Soccer is so popular across the globe that it is difficult to find a country where the game doesn’t enjoy massive followership. Many countries around the globe have adopted soccer as their national sport.
According to 2022 information available in the Library of Congress, it is estimated that there are about 240 million registered soccer players in the over 200 member associations and more than 300,000 soccer clubs. In terms of view, soccer ranks top with 3.5 billion fans across the globe.
Cricket and basketball, which are the second and third most followed sports, have 2.5 billion and 2.2 billion fans respectively. For amateur soccer players, the biggest concern is usually how to get better at the game.
Ironically, inasmuch as a lot of people love watching soccer players, what they don’t know is that they can become better at soccer by watching other soccer players play.
- Soccer players often improve their dribbling skills by watching and imitating other soccer.
- Coaches often make soccer players watch the games of their opponents to understand their playing style and tactics.
- Watching an opponent is a great way to prepare for man-marking.
- Physical training increases your physical abilities while watching soccer is a form of mental training that increases your mental abilities.
You know that you can get better at soccer by watching the games. That is the simple answer if all you have been looking for is an affirmation.
However, if you want a detailed explanation of how watching soccer can help you to become better at the game as well as tips on how you should be watching soccer, keep reading to find out.
Can you get better at soccer by watching it?
Hitherto, the popular opinion is that if you want to become better at soccer the only way you could achieve that is either bumping up your training or getting more game time. We are not disputing that. However, it is far from the only way.
Watching soccer can help you to get better at it because it improves your mental conditioning and reveals a lot of secrets about your opponent. The problem is that a lot of amateur soccer players hoping to go pro someday don’t know what to look out for when watching soccer.
If you watch soccer to enjoy the game, what you will get in the end is the score—and probably who scored or missed goalscoring opportunities. However, if your focus is on becoming a better soccer player, you have to change the way you are watching your game.
The vast majority of fans that watch soccer do it for fun. For those that want to improve their game by watching soccer, below are important tips that you need to know.
Watch to imitate
Amateur soccer players that have a superstar in the game that they idolize will eventually start displaying a game style similar to their idols. Scientists call this phenomenon “nonconscious behavioral mimicry”.
Researchers say that you can improve motor skills by watching others perform an activity that you want to perfect. Perhaps, you have noticed after watching something being done a hundred times you start feeling like you can do it too.
It is not surprising that virtually all great writers are also avid readers. Next time you watch a soccer game—whether live on the pitch or streamed replays on YouTube—focus on the skills that you want to learn and see how the soccer players pull them off.
For example, if you want to learn the hocus pocus, watch other players and see how they use it during a game. Focus on their body and leg movement as well as the circumstances where they used the skill to get out of tricky situations.
Visualizing and having a good mental picture of what you want to do makes it easier to actualize them when you eventually hit the training ground.
The more you focus on these tiny details, the more you prepare your muscles for a similar experience when you step into the game.
Watching soccer reveals the opponent’s tactics
Coaches are famous for watching games and visiting the training grounds of clubs where they find a player of interest. On Wednesday, August 1o, 2022, Gareth Southgate paid a visit to Chelsea’s Cobham Training Center.
During the visit, he interacted with England superstars in the team and also met a young player Carney Chukwuemeka who moved from Aston Villa to Chelsea in a deal worth around 20 million pounds.
Besides scouting for players, coaches have also been spotted in the stadium watching the game of a rival team. The purpose of their presence is not to enjoy the game but to read their opponent’s tactics.
The formation, attacking, and defensive style, how the team adapts to their playing style depending on the circumstance of the game, and the most creative players are some of the details that a soccer coach will always look out for when watching the game of a rival team.
By identifying these details, the coach will be able to come up with a strategy to either defeat the opponent or force a draw—when playing with a tougher opponent. In other words, the coach watches the games of rival teams to help his team get better results.
Boosts the effectiveness of man-marking
Man-marking is an important technique in soccer. Coaches will usually adopt this technique when they are playing against a team with creative players. The essence of man-marking is to close down the creative players and limit their ability to freely play the ball.
As a soccer player, if your coach has assigned you to mark a particular player, it’s important to watch the player’s techniques on the pitch. By watching the player play, you will understand their style of play.
This will help you to come up with a playing style to neutralize their passes and creative attempts. The logical thing to do when watching a soccer game is to always follow the ball.
However, when watching to learn about a particular opponent, you don’t follow the ball, you follow the player of interest. That means taking notes of their movements, whether they are with the ball or not.
By watching their movements when they are not with the ball, you will be able to analyze their positioning and compare it to how you position them on the pitch.
Improves your decision-making
Have you noticed that the fans are the best players in a soccer game? They will tell you what each player should have done differently and how the game outcome would have changed—even though some of them have never kicked a ball in their life.
It is not really that they think they are better than the soccer players. However, soccer players usually have a limited view depending on their position and the position of other players.
Soccer fans, on the other hand, have a wider view and would easily see what the soccer players will not see. Watching tons of videos in the build-up to a game can increase your ability to make better and faster decisions because you now get to see the game from the perspective of the fans.
For example, when you are in the 18-yard box and a ball is lobed towards you, you have to decide whether to use your head, attempt a bicycle kick, or let the ball drop.
When you see how other players handled a similar situation, you will easily handle it too without thinking too much when you are in a similar situation. Remember, in soccer, that split-second decision can either win or cost you a game.
Exploit the opponent’s weak point
Another important piece of information that you can easily see when watching a soccer game is your opponent’s weakness. Every soccer team has their weakness. It may be that their goalkeeper is not reactive enough or that one of their defenders is slow.
It is harder to see these details when you are on the soccer pitch, but you will easily notice this when you watch game replays on the screen. If your opponent has a goalkeeper with low reactiveness, your team can adapt to taking long-range shots with a striker always staying close to mop up the loose ball.
Share your findings with your coach and teammates and find a way of incorporating all you have learned into your game. Soccer is a team game and if the team becomes better, individual lapses can easily be forgiven.
Enhance your game intelligence
In soccer, nothing is cast in stone. This explains why coaches often give some players a free role—meaning they are not bound to any position.
Inasmuch as soccer players step onto the pitch with a game plan, they often have to adapt to any changing circumstance of the game, like when a teammate gets a red card.
Players often have to quickly change their playing style depending on their opponent. For example, when defenders are playing against a fast forward, they tend to stay deeper in their half rather than try to move up the pitch which may expose them to counterattacks.
On the other hand, when a defender is playing against a team with forwards of average speed, you will find them going deeper into their opponent’s half and even attempting to score goals.
You can easily grow your game intelligence by watching soccer games and taking notes from other players that play in your position. Watching soccer games can give you insights on how to boost your positioning on the pitch.
Watching soccer games is more crucial for players that train on their own. Players in this category usually learn by mimicking other soccer players. They see new skills on the screen and go out into the training ground to try them out.
Watching soccer has to go hand-in-hand with training. Watching soccer alone will not make you an exceptional soccer player.
Likewise, you will be missing out on the intelligence and tactical aspect of the game if you simply train without watching soccer games. In other words, you need the training to boost your physical performance while watching the game will boost your mental performance.
Getting better at soccer can have different meanings for different people. For some, it may be winning games while for others it may be the ability to beat their marker more easily.
You can easily accomplish all of these by having a better understanding of your opponent. The better you can analyze your opponent’s style of play, the easier it will be for you to come up with a counter style to beat them at their own game.
When you watch soccer to be a better player, you should pay attention to the tiny details. You will be surprised at how quickly your game will develop when you change how you watch soccer games.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!