Unleashing the Brain’s Creative Power in Soccer Players

Soccer player visualizing creative strategies on the field.

Diving into the complex realm of football, it’s evident that the most creative players often captivate audiences with their mesmerizing plays. But what fuels this creativity on the field? Let’s delve deeper.

Read more: Unleashing the Brain’s Creative Power in Soccer Players

Creativity: The Game Changer in Soccer

When we talk about creativity in football, we refer to players possessing the unique ability to surprise opponents with inventive moves, thus making a crucial difference for their team. Creativity, essentially, is the capacity to generate new and useful ideas. In the world of football, it’s clear that creativity can be a game changer. Research by Kempe and Memmert (2018) took a closer look at the FIFA World Cup games of 2010 and 2014, and the UEFA Euro 2016. Their findings? Teams advancing to later stages exhibited higher creative abilities (as judged by soccer experts) than their less successful counterparts.

Understanding the Origins of Creativity

So, where do these groundbreaking ideas come from? Researchers, led by Roger Beaty from Harvard University, embarked on a mission to decipher the mystery behind creativity. Their objective was to identify whether there’s a specific brain network associated with a high level of creativity. Volunteers were tasked with conjuring creative uses for everyday items like stones, knives, or ropes. Their responses were then evaluated by a panel for creativity levels. Beaty’s findings were fascinating, indicating, “The creative brain is wired differently.” Individuals exhibiting high creativity were found to activate certain brain networks that don’t typically collaborate.

In parallel, Andreas Fink and his team at the University of Graz in Austria also set out to pinpoint the brain functions linked to creative decision-making in soccer-related scenarios. They used fMRI scans to study 30 male football players who had been playing actively at least once a week for the past decade. These participants were shown short 12-second video clips, placing themselves in the shoes of a highlighted player, and then asked to ideate a creative move that could lead to a goal. UEFA A certified coaches assessed these solutions for creativity. Fink’s study illuminated that the specific thought processes activated depended on the level of creativity. These processes predominantly occurred in brain areas responsible for visual information processing.

Schematic  visualizing creative strategies on the field.

Delving Deeper into the Brain’s Role in Creativity

For those who take a keen interest in neurology, activations were chiefly seen in the left lateralization, involving the cuneus, the middle temporal gyrus, and the rolandic operculum. Like Beaty’s research, Fink’s study also underscores the involvement of various brain regions in the creative thought process. These networks often support diverse cognitive functions, from semantic, visual, and motor information processing, to handling and integrating sensorimotor and somatosensory stimuli.

However, Fink also highlighted some limitations in his study, remarking, “The lab environment is a far cry from the actual on-field conditions. Being immobilized in a scanner while trying to be creative is challenging.” Moreover, using TV footage for video clips required participants to visualize more, as they had to place themselves into a player’s shoes. Such constraints only offer us a glimpse of what truly transpires on the field.

Concluding Thoughts

With these findings in mind, it’s evident that various brain regions play a pivotal role in the creative process. Training these regions could enhance one’s problem-solving strategies on the field. Training approaches like Chaos Training or Differential Learning align well with this theory. However, this remains a hypothesis for me. Further research is necessary to explore the effects of these training methods concerning brain functions and, subsequently, creativity.


Fink A, Bay JU, Koschutnig K, Prettenthaler K, Rominger C, Benedek M, Papousek I, Weiss EM, Seidel A, Memmert D. Brain and soccer: Functional patterns of brain activity during the generation of creative moves in real soccer decision-making situations. Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Feb 15;40(3):755-764. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24408. Epub 2018 Sep 26. PMID: 30259600; PMCID: PMC6492000.

Roger E. Beaty, Yoed N. Kenett, Alexander P. Christensen, Monica D. Rosenberg, Mathias Benedek, Qunlin Chen, Andreas Fink, Jiang Qiu, Thomas R. Kwapil, Michael J. Kane, Paul J. Silvia


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