Soccer players should be sensitized to three elements of rhythm:
Rhythm should be understood from the viewpoint of four factors:
By observing the best soccer players in the World,
- Soccer & Rhythm
-J. B. Preistley
I watch soccer much different than most watch any sport, I suppose. Sometimes, I couldn’t care less or even know what the score is. I am so fixated on the movements of the players, the actions and reactions, the timing and the physical execution of unconscious decisions that I even lose track of the teams playing. I usually take the time to watch certain players that I know have it. The one’s that you can see in a split second that they are worth keeping an eye on.
Rhythm is a state of mind, an unconscious feeling that allows the player to be in tune with the ball and the movement of the game around him. It’s an ability to do anything and everything in the game without an instance of wasted energy or time. It’s never maintained but always shifting, like the gears on a bike while riding through a hillside.
Rhythm is a skill and it can be taught.
As I break down rhythm in soccer, I want to analyze it within 3 different aspects:
1) Physical Rhythm or Rhythm in Movement Patterns – the ability for players to move efficiently
2) Technical Rhythm – the ability for players to execute effectively
3) Tactical Rhythm – the ability for players to integrate smoothly
Rhythm is typically referred in the contexts of music or dance, as in the timing of musical sounds or movements. Just as a song is unrecognizable when played out of rhythm, a soccer athlete cannot move with grace and precision without the proper rhythm in their steps.
When I refer to a soccer athlete, I am defining a player that can execute the complex movements with the least amount of energy, and make it look easy. However, a soccer player, in this regard, does not encompass the full nature of what physical characteristics are needed to achieve success at any level.
When you watch Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick to win the Manchester derby against rivals Manchester City above, you are not seeing a player that is struggling to make this play. It is a smooth, purposeful, seemingly effortless and easy acrobatic effort that created an absolute amazing goal. It was created because Rooney was able to react to the cross in his position with the most efficient and effective movement possible. He was on rhythm!
A true soccer athlete that moves on rhythm is one that only uses purposeful energy to execute a necessary part of the game. This can be as simple as a jog to position himself/herself to receive a pass or as complex as the bicycle kick from Rooney. Also, these players understand the importance of how and when to best change speeds and direction, when to stop or move slowly, and when and how to move quickly.
Most players and coaches are only focused on how to move at the highest speeds, however if a player understands rhythmic movement better, he is able to grasp how to be elusive by changing tempo and how to work at the highest capacity for the 90 minute duration.
In order to find rhythm during competition, a foundation of movement skills must be developed through the early years of training. A soccer athlete does not instantly move with precision and grace necessary to perform the feats at a high level.
Most players have to learn how to move efficiently. This is usually achieved through years of athletic development from playing multiple sports or being blessed with a natural sense of movement; however this can also be coached. Implementing drills and progressions into a young players training routine that preach rhythmic movement will create a much smaller learning curve to reaching athletic potential, as well as to avoid most non-contact injuries.
To show best how a proper rhythm in movement creates a better athlete, in the next section I will refer to drills that are inspired or created by Jeremy Boone (www.athletebydesign.com) and Scott Moody (www.soccerfitacademy.com).
When changing directions, many soccer players use numerous techniques that may be effective but lack efficiency, or lack both effectiveness and efficiency. There are countless situations where changing directions are a vital part of soccer and any player could undoubtedly utilize these drills to make them better. The examples below are just a sample of drills that I use in my work to develop young soccer athletes.
Using a simple progression, like the run to shuffle below is a fantastic way to have a player become clear on how to make a movement absent of wasted steps. Only then can they begin to react accordingly when in a competitive environment where movement surely could not be the focus. With these drills, we are trying to accomplish an ability to accelerate as hard as possible to a point where the player must break as quickly as possible, yet maintain the posture to move again.
Repetition in this movement will allow for her to move the same way unconsciously while reacting to the play. Too many players have to slow down well before reaching the point of change so that they are not as effective in the movement. Likewise, players tend to break (stop) off of the outside foot or do not keep their center of gravity inside their body so they are not able to immediately work in the desired direction.
Finally, when a competence in the isolated movement is reached, we can translate this into the game by simulating a need to close down an attacker and force them into a direction, using the same movements. She is now able to close hard, change quick, and defend effectively. We are now ready to move to a 1 on 1 scenario that is at game speed.
Not only do most young players, without proper training, lack the cognitive ability to create rhythm in their movements, but they lack the strength and power necessary to manipulate their bodies at the highest velocity without collapse. As you can see, there is a big need for hip strength and power to change direction in the best rhythm. Implementing strength training into a young soccer athletes programs is extremely important for their success. Make sure that you are including essential single leg and core strengthening exercises that replicate the game’s movement demands and is proper for the age and training history.
You can see some of the examples that we use, at Performance Unlimited here: http://www.youtube.com/user/theperformanceu
- Soccer and “Ginga”: The Importance of Rhythm
by Roger Spry
In every sport there is a crucial ingredient that very few people neither see nor recognize. Yet it is that one “magic” ingredient that really differentiates the truly great athletes from the good or very good.
It is the ability to “dance”; in every sport there is what is termed, “the dance within the game”. If a player cannot dance without the ball, how is he supposed to be able to “dance” around his opponent or opponents?
All great players and teams in whatever sport, have the ability to dictate the rhythm of the game. By controlling the rhythm of first the individual, then the team, you control the flow of the game, imposing your rhythm on the opposition (individually and collectively). Rhythm is of fundamental importance for success.
If your training is always of the same rhythm, then each player, and the team, becomes very linear and therefore predictable, and this predictability is the “curse” of unsuccessful players and teams.
Introducing a variety of rhythmic drills, movements, and more importantly, adding a varied rhythmic theme, to everyday training causes each player to become much more difficult to play against. This is because his opponent (through traditional training forms) will be very uncomfortable working at these “strange, disjointed, nonlinear” rhythms.
Alongside and not in isolation, the tempo of the individual movement and the training itself should be multi-tempo, and of differing intensities. The importance and appreciation of these multi-rhythmic, multi-tempos, training tools cannot be emphasized too highly.
Skill in isolation is cold, emotionless, and can even become robotic (machinelike). Above all, it is very predictable, but allied to rhythmic ebbs and flows, and tempo changes; this same skill becomes emotional, and human, by nature very unpredictable.
Teaching players to work to different B.P.M. (Beats per Minute) will help greatly: 60 BPM, 80 BPM, 100 BPM, 120 BPM, 140 BPM, 160 BPM, etc. Also beneficial is working to different time signatures 4:4, 3:4, 5:4, 7:4, etc. By adding these variants to your training loads, a genuine flow and grace of movement in time and space is developed, training becomes more productive, more enjoyable, and more creative players and teams are produced.
Music is a very powerful tool, used as a mood enhancer, a relaxation model, a motivation tool, or as a visualization method. But more importantly the rhythms and beats within the music are of vital importance, and to understand and use them will bring fantastic results. Training to music is one of my favorite and result producing training methods, and if used correctly will be loved by every player.
The first thing to understand is, as soccer is not just an aerobic sport, then the training must not be aerobic in its nature, many coaches I know use/abuse training to music because they think that it is an aerobics class. As soccer is a game of absolutely random intervals, then training to music should replicate this. I use many differing rhythms, beats per minute, time signatures, and moods in my music to give the players a varied response to the training load, sometimes using a ball, sometimes not, solo, with a partner, against an opponent etc, whilst all of the time working to the designated beat and rhythm.
As each culture has its own rhythmic identity, (the Brazilians – Samba, Argentineans – the Tango, the Spanish – the fandango, the Portuguese – Fado, and so on), it is vital to work within as many of the varieties as possible to acclimatize your players to whatever and whoever they might come up against in their games.
Once rhythmic work is learned and understood, then it is very easy to impose your rhythm on another individual/team. If your rhythm is foreign to their experience, then they will feel very uncomfortable with what you are doing. The Brazilians are the masters of imposing their rhythms on their opponents, they almost hypnotize the opposition with their slow, slow, quick, explode, slow, change, explode, goal! This is the most advanced form of rhythmic movement/play and is called the broken rhythm concept.
The Brazilian people have a wonderful saying that I love and totally understand, “never trust a person who doesn’t like music.” Within the Brazilian culture there is a philosophy and a physical movement, it is called “ginga”. Gingar is the Portuguese verb to sway, swagger or strut, and ginga is the actual movement evolved from that verb. Even though ginga is a Brazilian phenomenon, it can be successfully exported to anyone, anywhere, at any age. Ginga is also the basic starting position from “capoeira” and is defined as the rhythmic movement of all the body to the beat of the music, with the main purpose to keep the body relaxed in a fluid state, and to move the center of gravity of the body continuously.
Capoeira is an art form that involves movement, music, and elements of practical philosophy. One experiences the essence of capoeira by “playing” a physical game called “jogo de capoeira” (game of capoeira) or simply “jogo”. During this ritualized combat, two “capoeiristas” (players of capoeira) exchange movements of attack and defense in a constant flow while observing rituals and proper manners of the art. Both players attempt to control the space by confusing the opponent with feints and deceptive moves. During the jogo, the capoeiristas explore their strengths and weaknesses, fears, and fatigue in a sometimes frustrating, but nevertheless enjoyable, challenging and constant process of personal expression, self-reflection and growth.
The speed and character of the jogo are generally determined by the many different rhythms of the berimbau, a one-string musical bow, which is considered to be the primary symbol of this art form. The berimbau is complemented by the pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (single-headed standing drum), agogo (double bell), and reco-reco (grooved segment of bamboo scraped with a stick) to form a unique ensemble of instruments. Inspiring solos and collective singing in a call-and-response dialogue join the hypnotic percussion to complete the musical ambiance for the capoeira session.
Ginga for many people is the real “secret” of Brazilian soccer, not skill. It is a very simple movement and philosophy, but it has a “hidden danger,” players become addicted to it. There is a very real danger of overtraining using these concepts and movements. As in other parameters of work, moderation and balance are the key words! I used these methods extensively, with fantastic results, when I worked in Drug rehabilitation clinics in Portugal. We replaced one negative addiction (chemical), with a positive addiction (ginga and capoeira).