Cognitive Skills in Soccer: Frank de Boer’s Perspective

Dennis Bergkamp scoring against Argentina after a cognitive masterclass by Frank de Boer in 1998.

When it comes to interviews with soccer coaches, discussions predominantly revolve around tactics, individual players, or transfers. Rarely do they explore the intriguing realm of player cognition. Recently, legends Frank de Boer and Hans van Breukelen shed light on this essential dimension, emphasizing its relevance in professional soccer.

Read more: Cognitive Skills in Soccer: Frank de Boer’s Perspective

A Legendary Recollection

Before diving deep into cognition, let’s take a nostalgic journey back to 1998. Who can forget Dennis Bergkamp’s mesmerizing goal against Argentina? If you need a refresher, just recall Jack van Gelder’s electrifying commentary. As many remember Bergkamp’s masterclass, this story, interestingly, hinges on Frank de Boer’s cognitive brilliance during the game.

Decoding Frank de Boer’s Cognitive Mastery

In the early moments of that iconic play, de Boer was seen deftly dribbling, assessing the pitch with his sharp spatial orientation. Drawing from visual cues, he effortlessly processed Dennis Bergkamp’s run. Using his executive system, he decided on that long, game-changing pass. The cerebellum, the brain’s coordination hub, orchestrated this play, which was finally executed by the motor cortex. Such precision starts with spatial awareness, a point passionately made by de Boer himself.

Training the Cognitive Aspects

In his interview, de Boer highlighted the significance of developing ‘spatial insight’, a skill he famously showcased against Argentina. Stating its trainability, he introduced SMARTGOALS, mini goals fitted with LED lights. When a player passes through one, another lights up, compelling players to scan their surroundings swiftly. During his tenure at Ajax, this innovative approach was instrumental in training players, with Bazoer being a notable beneficiary.

Hans van Breukelen’s Expert Perspective

The conversation on soccer cognition isn’t complete without Hans van Breukelen, the current technical director of the KNVB. According to Breukelen, three pillars define a top soccer player: quick information processing, spatial insight, and learning adaptability. Rooted in the prefrontal cortex, these traits, especially the first two, are finetuned with tools like SMARTGOALS.

Stay tuned as I unveil insights from more coaches and experts about cognition’s role in sports. To keep abreast of the latest articles, ensure you’re subscribed to our notifications!

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