American sports are instruction based. You don't have to think for yourself
So far we have covered the first principle Mentalism, at the core of the Footwork Labs philosophy on the game of Football (soccer). Principle two is Correspondence. Correspondence or the “As above, so below” principle states that the Macro, the whole, is made up of the Micro or smaller self similar parts. To break this down think of the Macro as the team, and the Micro as the individual player. The simple application this has to the game is that if the teams driving thought is to score a goal, then the individual’s thought must also be in line with the greater collective goal. Does this mean that every individual when in possession of the ball is going to try to accomplish this goal by themselves? No. It means that the individual must interpret the game in such a way that the choice they make should help the collective goal of the team. Before I get too far into this blog entry I would like to make a disclaimer. I am not against American sports. I am simply pointing out an observation I have made about the essential difference between most American sports, and Football ( Soccer).
I grew up in this country and all through out my childhood had to defend the honor of Football as my classmates and contemporaries had all sorts of misconceptions about the game. Naturally most of the sports that are played here in the states are rehearsed or choreographed. That is to say that there are plays called and then executed. Take for example American Football. The quarter back calls a play and everyone knows their role and once the ball is in play the runs are executed. The only real decision making is made by the thrower of the ball to pick out an open runner. Now I am aware that this is perhaps an oversimplification however at its core the game is a stop start kind of game and the play is rehearsed and then run with minimal thought needed. You are a soldier and you follow your orders. You don’t have to think for yourself. In Football proper ( soccer) this is categorically not the case. Asides from free kicks and other dead ball situations the game of Football is one that requires constant interpretation of tactical context. Football is a free moving game and therefore every step you take on the pitch changes the picture and therefore the tactical context’s interpretation. Again this ties back into the first philosophical principle of Footworks Labs, which is mentalism. Everything begins with thought.
Sadly this has a correlation culturally. Most people don’t like to think for themselves. Most people would rather have someone tell them what to do. This is normally not a conscious decision. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking “Man, I wish someone would tell me when and what to do with every step I take today”. The system that we live in conditions us to be ok with taking orders in many different avenues of life. Take for example the education system. Kids are taught to not ask questions, to turn in assignments on time and hit deadlines. This is how you get your grade, and enough good grades equals a diploma to get you into a university which in most situations leads you to student loan debts. In order to get out of debt you have to get a job and let someone else tell you what to do to with your time, hit more deadlines in order to get a paycheck to live, and the cycle of following orders continues. Creativity is not valued. Thinking for yourself, thinking outside of the box, and finding creative solutions to problems is not a skill widely taught in most public schools here in America.
Sadly this is easily the most important ability a Footballer can master.
In order for an individual to best help their team they must have an intimate understanding of not only their role in the game but the role they have depending on the context of the game. Not only this, in order for a player to be perennially potent despite their “location on the field” they must also understand the function of their teammates as they might find themselves in a different “location” than their starting position. I stress “location” versus “starting position” because the game moves and functions in such a way that players often switch positions to confuse defender and create gaps in the opposing teams shape. An outside back might find themselves acting as a winger in the attacking third of the field after and overlap. A defensive midfielder might drive forward with the ball and find themselves acting as the creative midfielder in which case the creative mid must understand how to operate as a holding mid until their original shape is regained. The need for players to have a mind that is flexible and adaptive is of the utmost importance.
Football is a free moving game, with “patterns of play” as opposed to rigid choreographed movements. The coaches job is to organize the team in such a way that the team understands their patterns of play. The individual must have the awareness and flexibility of mind to operate freely within the system that the coach employs; understanding how to interpret the game if the ideal route to the goal is closed. This is the beauty of this game, it’s free flowing, every step each player takes changes the context of the game, and therefore the players are in a constant state of decision making with no one to help them figure it out but themsleves. Coaches can not be “gear stick caoches” and shout to each individual in the heat of the game, though many try to coach in this fashion. You’ve all heard them before, some of you reading this are those very coaches…”Pass it to Billy”, “turn it up the field”, “don’t pass it across the goal”. This is a counter productive way to teach the game. A child if they are going to be successful at the higher levels of this game need to become accustomed to solving problems on their own, and trusting themselves to do so! This is something of a spiritual point as well. If a child becomes accustomed to this way of thinking and functioning from an early age, then they will take this with them through life. They will not wilt in the face of opposition, they will be resilient and confident in their ability to solve any problem that comes their way, knowing that first and foremost there is a solution, and trusting themselves to be able to figure it out!