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Why is unopposed practice critical to performance?

unopposed practice

At IQ Football, we are continuously looking at ways we can help our players gain technical ability to use at the right time in a game scenario. In order for players to problem solve and perform a skill in a match, they need to be able to master the ball. Technical ability and ball mastery are best achieved in a low-pressure, unopposed environment.

unopposed practice

Often, coaches around the world (and I’ve especially noticed this in South Africa) are still using the thought process that technical skills training is used only during warm up. This has to change because technical ability is the foundation of a high performing football player. By only focussing on technique for a short part of each training session, coaches can greatly hinder a player’s performance and development.

In the past, coaches have always had healthy debates as to whether opposed or unopposed practice is best. Both have their benefits. But we believe that without technical skills training in unopposed practice, a player cannot achieve their highest level.

I’ve been privileged enough to work with players at various ages and levels internationally, and the results are always the same – working on a player’s technical ability and ball mastery in unopposed scenarios builds their confidence to perform better during a match.

IQ Football’s curriculum methodology has three main stages.

unopposed practice

It is important to allow players the opportunity to learn the drill/skill/movement without opposition initially (stage 1) so that they can learn it to an autonomous level. The next step is to add the complexity, specifically targeting the cognitive functioning of the player (concentration and memory) (stage 2), then to add opposition (problem solving) (stage 3).

Unopposed drills that focus on a player’s movement, motor skills, fluidity, technical ability and ball mastery create a confident player. Opposed drills work on problem solving and being able to use the skills learnt at the right time. Both of these approaches need to be incorporated to create a well-rounded player.

A good coach will understand that each player is individually unique, and from that standpoint choose to correctly pitch the level of the challenge, whether it be for learning technique, ball mastery, or in each game scenario.

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Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

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