FC Barcelona central midfielder, Andres Iniesta, once stated, “Small players learn to be intuitive, to anticipate, to protect the ball. A guy who weighs 90 kilos doesn’t move like one who weighs 60. In the playground I always played against much bigger kids and I always wanted the ball. Without it, I feel lost.” Standing at 5’7”, Iniesta understands what it is like to be one of the smaller players on the field. Although there are many professional soccer players who are as small as Iniesta, there are others who are much taller, like Stoke City’s Peter Crouch, who stands at a towering 6’8”. To be a successful player, understand the type of game you should play based on your size. For smaller players, like Iniesta, intuition and anticipation are vital. Learning how to be intuitive, and having the ability to anticipate the next play allows you to be successful on the field, despite being one of the smaller players.
As you gain more experience and knowledge of a sport, your intuition should develop as you begin to recognize patterns. To recognize patterns and cultivate your intuition, you have to be focused and committed in training. During training, be mindful of what is going on around you and get comfortable making quick decisions based on the information you gather. The more time you dedicate to intense training sessions focused on game-like scenarios, the more prepared you should be in games to recognize patterns, trust your intuition, and make quick decisions. And, trust yourself! Intuition refers to your instinct, so be aware of your initial response and go with it. Remind yourself of the time you dedicated to intense training sessions, reassuring yourself that you are prepared.
Paired with intuition, anticipation allows you to think ahead, and be aware of and prepared for what will happen next. Players who anticipate the ball, run, or pass early have quickly decided to take the next step and move the game in a certain direction. A player can only follow through with such a rapid response if they trust their instinct to anticipate a certain play. Developing the skill of anticipation allows you to be one step ahead of your opponent, regardless of your size. Although you can’t control the size of your opponents, as a small player, you can pay attention to your surroundings, allowing you to recognize patterns and improve your decision making on the field. Iniesta’s mastery of these skills has helped distinguish the Spanish midfielder as one of the most effective and creative players in today’s game.
Over the weekend, many Americans witnessed one of the greatest endings to a college football game in history, as the 4th ranked Auburn Tigers upset their biggest rival and two-time defending National Champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide in heroic fashion. In the game’s final second, previously top-ranked Alabama attempted a 57-yard field goal, with the game tied at 28. As the teams lined up for this final play, Auburn senior Chris Davis stood 60 yards away under his own goal posts. The Auburn senior shocked the football world when he caught the missed field goal attempt and returned it 109 yards, untouched, for the winning touchdown.
Even when a game seems over, or out of reach, the athletes who remain disciplined and take advantage of a competitive opportunity are often the ones who are ready for a “heroic moment.” Players with courage and confidence take action under pressure situations, choosing to take risks and chances. To be an elite player, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity you have on the field and remain focused until the final whistle – not a second less. Maintaining discipline and focus in games starts in training sessions and the training habits of a player, as well as behavior off the field, in preparation for performance. For example, during training sessions, you should play with focus and intensity during each drill, whether or not the coach is watching or if you are getting tired. Focusing on these training habits will help you develop a competitive mindset.
Davis’s heroism in this game’s final play also demonstrated another important mental skill for elite athletes: having a killer instinct. Ultimately, by maintaining high focus and intensity in training day-in and day-out, a player develops the courage to approach late game moments without a fear of failure – to meet the challenge of a situation with full confidence that you can overcome it. The discipline and intensity you have practiced on a regular basis will give you the hunger and drive to take chances and perform at an optimal level with no hesitation when you have the opportunity to do so. This type of discipline and competitive mindset were on full display in Davis and his teammates, and helped them achieve the near-impossible and make history.
Yesterday’s Chelsea-Tottenham game was a high-tempo game to say the least. The pace of the game was quick as both sides played pressure defense, connected passes, and created scoring opportunities. After 90 minutes of competitive play, the game ended in a 2-2 draw. Throughout the face-paced game, both sides demonstrated quick decision-making skills. A quick dodge and a beautiful pass by Fernando Torres in the 39th minute gave Ramires a great opportunity to score for Chelsea. Though the pass was well placed, Ramires had very little time to set up and shoot as two Tottenham defenders pursued him. He had one chance to finish and he succeeded with a burst of speed and a toe-poke into the goal to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead.
In fast-paced games, quick decision-making can help you be an effective player on the field. As Ramires demonstrated, scoring goals isn’t always about scoring the most beautiful goal or having the most powerful strike; it’s about making a quick decision and simply getting the shot off when you have the chance. If you hesitate in a fast-paced situation, you may miss your opportunity to score or save a shot or you may miss your chance to choose where to play the ball to keep possession. To truly make a difference in the game, your mind has to be just as quick as your feet. Players with good decision-making skills player smarter, not harder.
You can practice quick decision-making skills by having 360-degree vision when you play. This means scanning the field and being aware of how close you are to other players before you receive the ball or get involved in the play. Scanning the field and becoming aware of your space can help you be better prepared to take your first touch or step. Another way to improve decision-making skills is to be creative in your training. Being creative during training and practicing new moves builds your arsenal of skills that you can draw upon in tough situations in a game that require quick reactions. The more skills and moves you learn, the easier it will be for you to think quickly and make an effective decision. With enough practice and experience, decision-making can become an automatic skill, helping you and your team play quicker and more in control.
The Philadelphia Union and YSC Sports are proud to welcome Philadelphia native, Chris Albright to the team. Signed this past Monday, Chris was raised in Philadelphia and played soccer for Penn Charter High School before entering a lengthy MLS career. For the past 13 years he has played for D.C. United, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, and New York Red Bulls before finally returning to his “home turf.” With 3 MLS Cup titles under his belt, he has the experience and determination that is embraced here in Philadelphia and will be a vital addition to our defense. According to philadelphiaunion.com, manager Peter Nowak says “Chris will bring championship-caliber experience and help us throughout the season.”
With the recent losses of Sebastian Le Toux and Faryd Mondragón, the Union was down to only two true MLS veterans – Brian Carroll and Danny Califf. Albright should bring that additional leadership as well as a positive attitude to succeed. Not only does he bring an experienced mentality, but he also brings depth on the defensive line. Nowak also stated that “The mentality through the training and also pushing the guys as well the youngsters in training, is very vital… he trains very hard and tries to give it everything he has in training and directs those guys in front of him as well…” Here, Chris is leading by example, communication, and positive feedback, which are three very important characteristics of being a good leader. Even within a week of being signed, he has found his role in the group and looks to continue helping himself and his teammates get ready for the upcoming season. We are proud to have him back in his hometown of Philadelphia!
All facts and quotes were derived from these philadelphiaunion.com articles: