Unlike many other sports where set plays are drawn up and practiced in advance in the hope of implementing them in game-time situations (with stoppage play), soccer is a game of decision making where the majority of the decisions are taken by the players on the field in real time with no stoppage play. In a 90-minute game, the game will constantly evolve based on where the ball is on the field and what scenarios are presented to the players. A coach’s job is done in the weeks and days prior to the game, not during a game. Therefore, players need to have a well-developed soccer IQ in order to make proper decisions in split seconds over and over again. With that being said, how do you develop your soccer IQ? Below are certain strategies you can try-out with the aim of improved decision making in a game-time situation.
To begin, obviously playing a lot of soccer from an early age can contribute positively to a player’s soccer decision making. Therefore, the earlier you begin the better. This is not to stay that if you start playing later you at a serious disadvantage. However, you will have some catching up to do compared to those that have a head start on you. Secondly, learn from more experienced players. Seek out advice from more experienced players whether they are younger or older. You would be surprised what knowledge can be transferred from a healthy discussion. Thirdly, learn from players that have made poor decisions in the hope of not repeating those same errors. For example, a player can execute the most beautiful cross into the box after a series of connecting passes only to lose possession because there are zero attackers in the area. My point being, it was a poor decision to make a cross when there were no attackers in the area to receive the ball. A second example of poor decision making would be dribbling in front of your own net when perhaps a pass to the side or a clearance would be more appropriate. This sounds obvious yet despite all the advances in coaching, videos, technology and information available to our young players (and more experienced ones) simple errors such as mentioned above are still be committed regularly.
Of course, in soccer, there are scenarios that are practiced over and over in training in the hopes of realizing them in a game situations. Take for example FC Barcelona’s Rondo passing drill. But players still need to read what is happening around them and have a global or holistic view of the game instead of only what is happening around the ball. With this improved knowledge, players will be inept to make better decisions for their team. In the end, it all comes down to proper decision making; and in order to improve our decision making we need to develop our knowledge, and learn from mistakes whether they be our own or others.