On a soccer field, throughout 90 minutes or more, you need to stay sharp, be ready for the task at hand, switched on to be totally aware of your surroundings. Even the world’s elite athletes aren’t born with faster, efficient decision-making skills, at least not all of them. But they make time look like it’s standing still, having taken in all the variables around them and having made a decision of what to do next before they even receive the ball!
It’s not just about reacting fast, it’s that perfect blend of cognition and physical quickness. It’s easy to split this into 3 elements:
AKA reading the game. Scanning and being aware of your surroundings. Noticing movement and empty spaces for a through ball, realizing where the opposition are and predicting their next moves by that look in their eyes. And while doing all this, not getting distracted by any irrelevant, energy consuming cues that don’t need your attention, as they simply won’t help or hinder your task.
Be decisive, not impulsive! Now that we know exactly what’s going on around us at that moment, and have a clearer idea of what is most likely to happen next, we can make an educated and logical decision on what to do! Do I run into that space and call for that perfect pass? Do I run back to open up a 3rd triangular passing opportunity for my teammate who’s about to get doubled up on? What will I do when I receive that pass? Am I running in on goal or maybe I’ve freed up the number 10 to get in behind and the chip over the top is on? Your brain will prioritize and decide from a collection of successful and unsuccessful past scenarios, practice, and confidence in their teammates and their own abilities and skill set.
Mic dropped. Now let’s make the magic happen. This is when the physical element takes control and reacts as quickly as possible to what my brain has decided after processing all those cues together. My muscles explode into motion, I run into that open space… call for the ball “NOW!” I take the ball down with a perfect touch and know exactly what I’m about to do next… I chip the ball over the onrushing defender to our number 10 who’s now through on goal… and SCORES!
Now multiply that 3 step system by hundreds over 90 minutes, and you’ll understand why it’s so important for us to train our reaction times with a visual-cognitive solution that revolves around physical exercise, and/or physical sports-specific training. We call this term “Reactive Intelligence”, the athlete’s ability to make faster and smarter decisions under the pressure of competition.
Now it’s time for YOU to realize a new level of potential that you never imagined you could reach, start training the way science wants you to and become the best version of yourself!