Ever wondered why professional footballers seem to have "eyes" on the back of their heads? Why do they always seem to know what's happening behind them and successfully make a pass or a turn that completely eludes the opponents?
The answer to this is actually a very simple one. Awareness. A professional footballer isn't too different from the social one physically: we all have eyes and ears to see and listen. The difference is what the professional footballer does with his senses when he does not have the ball. He is constantly looking around and scanning the field to acquire information. By doing this, he becomes much more aware of the position of every player (teammate or opponent likewise) and their intentions.
While a professional does this every single moment, a social footballer tends to simply train his eyes on the ball and "follow" the play. This causes a microscopic view of the situation where he is only aware of the happenings in the area around the ball. He doesn't know who is standing where behind him, to his left, to his right; nor does he know if any team mate is making a run or any opponent is stealing up behind him ready to intercept a pass.
Awareness can only come with practice. A good tip to remember is the 80-20 rule. When off the ball, you should spend at least 20% of the time scanning the rest of the field. How do you achieve this? Take a look at the diagram below:
The whole idea is to expand your field of vision to cover all 360 degrees around you. Every now and then, you should take a glance to your left and then the back left area, followed by a glance to the right and then back right area. The glance should be long enough for you to take in a rough position of the players in that area.
The more often you do this, the more aware you become of the situation all around the pitch. This then enables you to develop a macroscopic view of the game as a player on the pitch. Try as much as possible to practise this and you'll start to realize you have become a much better player even without improving your primary footballing technique.
Soon, you'll also have "eyes on your back".
The "Footy Tipster" series is supported by a team of "technical advisors" with strong footballing credentials. Former S-League professionals and coaches with AFC "A" Licence aside, Football OPOD is also set to approach former international players to provide better guidance.
The series will focus on 2 main areas of amateur football: individual performance and team performance. Individual performance tips will touch on ways to improve general footballing techniques, as well as suggestions to develop abilities required for specific positions. Team performance tips will discuss on issues pertaining to formation, tactics, game strategy and player recruitment policies.
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