Monday, June 22, 2009

It's All Muscle Memory.

I love soccer. It's a game like no other. To play it requires programming. To be talented and natural with soccer means one's brain has the ability to control the quick muscles in the body well enough to react to the game with mindless execution. Players like Robinho and Christano Ronaldo to name a few can mindlessly step over a moving ball like no other. They have practiced the skill with the ball at their feet everyday for their entire life. They in turn, use the skill with confidence in play. It's all muscle memory.

This all became clear to me only recently. Following professional soccer for the first time in my life has given me perspective. When I was young, playing soccer was second nature and I now know that I never fully appreciated the game. I blame my lack of creativity while playing as a kid on lack of international soccer available on US television. I wasn't immersed. I don't think I could have named a professional football player besides Pele. If I only followed the game like I followed Seattle Supersonics basketball as a kid, I would have been a completely different soccer player... Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp dominated my interest and I mimicked their moves on the basketball court. Thus I enjoyed the game more as a kid. Perspective is incredibly important. Inside it allows a player to compare themselves to players better than themselves. It is this new awakaning of perspective that has motivated me to create this blog.

With the onset of complete obsession with the beautiful game, watching and playing it became an intergral part of my happiness. Stepping onto the pitch for a second go around was a slap in the face however. The first time I touched the ball in a scrimmage, I had a defender closing in on my possession and I had no clue what to do with the ball. I decided to pass to a teammate. Accuracy was a skill to be desired and the pass bounced to the opposition. With time to be precise, the opposition scored easily on my outnumbered teammates. A very overwhelming feeling of humbleness overcame me.

Fundamentals. I needed to learn the basic fundamentals of the game again.

Since that game, I have focused on the basic skills of the game and programmed them into my muscle memory. Again, it's all muscle memory. The skills are situational and the body is comfortable performing movements with the ball that are mastered (i.e programmed) into its muscle memory. Balance, power, positioning, speed, and execution are just some of the aspects of the game that your brain programs into your muscles. Kicking or dribbling with your dominant foot for example is comfortable because your body relies on it more often and has programmed the actions into your muscles. Thus making it passive in your mind while your playing.

Everyone has the ability to develop power, balance, touch, accuracy, postitioning, and speed based on repetition. Practice makes perfect as the old saying goes is all about memory. Not one aspect of a players game can be signed off as mastered. Every move can be developed situationally with the goal being to passify the thought of executing the move. A player must strive to achieve passificity in order to perform and execute the goals of the game. Therefore, I no longer look at an action as basic as kicking the ball and assume it to be perfected/passified starting from the ground up.

With perspective a player can develop a true love for the game. Practice has to occer individually as well as with others to effectively improve your game. Individual practice is the catalyst that can elivate your absorbtion of skill sets. Everytime you practice on your own, you improve your skills as if they were pages added to a book and every page has been memoried word for word.

There are many resources for individual and team drills available. Googling the topic can overwhelm a player with information that can be advanced and contradictory. Nothing can replace practice and trial and error. Everyone is different and any desired skill will come with 1% information and 99% practice. Training Ground is a great starting point and reference for explanations of skills seen played during the UEFA Champions league. It's updated often and the skills are explained by the heros of the game today. Practice these moves with both feet day in and day out and you'll add them to your arsenal. Watch the interviews and strive to share the point of view only experienced professionals have.

It's truely amazing the level the game has progressed to. Football is a test of brain power and physical skill. Every World Cup tournament holds the debut of a new type of game. Complete with a higher level of assumed brilliance, physical prowess, and required skill sets. The vast popularity of the game worldwide ensures that unique styles of skill manifest into an ever changing climate. The beautiful game's highest level doesn't have a ceiling. That's one of the reasons it beautiful.