The 5-Second Rule: Soccer Strategy to Cognitive Decision-Making

Soccer coach using the 5-second rule for decision-making on the field.

In the dynamic world of soccer coaching, most trainers are acquainted with the tactical “5-second rule”—the strategy of regaining possession within five seconds after losing the ball. However, in this article, we delve into a different “5-second rule” conceptualized by Mel Robbins. This cognitive tool can empower coaches to tackle challenging conversations and decisions.

Read more: The 5-Second Rule: Soccer Strategy to Cognitive Decision-Making

Understanding Soccer’s 5-Second Rule

When a team loses the ball, the primary goal is to regain possession within five seconds. If this isn’t achieved, they usually revert to their defensive setup. This tactic is well-known in soccer circles. Yet, there’s another impactful “5-second rule” we need to discuss.

Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Rule: Mastering Decisions

Every coach faces those daunting “bad news” conversations—decisions about player swaps, addressing player behavior, or navigating board-related challenges. Often, we decide to initiate a dialogue but then hesitate, letting apprehensions hold us back.

The Duel of System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman classifies our thinking into two systems. System 1 is our automatic brain, while System 2 is our reflective, problem-solving brain. Occasionally, there’s a tug-of-war between these systems. Our mind naturally leans more towards risk-aversion than seeking opportunities, making procrastination or abandoning our intentions more probable.

How the 5-Second Rule Counters Procrastination

The essence of the 5-second rule is simple: If something matters, don’t delay. Count backward from five and act. Mel Robbins’ comprehensive explanation can be viewed here: Link.

Imagine you’ve made a tough decision about the team’s lineup. Now, you ponder whether to discuss your choices with the affected players to preclude possible resentment. But then doubts and justifications creep in, leading to potential postponement or abandonment. To counter this, Robbins suggests: 5-4-3-2-1-GO! Start the conversation. This countdown interrupts undermining thoughts, ensuring that your initial motivation remains intact.

Applications Beyond Coaching

Players, too, can benefit from this rule. Consider those final sprints where fatigue sets in, and the mind resists. Again, 5-4-3-2-1-GO! While it might sound overly simplistic, the rule can be an effective catalyst for action. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution but can be a useful tool with practice.


The 5-second rule isn’t just about tactical play on the soccer pitch; it’s a cognitive tool to spur action in challenging moments. For both coaches and players, mastering this technique requires practice but can lead to decisive and impactful actions.


Robbins, M. (2017). The 5 second rule: The surprisingly simple way to live, love, and speak with courage. Post Hill Press. 

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