Daniel Coyle’s book, “The Talent Code”, highlights the role of myelin in the development of any type of genius. Myelin is the critical body substance that governs ones ability to develop expertise in soccer. As Coyle states “practice makes myelin, and myelin makes perfect. Each time we deeply practice a nine-iron swing or a guitar chord or a chess opening, we are slowly installing broadband in our circuitry. We are firing a signal that tiny green myelin tentacles sense; they react by reaching toward the nerve fibers. They grasp, they squish, and they make another wrap, thickening the sheath. They build a little more insulation along the wire, which adds a bit more bandwidth and precision to the skill circuit, which translates into an infinitesimal bit more skill and speed. Struggle is not optional…it’s neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit sub-optimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit…i.e., practicing…in order to keep myelin functioning properly.”
It has long been known that practice makes permanent; that only perfect practice makes perfect. Soccer is the most “open” of all sports. The skill repertoire required of all field players in soccer is the most varied and diverse of all sports. Because of this it is almost impossible to separately repeat all of soccer’s vital neuromuscular patterns to the necessary degree of expertise to become expert in every one. As a consequence most coaches settle for laying down only the necessary neuromuscular patterns for a simpler and less risky passing & receiving game. In Britain or the 70’s and 80’s Charles Hughes simplified this process to a greater degree by advocating that the greatest statistical success would be achieved by reducing each player’s repertoire of skills to a “route one” long ball technical tactical approach played by players with the necessary athleticism and aggression to minimize risk in the defensive half and maximize reward in the offensive half of the field.
The Legends philosophy is built around the belief that elite myelin “bandwidth” for all the skills of soccer can be trained in a fraction of the time through the Phys’ Ed’ principle of “Transfer of Training”. If the hypotheses of Daniel Coyle and the research of Anders Ericsson, Herbert Simon and Bill Chase is as credible as it seems, their findings reinforce the Legends belief that a focus on developing expertise in deceptive dribbling and finishing through “Transfer of Training” will multiply both soccer and life character benefits of players trained in this manner.
At first glance the Legends method of training only the deceptive dribbler and goal scorer seems to ignore the more common or core skills of the game, i.e. passing and finishing. However, the reality is a completely different story. Great goal scorers are always excellent passers. Great deceptive dribblers are inevitably able to beat players or create space for the pass under pressure. These two facets of the Legends approach were covered in depth in my first book but what comes next wasn’t. Over the past two years the importance of “Stance” in the development of the “open sport” athlete has become dramatically evident to me. Stance is the focus of much racquet sport coaching. I have coaching licenses in tennis, squash and badminton. All three are by comparison with soccer relatively “closed” sports. The licensing courses in all three racquet sports contained a tremendous focus on developing perfect stance at the moment of racquet and ball impact. By comparison soccer licensing courses have a much broader focus. Stance is emphasized rarely because the situations in which technical actions are performed are so varied and diverse that any discussion of the perfect “stance” is rendered useless by the massive menu of stances the game gives us to choose from. This is not surprising because soccer is the most “open” world sport. Due to the wide and ever changing nature of its demands soccer is very difficult to coach. There are thousands of different coaching theories leading to the inevitable confusion and conflicting methods that permeate the worldwide soccer coaching community. As a consequence there is possibly more disagreement and confusion between soccer coaches than any other sports coaching fraternity.
Bearing in mind that variations on technique are so incredibly numerous, it is beyond the capacity of a traditional coach to train every skill involved in the game to an elite level during a youth career. With this in mind the Legends have developed an approach that teaches the young player how to assume the thousands critical but less complicated stances needed to pass and receive, by focusing on the significantly more difficult skills of deceptive dribbling and finishing.
For over five decades the Brazilians have been hailed for their incredible passing ability. It is the Legends hypothesis that their passing excellence is built around the challenges to stance that their talented deceptive dribblers and finishers had to endure within the more difficult neuromuscular demands of those two “margin of greatness” skills.
Legends players are taught the thirteen best fakes and moves soccer. These moves give each player two options for every 1 v 1 situation they will encounter in the game. These involve some the most complicated & difficult neuromuscular patterns in soccer. Legends players are also taught to score by powering, swerving, chipping, volleying & half-volleying the ball. These teach the most difficult release skill patterns of the game; patterns many times more pressured and difficult than those of passing. Inherent within the teaching and constant escalating pressures of deceptive dribbling and goal scoring are thousands of stance points.
The wall pass is a perfect example of the practical relevance of stance to a key tactical/technical passing component of successful team play. A successful wall pass play involves the build up to the pass; the execution of the initial pass and a good return pass. Throughout the sequence there are many stance points, however, the first and crucial stance point is exactly when the initial ball carrier passes to his teammate. The dribble at the first defender must be done at optimum speed and the pass delivered exactly when the attacker is close enough to the defender to make him hesitate just enough to allow the attacker to pass and win the race into the space between him and the goal.
At the crucial moment a well trained deceptive dribbler and finisher will have the honed ability to adapt his stance to the demands of the passing situation. This ability to assume the correct stance under extreme pressure will have been honed in the more difficult dribble and shoot environment close to the opposition goal.
The “Talent Code” hypothesis is that only consistent, escalating challenges involving ever greater degrees of difficulty will lay down enough myelin insulation to guarantee exceptional mental and physical performance.
It makes perfect sense that the two most difficult and rarest of soccer’s skills i.e. deceptive dribbling and finishing, if conquered to a superior level, will carry over into a wide range of soccer’s other skills and situations and by developing the very best players help them to lead their teams in brave and creative ways. As Daniel Coyle so rightly states, “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown!”