During the skill development years there are several stages that a soccer player goes through. It is difficult to touch upon every aspect of this development because it changes as years go by. Regardless of age, you must recognize the importance of speed. Physical speed, technical speed, tactical speed and above all the controlling speed… the mental speed. Decision making is the most important part of the players performance.
All decisions are based on where the ball is relative to the field, where the opponents are, where your team players are and finally what you want to do based on the above. The simple decisions are, for example, to pass or to dribble the ball. Pass the ball with inside or outside of the foot. Where to pass the ball and what to do after the pass.
Speed of execution is the utmost important component of this decision making process. You must decide to either dribble the ball or find the most effective feint. Whichever you choose, the dribble or the feint, you must find the one that will freeze the opponent and accelerate into space to make the next decision.
Success depends on the choices you make. A quick evaluation of all the inputs that change continually is called the speed of recognition. This function is followed by continuous responses with or without the ball. As it sounds, it is an easy task, however you must develop this ability year after year to improve and be able to make split second decisions as needed.
Let me give you an example to follow:
You are playing forward and being marked, your midfielder has possession of the ball and is ready to pass.
- At this point you must run into an unmarked position to free yourself and demand the ball to the advantage side of you (away from the opponent).
- You must now receive the ball and turn instead of shielding the ball.
- Now face the oncoming opponent and step to the left, accelerate to the right, leaving the opponent behind.
- At this point you can cut in front of the defender to deny space and keep control.
- Now is the time to explode toward the goal while the keeper is coming at you and challenging you.
- The next decision is vitally important, you must decide to either shoot or dribble. Problems that interfere with this decision are stress, the defenders position behind you and the keeper is wide and covering all angles.
- Your decision should be to step to the right, cut to the left with the outside of your left foot to take the ball wide enough to be away from the goal keeper’s reach.
- You must continue to follow the ball. Pass the ball into the empty net and listen to the cheering crowd as you score!
It is mental speed combined with individual tactics and speed of execution that provide opportunities for scoring goals.