You are a speeding bullet. You are grease lightening. You are fleet of foot. You are non stop. You are rapid, zippy and quick. You are relentless with your movement. You find space and you cover space before anyone else. You are here then you are there. And it’s all because you are a quick thinker. Here’s stage two of my three stage quick thinking process.
You’ve worked your way past stage one. You now play head up. You look ahead, you look behind and you check both shoulders regularly. You have a new habit – the ability to see 360 degrees of the pitch. You aren’t just slightly aware, you have world class awareness. You scan the pitch religiously and you see everything!
The next stage on your quick thinking journey is to improve your anticipation. By anticipation I’m not talking about movement, although how and where you move is affected. This is the decision making stage, not the action stage.
By anticipation I’m referring to your brain’s ability to predict play and reach a decision based on that prediction. It’s a 2 step process – once you have improved vision you have to do something with the snapshot you’ve taken. You have toassess and decide.
Assess – I see this space – is this the best space to move into? (Will I make the most impact in this new position?)
Decide – Yes, this is the correct position OR no, this is the wrong decision
A little like the awareness stage I described to you in a previous blog (Click here to view) it is you, the player, who needs to diligently work on this. Sure, your coaches can set up training practices that can sharpen your thinking, but youhave to practice this process on purpose. You have to deliberately and intentionally practice this stage of your thinking.
In your next training session practice assessing as you see. Look and assess! Look and assess! Practice deciding as soon as you assess. Look, assess and decide! Look, assess and decide! This is a skill, and like all skills it can be improved.
Does this sound complex and tough to do? Of course it does. This is what led Xavi Hernandes to say recently in an interview that playing the Tiki Taka football that Barcelona have been famed for in recent times is hard and complicated. To ‘assess and decide’ so quickly is extraordinarily difficult – very few players on the planet have developed the speed they need to play in the Barca style.
But it can be done. It is simple determined by your dedication to your football psychology.
Go into every training session looking to improve your awareness and anticipation. Whenever you set foot on a pitch look to speedily assess every situation you encounter every moment of the game. Strive to make lightening quick decisions based on the assessments you make. You’ll make mistakes to start with, but with desire, discipline and determination you may just find a Xavi inside your mind.