3 Ways to Develop that Ever Elusive Game Intelligence in Soccer/Sports

Walk to any field these days in good ol’ North Merica! and you’ll hear parents yelling instructions, coaches yelling instructions, other players yelling instructions, assistants yelling instructions, and heck even the ref sometimes will chime in (don’t ask me why).

Something becomes clear from all this rambling: we are currently living in an epidemic of over-instruction and coddling.

No soft way to put it.  No buttering you up before I deliver the hard stuff.

Kids are completely over-coddled and over coached.

And to be honest, this is %90 of the problem right there.  So how do we develop game intelligence?

You see, when I was a kid, a buddy of mine in Chile who was an insanely good player once told me: “Joe, I made a mistake, when I was young and trying out for all these different academies and teams, I let my Dad do all the asking for me.  Whether it was for playing a different position, about starting time or heck, even when calling new coaches and asking for a try-out.”

And that is the core right there my amigo.

We do everything for our kids.  And then when they finally get onto the field, we still try to do everything for them!  We can’t stop yelling instructions and telling them what to do.

While we’re at it, why don’t we just throw robots out there and let them duke it out since we don’t let our kids think for themselves anyways.  Watch half the coaches out there and it looks like they would prefer to have a remote control for every player.  They literally are telling players what to do every step of the way.  It’s insanity.

You see, traditionally the “arena,” “field,” or “court;” that thing we step onto when we finally play is supposed to be the “holy temple.”

The safe zone…

The area where we let loose and play and feel at peace.

Problemo though is that we are taking that away with our non-stop yelling instructions.

Get where I’m coming at?  How are kids supposed to develop game intelligence when we never let them think for themselves?  How can they learn to think when we literally tell them what to do every step of the way?

Anyways, before I rant on for another hour let’s get into some points here to actually fix that or help develop that elusive game intelligence in soccer:

1. Balance out the math equation

Ok so what the hill billy do I mean by this?

I mean you need a solid chunk of time where kids are simply playing.  Problem is soccer nowadays is about %90 or higher in terms of players only playing in organized soccer.  This means, they are always playing under instruction, with coaches always telling them what to do every step of the way.

Look at any top player in the world throughout the history of fuchibol (soccer), and you’ll notice that they often learned their best skills outside of the club environment.  AKA street soccer.

So instead of having them play %90-%100 in formal settings, you need to balance that out and get them playing in informal settings.

This will also have the secondary benefit of really improving their creativity.

2. Teach vs. Coach

Most of the times coaches (or parents) coach and don’t teach… Ummmm say what?

Yes, what do you mean exactly?  Aren’t we “supposed” to coach?  Hence the name???

Here’s the issue, coaching is old school. Think ‘merican football where a coach resembles more an army sergeant than a sports coach.  Better understanding of development has taught us that teaching is better than the army style yelling and telling kids exactly what to do.

Now what’s the difference?

This;

Coaching is telling someone what to do.  Never dribble through the middle.  This is how you kick it, etc…

Vs.

Teaching where you help someone come to the understanding themselves.  Instead of just telling, you teach.  You lead them to understand the “why” of something.  You see the difference?  There’s a time for both of course but make sure teaching is a big part of that equation.  It teaches kids/players to think for themselves and use that amazing God-given brain.

3. Mistakes

Let people make mistakes… Again, this goes back to all the other points.  Our constant instruction is due to a fear of mistakes.  Somehow we think that mistakes are so bad and so we try to stop kids from ever making them.

But guess what?  If you eliminate all mistakes how do you learn?

Watch even the best players on tv and they STILL make constant mistakes.  By instilling a fear of mistakes in players we are stopping them from taking risks.  And when they stop taking risks they make less mistakes and worse yet, feel like %$(# when they do.  Take away the fear and judgement and then you and them can rationally understand why and how to correct mistakes and learn from it…

Which again, can be done through some solid teaching mentioned in point 2.

Conclusion

I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to live your life or how to raise your kids.  But we definitely do live in a culture where we do everything for our kids and try to basically hand life to them on a silver platter sometimes

Do what you want in your personal life, but in terms of developing game intelligence in soccer (or sports that require game intelligence for that matter), how are they supposed to learn to use that brain of theirs if we tell them every step of the way what to do?

Let them learn.

Let them grow.

Teach and show them along the way how to use that brain.

Start by using questions,

Aaaaand I’m still curious amigo, do you find this to be true in soccer development?  Do you see parents non-stop coddling their kids?   Comment below

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