The world’s smartest and most creative soccer players read the game and play ahead of their opponents. They possess excellent soccer intelligence, which allows them to predict how and where a play will unfold. They stay one step ahead of their opponents to attack weaknesses and set up effective scoring opportunities or defensive plays. (Watch Abby Wambach’s off-season workout.)
Spatial awareness allows you to play with your head up, keep control of the ball and have a mental map of the game around you. You can constantly scan the field to assess the position of players, giving you more time to make a smart decision or be a step ahead of the play.
Spatial awareness allows players who aren’t super athletes to compete with faster and stronger players. For example, Ryan Giggs of Manchester United has slowed down with age, but he still performs consistently at a high level thanks to his spatial awareness.
These are the mental skills that affect spatial awareness.
Soccer players must identify the most important information in a particular game situation and then coordinate their next movements. This allows them to find weaknesses in the opposition and exploit them. To do this, you must be able to discern where your opponents and teammates are on the field without too much thought. It should be second nature.
The mental capacity to imagine a particular situation or play from different perspectives is critical. You can anticipate the path of the ball and set up a play based on the position of your teammates and opponents.
Peripheral vision lets you see teammates or opponents outside of your direct line of sight. Improving your peripheral vision allows you to see players and movement further from center while still maintaining your focus on the ball or play. You can make “no-look passes” or evade an attacking defender from the side or behind. (Improve your peripheral vision with this drill.)
Improving Spatial Awareness
- Always keep your head up
- Scan the field before receiving the ball
- Develop your technical ability, first touch and ball control
- Watch more soccer and take notes on players with excellent spatial awareness skills
- Play 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 while observing the body movements of the defensive players
- Limit playing space to force quicker play in tight areas
- Play and pass with limited touches (1 or 2 touches)
- Always practice by setting up game-like scenarios and working on your total field peripheral vision, imagination and special intelligence