Iniesta on Smart, Small Players

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.

Develop Your Intuition in Sport

Intuition is sometimes called your instinct, sixth sense, or gut reaction. It is your automatic way of responding to a situation without analyzing it or consciously thinking about it. With intuition it seems like you just know how to respond, even to a situation that you have never encountered before.

People with good intuition are able to process information quickly by recognizing patterns that they have seen before. A good way to develop this pattern recognition in sport is through experience and repetition. The more deliberate effort you put into your sport, the better your intuition will be. Increased repetition of skills and mindful pattern recognition helps you learn to make decisions quicker. Your responses become automatic.

Here are some ideas to improve your intuition:

    • Start to pay attention to your initial response to situations. What does your gut tell you? How often do you follow your gut? What kind of results do you get?
    • Silence your inner critic. If you tend to ignore your intuition, it may be due to self-doubt or over analyzing. Try to listen to your intuition without judgment and follow it without hesitation. Trust yourself and be willing to take risks.
    • Increase your focus to help with pattern recognition. Make sure you attend to the information around you. Having information will help you make the best decisions possible.
    • Repetition, repetition, repetition. The more time spent in your sport engaging in deliberate practice (either at practice or on your own), the better your intuition will be.