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10 slightly quirky ideas to make you a better player

I am generally a serious and philosophical person. My writing reflects that and I’m sick of people telling me that I can’t be fun. So I wanted to prove to them that I can let my hair down and be silly like them. So I have written the following article for the less serious people in life. (Or for serious but just not today people as well). Either way, put your silly hats on and don’t tell me that my article is stupid. I will tell you now, it kind of is.

1. Driving bad for two-footedness

If you have a car and drive, you will already know that you mainly use your right foot to push the accelerator and the brake pedal. If you have a manual car your right foot will operate the accelerator and brake pedals, while your left will operate the clutch pedal. Either way, you will be using your right foot no matter what country you drive in. This means there is an imbalance in the work that your legs do. After many years of driving, the muscles in your right leg will have performed many more contractions than the muscles in your left leg. This means that the myelin surrounding the nerves in those muscles will have thickened, an adaptation related to muscle memory, or the ability for muscles to become more precise to certain movements. This may lead to an imbalanced use of one leg when performing football tasks such as always trapping or passing the ball with the right leg, simply because the muscles in your right leg are more used to contracting. If you want to be able to use both feet in football, don’t drive. Or at least drive a manual car.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 23: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of FC Schalke 04 during a training session at Emirates Stadium on October 23, 2012 in London, England.

2. Playing chess improves tactical awareness

It is vital to improve your mental attributes such as awareness, confidence, decision making ability etc to improve as a football player. One of these attributes is tactical awareness, the ability to know where you are and where you should be. Chess is basically football played on a smaller field where the game lasts longer and is played at a lower intensity. It is proven that the chess masters have superior intelligence such as spacial awareness, problem solving and concentration. These attributes are basically the same ones that players such as Xavi, Zidane and Scholes have. If you play chess, you can also improve these qualities which is the difference between the best players and the good ones.

3. Getting into your pants with the same leg makes your balance asymmetrical

Think about this – which leg do you use first to get into your pants or shorts when you dress? The first leg in is in all likelihood your preferred leg when kicking a football. In other words, since your childhood days you have been dressing and undressing without realising that you have been using the same leg over and over to get in or out of your trousers. If you assume that you change attire twice a day since you were five years old and you are now 25, you have dressed yourself 14,560 times. In a similar way to driving, you have been doing your non-preferred leg a major disservice. Not only has this affected your ability to use both feet, you have affected your balance. Try this experiment- wear different trousers to the one you are wearing now, but use your other leg to get into the trousers first. Not so easy, is it? If you are right footed, you have been overbalancing on your left leg. This means the action of passing, shooting or dribbling with your right foot is accentuated because your left foot is better at balancing your body than your right. If you want to improve your balance on your right leg so that you can use your left foot more in football, swap the leg you use to get into your pants.

4. To improve movement, walk backwards

Not a great point I admit. I was thinking of the movements in football and came to the conclusion that everyday human movement is non-specific to football movement. Football players run forward, run backwards, skip sideways, jump, jog, spin, hop – basically more than just walk, which is what we do in our everyday lives. If you want to improve your physical shape in football, then stop walking to work – skip instead. When you are in your office building, don’t walk to your water cooler – walk backwards instead. When you walk up stairs, don’t walk – hop up the stairs. These simple modifications in your day to day life will improve your football movement.

BERLIN – JULY 9: Zinedine Zidane (R) of France goes past Gennaro Gattuso (L) of Italy during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Final match between Italy and France at the Olympic Stadium on July 9, 2006 in Berlin, Germany.

5. Playing FIFA helps you deflect blame so your confidence doesn’t drop

It is a well known fact of playing Fifa on your game console that we humans refuse to blame ourselves when we concede a goal or lose a game. It is usually the players fault for not being good enough. Either that or you pressed X to pass but the button was faulty. You know what, the other player was cheating. Yep, that has to explain why I’ve lost every time I’ve played against my friend. What does this mean to us aspiring football players? It means that you will never blame yourself for mistakes you did. Never blame yourself for losing. It is this mentality which makes us bullet-proof. We will never get a dent on our armour of arrogance. Never accept it was our fault. (Why should it be – I tackled fairly but the referee gave a penalty – conspiracy!). All in all, we will never be hurt, never think it is me that’s the problem and never lose our sense of self worth. If you want to never lose confidence in your ability as a football player, play Fifa. But never play as Fernando Torres.

6. Architects have a developed spacial awareness

The chess master moves his pieces in a particular space with obstacles in the way, but an architect designs the space. Not only does he design it, he designs it differently every time. That requires a mastery of spacial awareness and planning ability. Not to mention a real building is on a whole new level to a small board of 64 squares. Do you get what I’m getting at? If you want to improve your spacial awareness and ability to visualise and plan ahead, become an architect. Enough said.

7. Cycling will shorten hamstrings

On a slightly more scientific tone, it is said that fitness trainers who make their players cycle on a machine to improve their aerobic endurance are doing their hamstrings a disservice. You see, after constant repetition of cycling, your hamstrings will reduce in length due to the constantly shortened state it finds itself in a cycling motion. When a player kicks a ball hard or shoots on goal, the hamstring explosively lengthens as the leg moves away from the body. If your hamstring has been used to contracting in a shortened state, a sudden lengthening in such an action can cause a tear. In short, if you want to increase your chance of getting an injury, cycle. If you are smart, you would stick to good old running.

8. Ice skating improves balance

Ice skating improves balance because your whole body weight is balanced on two extremely thin strips of metal that has a much smaller surface area than your two feet. To improve your balance, take up ice skating. Simple really.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – NOVEMBER 14: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden celebrates scoring his third goal during the international friendly match between Sweden and England at the Friends Arena on November 14, 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

9. Karate kicks means better football kicks

Football is much like karate or taekwondo. In football, you use your leg to kick a ball. In karate, you use your leg to kick many things. Experienced martial artists have a greatly developed kinesthetic sense, the ability to know where your body is in relation to space. When performing a complex spinning kick, a martial artist must know precisely where his leg is and where it will go, as well as the ability to actually move his leg in the desired way. Elite football players also have an acute sense of their body position and can also precisely control the movements of their body and legs. Maybe Bruce Lee would have been a great football player if he hadn’t discovered martial arts.

10. Artists can play number 10

I have written about creativity before on this site and on my own blog site. Having thought about it deeply, I have come to a single conclusion. Artists are the most creative people on the planet. No doubt.  If you want to be creative as a football player, if you want to be able to make more assists, if you want to be revered like the most creative players in the history of football, I will tell you one piece of advice. Paint!

You can now take off your hats and resume normal life.

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