Vision and Awareness are the New Buzz Words. How important are they?
Of all the pillars of player development, the two that separate an exceptional player from a good player are the level of Vision and Awareness.
Vision is the skill of seeing things quickly and in some instances before they happen in the game.
Awareness is a combination of feeling and recognizing opportunities to make and execute plays faster than opponents.
In team sports like soccer where interactions with team members are integral to ball possession, vision can be as simple as having your head on a swivel checking in every direction for clues as to what the opponent is doing and what you and your teammates are doing. It allows a player in control of the ball to serve the pass to an open player, perhaps starting a possession sequence that could lead to scoring goals. Vison can also include a player not with the ball moving into open spaces, placing them in a situational dominance of defenders, making their opponent unable to match their pace of play and movement.
Awareness is not only a special skill; it is almost a second sense where the player does several mindful calculations of multiple facets they see within the game. They process it against other experiences they have had in practice and games in a nanosecond, leading them to make decisions of actions to force an advantage on their opponent, always looking to gain some dominance within the game.
Awareness can come from many experiences in sports. I recall many personal times when I utilized coaching points given to me in a rugby training class and applied them to soccer games. I got insights on an opponent from running cross country in school meets by reading the stride, gait and the body language of a runner in front of me, allowing me to pick my time to advance past them. I picked up game clues on opponents from Tennis, Squash, and Basketball to the point where my awareness in soccer was a dominant force for me, driving my performance levels in games and allowing me to play for seventeen years professionally.
The awareness soccer players need is generated by peripheral vision, looking and seeing out of the corners of their eyes. The soccer player is constantly taking screenshots, checking distances between players, assessing speeds of players, hearing footsteps and their breathing, measuring the field and conditions of the playing surface, the weather, etc.
On a personal note, I got into a habit of always checking out the opponent during game warm-ups. I would develop an awareness of the traits of as many of my opponents as I could. I would look for the player’s physical attributes. Do they have left-footed players that can change the dynamics of service into the penalty box? How far does the goalkeeper throw, punt or goal kick? What kind of matchups will we have on corner kicks and set plays? I worked out in my head the best configuration for my team to win.
As a player or a coach awareness of your own player’s qualities is always the priority. Know the range of play of your team, their speed of play, their ability to take players on 1 v 1, what service are they able to execute, etc. Know their strengths and weaknesses and work within those qualities.
Have an awareness of how players are reacting throughout the game, determine the game status for each player and the individual challenges they are facing. Some players with awareness become solid leaders and can give guidance, verbal prompting, and encouragement to their squad.
Offensive Awareness is seeing fast breaks and transitional opportunities to attack your opponent. This is done with quick decisions and clinical execution of passes by those in possession. Remember this rule does not just apply to forwards who are deemed to have awareness, every player in every position can have very positive attributes towards a team’s success by showing game awareness.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another buzz phrase that is flooding the Education and Technology World and it is exciting to see that it is converging into Sports. A form of AI is now amongst the features of the MOTI Soccer Training Platform.
The accelerated information MOTI users can gain by watching the animation in the 3D Animated Practice Plans is huge. The visualization of seeing where players make a calculated pass and then follow that up with a meaningful dynamic run to support and back it up is available within the MOTI Mobile App.
Players and coaches can now ‘Switch On’ the trailers and tracers and get immediate feedback and complete sets of movement clues on how the game of soccer is meant to be played. These clues and visual directives place the viewer in almost a state of ‘Virtual Reality’ enabling them to rehearse the action.
Directional alterations of the screen are easily manipulated with pinch and drag finger movement or by using the joysticks to view from any angle or perspective. You can even break the action down frame by frame. This self-selection enables the viewer to maximize the experience to their own best learning environment and preferences.
MOTI is capsulizing the needed building blocks of a soccer player, giving them clear uncluttered views of how to practice correctly from the first time on. Practice alone does not make it perfect within a player, practice makes it permanent. The more perfect the technique during practice the more the player eliminates the repetitions needed to groove muscle memory of the brain and the fast-twitch muscles that propel soccer players. I think it is time we embrace technology into soccer for as ‘Perfect a Practice’ as we can get.