Soccer Intelligence: The Missing and Most Critical Link in Youth Development

Soccer Intelligence: The Missing and Most Critical Link in Youth Development

01 Aug 2017, 07:30

On sight, someone may easily dismiss what transpires in academies like The Scea Development merely by placing emphasis on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, though some youngsters attend soccer education days with their usual home and street playing outfits. Literally, the young players do not wear bibs during training nor when playing against each other. This enhances their visual cue and attention processing, pattern recognition, perceptual and cognitive abilities.

That is soccer intelligence, the missing, mostly ignored and critical link in youth soccer development. Technically sound and fast thinking youngsters exhibit good problem solving and decision-making skills when confronted with soccer specific challenges in training and matches. That is why The Scea Development prioritizes soccer intelligence or insight in all sessions and the thread cuts across all developmental levels.


Spatial and positional awareness of the opponent and teammate, the ball and recognition of patterns or flow of the game requires players’ ability to think fast, good perceptual, cognitive and problem solving skills. With this reality in hindsight, The Scea Development devotes all their youth soccer sessions into stimulating such aspects of intelligence. Notable among the ways used are several small-sided games and not wearing bibs in training. The latter enhances fast thinking, vision, attention-processing abilities, working memory and perceptual awareness of space, opponent, teammate and the ball since players have to rely on their eyes and brains not the colors of bibs to guide their decisions on what happens next.  While the former leads to improved problem solving and decision-making as small-sided games present youngsters with match day realities. All the mentioned qualities are evident in those studying at The Scea Development.

To keep it fun and challenging for youngsters, The Scea Development uses other games for tactical warm ups. Transferable lessons in danger recognition, defending, attacking and subsequent transitions acquired from other games are applicable to soccer. For example, the notable use of basketball in soccer warm ups helps in the recognition of fast transitions from attack to defense and vice versa as basketball is a game of fast transitions, skill and intelligence. Additionally, attacking and defensive principles learnt from playing both rugby and basketball are easily transferable to soccer in training and match days.

Speed, Formal education

 On speed, tactical speed is highly prioritized.  When young players are aware of the space available to them and that occupied by the opponent, game’s tempo and flow, opponent’s position, teammates and the ball, they will transition into the right place at the right time. Consequently, incidents of repeated sprint- ability (physical speed) will be minimal. This supports high performance levels among young soccer players since unnecessary running depletes their energy reservoirs. Several small-sided games support the development of the required technique, psychology, tactics and speed of play among the youngsters under The Scea Development.

 Lastly, guided discovery and formal education are crucial in the development of talented, intelligent soccer players and responsible citizens. Questions, dissemination of the necessary information, provision of choices by soccer instructors and the seeking of answers from youngsters enhance learning. In this case, coaches act as guides while students take charge of their own learning by devising solutions to the asked questions. Secondly, it is becoming evident at The Scea Development that youngsters continuing with formal school education exhibit higher concentration levels and absorb complex pieces of information on training and match days. Such intelligence coupled with subsequent graduations lead to the development of responsible and accountable citizens.  

In conclusion, soccer intelligence or insight is what distinguishes elite and professional soccer players from recreational, amateur and the mire talented. It is a widely comprehended phenomenon that, it enhances players’ spatial awareness and the position of the opponent, teammate and ball. The use of other games, integration of small- sided games, not wearing bibs and emphasis of tactical speed significantly contribute to the working memory and fast information fast processing among young players. Consequently, they are able to improve on their problem- solving and decision- making abilities on the pitch.

By The Scea Development

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