be Strong To Play American Football You Play Football With Your Mind

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You Play Football With Your Mind

Psycho-motor skills

Apart from physical fitness, strong technique and good mental ability, a football player also needs developed psycho-motor skills, i.e. attention and concentration ability, multi-tasking, implicit perception (ability to understand beforehand), spatial orientation, information processing (input). -output) speed, motoric memory and the like.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the information processing and performance of Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, from receiving the ball to releasing it – the moment of the pass:

A. Identifying and moving into open space towards the passing angle.

B notices that the ball is moving towards him.

C. Taking his look away from the ball and screening his surroundings.

D. While the ball is in half-roll, it is focused on the ball by anticipating where it is going and what its force will be at the moment of absorption.

E. Receiving the ball (almost blind absorption), while glancing at the surrounding area and anticipating possible movements.

F. Passing the ball with great accuracy to a teammate or to an open space where a teammate is moving.

Now we can better understand the key sentence in an interview: “When you arrive in Barcelona as a child, the first thing you are taught is: think, think, think and act fast. From the age of ten you are taught that it is one. The ball Shame to lose.”

Chavi actually talks about thinking tasks or training the brain in simple terms between brain and physical effort.

In his book “A User’s Guide to the Brain” (Zamora-Biton Publishers 2005), Harvard Medical School neuro-psychiatrist Dr. John Rattie focuses on effective insights regarding athlete training:

“Imagine what goes on in your head when you have to make a decision. You get information from different brain functions: facts, opinions, thoughts, memories, and predictions of outcomes. You organize fractions of information, add up possible outcomes, and make suggestions as you test. Response. The stages of this process are based on motoric functions, sequencing, analysis, and linking instructions, and the neural networks that function in those processes act in motoric processes.” He further emphasizes that: “The parts of the brain that are used to organize the sequence and timing of cognitive functions are the same parts that organize the sequence and timing of physical actions”.

These types of insights are effectively applied using psycho-motor training, which is customized to the individual athlete. In other words: since it is possible to train a football player to 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, so why can’t we? Train both at the same time?

Talent potential

God-given talent like Pele, Johan Cruyff, Maradona, Messi etc. are also gifted with very rare psycho-motor skills. One of their distinctive qualities is their ability to think and make sound decisions. Taking the example of Eyal Berkowitz, his ability to constantly pass between movements (ie process spatial information) without negatively impacting the flow of the game is a unique quality that made him such a good player. That kind of skill can sometimes make the difference between a good player and a very good player, and between a great player and a player known as a genius.

Coaches say you can’t teach talent. Either you have it or you don’t.

This is true, but think about how many talented football players work hard and still don’t make the most of their talent potential?

A football player, who has a tendency to “lapse in attention” (‘disconnection’), no matter how talented, can make serious mistakes due to a momentary lack of attention. Motivation or hard training alone will not relieve the pain from players and coaches. We are talking about a neurological pattern, which does not affect the player very much. The first step towards solving this problem is to develop consciousness and awareness of these “disconnections” and the second step is to provide interventions/training dedicated to attention. A football player’s attention and concentration skills are also affected by how much mental effort he puts into maintaining concentration in the game.

Obviously physical fitness affects this issue, but even starting with the assumption that the athlete is physically fit enough, symptoms of mental fatigue will often appear. When a player performs well in the first half and completely disappears from the field in the second half, it cannot be attributed to his physical fitness. Athletes who have undergone several months of psycho-motor training have reported not only improvement and better focus in play, but also feeling “fresher” for longer. This does not come as a surprise. The muscles of the body react to training in the same way that the human brain reacts to training.

Coaches often complain about players who don’t pass the ball, when it appears to be the best and easiest option on the part of the coach. As a result the coach accuses the player of being arrogant. This may be the case, but in some cases this situation is caused by the player seeing the movement, but not processing the spatial information. More than once it is the same player who was “reading” the field and made excellent passes in the first half.

There is a simple explanation for this phenomenon: the attention and physical effort required by the player during this stage of the game, “locks” his ability to predict the movements of his mind and “read” the field. We know that the first skills to decrease in a certain phase of the game are the highest skills of the brain, namely: vision of the field of play, anticipated movements and decision making. At that stage we (coaches, players, fans) make the same mistake and ask the same question, which the player cannot answer – why didn’t you pass the ball?

Psycho-motor training

Attention and concentration difficulties do not arise from the malfunction of one or another area, but from the deficiency of the entire system. Scientists have identified four different components in the attention system, which are entirely responsible for the brain’s general ability to investigate its surroundings: arousal, motor orientation, detection of novelties and rewards, and operational organization. These components do not function in isolation from each other or in a way that is not linked to motor activity. This is behind the rationale and need for integrated training: motoric, attentional and cognitive.


A player passes the ball to another player standing 4.5 meters in front of him and at the same time catches the tennis ball thrown on his hand. They both exchange ball passes and throws. I stood behind a player and asked him to find the exact time (time) between passing the ball with his foot and catching the tennis ball with his hand, which would allow him to turn on his back and specify the number of fingers. , which I mean “flashing” to him. Of course the motor action, the quality of the pass, catching and passing the tennis ball is considered the first priority. If the player fails to turn his gaze in time, he has to restrain the impulse (impulse control), let alone (decision making under moderate pressure) turn his head back, so as not to spoil his quality. In a more advanced stage of pass training, I would ask the player to apply an additional operation to the number of fingers shown in two consecutive flashes (information processing, input-output).

The more the athlete’s skills improve, the more complex the exercises can be. As long as I feel the athlete has reached a good level of performance and is doing it with ease, I will ask him to raise his heart rate to game level and then repeat the exercise. He will then be asked to exercise in a state of exhaustion.

When an athlete reaches the point where he can complete complex attentional and sensory motor challenges without extra effort and with fluency, I will add cognitive challenges to the exercises that require: spatial memory, information retrieval, planning, imagination, etc. This is A way to train the player to think faster, with better focus and improve his decision making in the game.

Rettie writes in his book “A User’s Guide to the Brain” (Zmora-Bitan Publishers 2005):

“The amazing flexibility of the human brain enables it to constantly rewire itself and learn—not only through academic study, but also through experience, thought, action, and sensation. We can strengthen our neurological pathways, as well as train our brains to build muscles that otherwise atrophy. Give in. The principle is the same: “What is not used is lost!”


The player walks the course along the figure 8 and focuses his sight on the coach standing in front of him in the center of the figure 8.

From there the coach passes him 3 juggling balls of different colors. Now the player starts walking and focuses his attention on the balls coming towards him fast. He catches it with one hand and returns the ball with the other hand in a circular motion.

Training in this phase is purely motor, sensual and attentional.

When the coach passes the ball, he names a color, which sometimes matches the color of the ball and sometimes doesn’t. The player must proceed in the required sequence of actions and must say “yes” whenever the color of the ball matches what the coach says and “no” when the color does not match what the coach says (meaning that the coach controls the speed of passing and therefore the intensity of the exercise). . Now the training is doubled: motor, sensual, attentive and cognitive. Not only does the player have to see whether the verbal part matches or differs from the ongoing activity (information processing), he has to do this over time and under pressure.

Psycho-motor training is divided into general training, which is suitable for all types of sports, and specific training, which is adapted to the specific nature of a particular sports field and, in the case of group sports, is also adjusted according to the role of the player. team. Each of the above training categories is used in several terms:

A. Regular, while the players are still fresh.

B. Intensive, during effort (after pulse increases)

C. Under fatigue conditions.

Training conditions are varied to train the brain for maximum flexibility and to simulate as many real situations as possible from the game. Training includes working on correct breathing in various situations, simulations and “anchoring exercises”, which help with concentration and faster recovery after exertion. Ultimately all training activities aim to meet the bottom line expressed by Johan Cruyff: “The best football is simple football; but simple football is the hardest to play”. And yes, you play football with heart.

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