Every soccer player, like every human being, has two distinct parts of the mind whose primary role is thought and recollection: the conscious state and the sub-conscious state. As the names suggest, when you are completely aware of what you are doing, you are letting your conscious state guide you through the process.
On the other hand, when you react instinctively, or automatically even, your actions are being controlled by your sub-conscious mind. This isn't just true for football, by the way! Even when you are driving or cooking or swimming both these aspects come into the picture.
Our natural tendency is to think that we are how we think! We tend to define ourselves by our conscious mind or thoughts, which is not completely accurate. When it comes to making a decision after thinking about it, the conscious mind is the king. However, everything that we do, using our conscious mind, only helps create a belief system or habit for our sub-conscious mind.
What does that mean? It means that as we keep making a particular kind of decision, based on a particular kind of thought process, we convince our mind about our thinking patterns, which slowly becomes a habit for us.
To quote a simple example – say you are asked to pick your favorite color between Red & Green, and you choose Green. If this question is repeatedly asked to you, over and over again, there will come a point in time when you won't even need to think about the answer – you will just choose "Green" without blinking. It might even get to the point where you will speak out the answer even before the question is completed or earlier still.
Basically, what you are doing is training your mind to handle that situation in a way where you know exactly what you are going to do.
Being asked the same thing, over and over again, is just a way of reinforcing that idea into your sub-conscious mind. The decision, originally, was being made by the conscious segment of your mind. However, over time that role was slowly and gradually handed over to the sub-conscious mind, which made it instinctive.
That is the exact same reason why you can apply the brakes quickly, when the car in front of you suddenly comes to a halt. That is also why you know how to instantly use a spoon or even how to tie your shoe-laces.
There is a gross misunderstanding about forming habits and breaking them. The general belief is that once a habit has been formed, it cannot be broken or is very hard to break. In actuality, it's all about chemicals in our brain!
When you do something, anything, you trigger chemical reactions that produce something called Myelin. This myelin forms a cover around your brain's neuron.
That is the beginning of the formation of a habit. Every time you do that same thing again, your brain adds another layer of myelin to the existing layer – which makes it thicker.
The thicker the myelin, the stronger the habit! The stronger the habit, the more instinctive you are! That means exactly what you already know –"practice makes perfect"! (Well, permanent more like.)
The more you practice, the more you know how to do something better. However, if you believe, for even one second, that a habit cannot be undone, you are right! There is no way of undoing what you have learnt – so you might ask then, how do we get rid of a habit?
The answer is putting in more practice to learn something else than you did into learning the habit you are trying to undo. It's just that simple!
HENCE WHY THE YOUNGER WE GET PLAYERS TO OUR TRAINING THE BETTER WITH FEWER BAD HABITS TO BREAK / CHANGE.
If you put in enough hours, more than what you have done before, you will put on more and more myelin on your neurons for a second habit and your second habit will become stronger, pushing the first behind in the pecking order.
Basically, your habits are instilled in your sub-conscious mind, allowing your body to respond to environmental triggers a particular kind of reaction, instinctively. Get the right kind of triggers for your mind and you will have the right kind of Myelin layers forming in the right place and the reaction becomes ANTICIPATION..
When you arrive at Barcelona the first thing they teach is LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK; LOOK and THINK.
When you see Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona threading an inch-perfect pass through 4-opposition players, finding a team-mate, commentators & fans call it vision.
However, what they don't realise is that the reason a player can pick out a pass like that is because they have practiced it, studied it, run through that same routine over and over and over again, in practice!
What is the purpose of a training session in soccer? It is to prepare for the team you are about to face over the weekend. You play the reserve line-up or break up your squad, and play one team like the opposition plays, and build your strategies by employing solutions to the problems they will pose.
You run those plays/situations over and over again; make your players watch videos, and constantly reinforce these ideas until your players are able to recognize and react instinctively.
So, when they face their opposition on the pitch, it's all about reacting instinctively and allowing the training to lead each individual through.
The game is so fast, it is almost impossible to stop the ball, look up and think about what you are going to do, assess your options and then make a decision. Instead, training helps your players understand patterns of play, patterns of runs and patterns of passes that they should make or expect. OUR Training focused almost conditions the LOOK and THINK.
What is the Look and Think?
The Continuums “Look and Think” Model of Development
Word Association combining thought and deed
“Look and Think” MUST come first before everything else; decisionmaking in advance of the ball.
- LOOK / OBSERVE / THINK (ALWAYS BEFORE receiving the ball; assessing all options in “Anticipation” not as a Reaction)
- SKILL: THE DECISION (How, why; when and where of Technique; plus its success or not; and why?)
- FOOT PREPARATION (flat footed, off balance?)
- BODY POSITION (open or closed?)
- COMMUNICATION (Verbal and visual)
- CONTROL (If not a one touch pass on, the 1sttouch control)
- TECHNIQUE (the pass, the run, the dribble, the turn, the shot; etc)
- TACTICAL MOBILITY (Movement off the ball, finding space; 90% of the game)
- MENTAL and PHYSICAL TRANSITION (Possession changes, Player tunes in immediately?)
Relating Word Association with Actions to identify the Strengths and Areas of Improvement needed in players. Focusing particularly on teaching a ONE TOUCH MENTALITY.
1. Most players will mentally prepare to make a decision AFTER receiving the ball; we teach them to mentally prepare to make decisions BEFORE they receive the ball. This saves them time and space and can be the difference between maintaining possession and losing the ball. As the game gets faster, so is the need for players to master this VITAL innate ability.
2. One Touch Development: We ask Players at our training to THINK with a “One Touch Mentality”, like every time the ball is coming to them they imagine they only have one touch to play the ball with.
This will literally FORCE them to LOOK around and THINK of their options before receiving the ball
On deciding the best option thru a “one touch thought process” It could result in a pass, a dribble, a receive and turn and run; a run with the ball, a one touch pass, a short pass, a long pass;, few touches, many touches on the ball as the next option; anything at all. The secret is they enabled themselves to save time and space; to play really “quickly”; or even playmore “slowly”; based on the “Tempo of the Game” needed at that moment.
3. In the Zone: Training your mind as well as your body
Being in the zone generally means being in a state in which your mind and body are working in harmony. You're calm yet energized, challenged yet confident, focused yet instinctive.
4. Mental training: Keep your focus
Training your mind is an important step toward getting in the zone. Aspects of mental training for sports include increasing concentration and focus, controlling emotions, trying to feel relaxed but energized, being calm and positive, and aiming to feel challenged and confident.
Soccer is played in the mind and preparing the mind for the game is an extremely scientific and sequential process.By breaking things down, sequentially arranging and explaining them, and through incredible amounts of repetition, you create a team that knows exactly what team-mates are up to and what they need to do next.
Hence why playing a specific system and STYLE of play consistently is so important. The sub-conscious mind is the most important weapon on the soccer pitch. It gives you the speed of thought you need to survive and excel. The more natural you are at reading a situation and picking up cues, the better you will be at soccer.
The more you train, the better you will be able to visualize everything and the better you can visualize, the more trained your subconscious mind will be. You will then be a step ahead of everyone else. You will hit those perfect passes or strike the top-corner nearly every time till it comes to a point where making split-second decisions will come naturally to you, and also look magical !
THIS is EXACTLY what we will teach your child where their game will become “automatic” but it takes a lot of time and training, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Most players play CONSCIOUSLY because they haven’t been trained to play beyond that thought process; many are at the stage where they still don’t decision make a head of the ball.. Our training teaches them to think both SUBCONSCIOUSLY and in advance of the ball.
The Conscious and Sub Conscious Mind and Myelin Production
The process is:
a) Playing Consciously and making decisions but not before receiving the ball, and then;
b) Playing consciously and making decisions before receiving the ball, and then;
c) Playing subconsciously and the decision is already made without thinking.
When a player is consistently acting and performing at stage c) then that player sees the field in slow motion, is relaxed, everything comes easy (as long as they put the work rate in); and off the ball they have intensity and desire.
And the more the players trains in the right way the better they will become, it doesn’t suddenly happen and its done, it is a constant work in progress to maintain this level of thought and action.
The players who think they have it made and don’t need to work as hard anymore invariably fail.
A BALANCE BETWEEN RELAXATION ON THE BALL AND INTENSITY OFF THE BALL IS THE GOAL