Maximizing Soccer Talent: Brain-Based Coaching Insights

 Professor Jelle Jolles discussing soccer talent development.

Unveiling insights from a recent interview with Professor Jelle Jolles, a leading figure in Brain, Behavior & Education at VU University Amsterdam, we shed light on the essential neuroscientific principles every soccer coach should grasp to optimize talent development in youth players.

Read more: Maximizing Soccer Talent: Brain-Based Coaching Insights

Top 10 Brain-Based Soccer Coaching Tips

  1. Encourage children to frequently learn new techniques.
  2. Incorporate other ball sports to teach new skills.
  3. Allow young players to experiment, inventing their own tricks to enhance ball and game insight.
  4. Add variety to training sessions. Children’s attention spans vary; let them ‘play’ – also known as DeliberatePlay.
  5. Prompt children to articulate their thoughts, improving communication.
  6. Guide children in setting goals and encourage them to ponder “What if…”
  7. “A slowly growing tree can become the tallest.” Avoid writing off talents prematurely!
  8. Be mindful of age when setting expectations for a talented player.
  9. Ensure players aren’t continuously on edge, fearing mistakes or failure.
  10. Instill curiosity in players.

Why These Tips Matter

Jolles believes in prioritizing the personal growth of young talents. Adults – parents, coaches, and teachers – must establish conditions fostering optimal child development. Broadening horizons is key. Focus not only on technical and tactical skills but also on physical development and communication. His book, “Ellis and the Brainification,” mirrors this philosophy, drawing inspiration from the whimsical journey of curiosity in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Contrary to past beliefs that brains mature by twelve, recent studies show development extends into our twenties. While some brain systems mature early, others, crucial for advanced cognitive functions, develop later. Hence, a young player might exhibit advanced soccer skills but still need guidance in areas like decision-making and on-field social behaviors.

Remember the metaphor, “A slowly growing tree can become the tallest.” Not every child prodigy in soccer becomes a star. Experience, home environment, cognitive insight, and communication with coaches and referees influence outcomes. Balance is crucial; an unbalanced talent can “fall” or “wither away.”

Talent goes beyond motor skills. It involves efficient memory processes, making connections, and having a high learning capacity. Communication and evaluation are vital. Coaches must stimulate not just soccer skills, but also motivation and passion. Support, guide, inspire and set conditions for player development. Encourage them to set goals and reflect, as their journey is about personal growth and talent evolution.


In soccer coaching, understanding the brain is pivotal. It’s not just about soccer skills, but about harnessing the power of the brain, fostering motivation, and guiding personal growth. Guiding a player to success means more than just teaching techniques; it’s about nurturing the whole individual.

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