There is much scientific debate regarding right and left-brain attributes, many believe that either the left or right dominates ones thinking in terms of creative right and analytical left. I myself am no neuroscientist. I do however try to research as much as I can to learn more about how it all works. What I have learned which may play a significant part in how we develop players is that there are areas in each hemisphere that control certain functions. In my last blog, I dabbled into the attributes of the left and right. So just to recap for the sake of explaining what this blog is about here is what I wrote;
- The left hemisphere is the more logical verbal one – the right the more intuitive creative one
- The left deals with words – the right with pictures
- The left with parts and specifics the right with wholes and relationships between the parts
- The left deals with analysis which mean to break apart – the right deals with synthesis which mean to put together
- The left deals with sequential thinking, the right with simultaneous and holistic thinking
- The left is time-bound – the right is time free.”
Attention also differs in each side with the left more involved with the internal world and the right side more interested in attending to the external world.
Personally, I don’t know if we are or we are not dominated by one side or the other. What I do believe is that we all possess different traits or characteristics and I believe that some people may require more structure in order to learn, that is for things to be broken down step by step or are better at processing information by pulling things apart step by step. These same people may quite often possess higher levels of IQ which my gut tells me is an ability to remember things more proficiently. I don’t think this is something that you can measure, what I have found is that I myself struggle with the principle of step by step. Step by step means one has to be patient and have a good memory which I don’t believe is an area that I flourish in, not that I am belittling myself as I also think I have traits in other areas that help me to overcome whatever deficiencies I may possess. One must be meticulous and prepared to focus and concentrate on things that others such as myself find it hard to focus and concentrate on. Is this a sign of IQ? I really don’t know perhaps it is or perhaps it isn’t. It is something which we need to put into perspective and possess an open mind toward.
We have geniuses that possess very high IQ’s that can unravel the mysteries of quantum physics, but could these geniuses unravel a tight defence and produce a moment of footballing mastery like that of a Messi. Perhaps if that particular genius grew up in a household where their family were football fanatics that may be the case.
From my personal experience, I have two children, one reads the user manual back to front before playing FIFA on the PlayStation, the other grabs the remote control and learns through trial and error. I have no scientific answer as to why both of my girls are so very different in this aspect only wild guesses and assumptions as to why this may be so. Is it just simply a personality trait? These are two children (now adults) whose perception of the world where both based on home influences and experiences intertwined with different teachers’ friends and environments outside of the home. So, each child would have experienced things very differently away from our influence but relatively similar within our household environment. They both attended the same school but at different age groups, they both played football but in different teams and therefore also different environments, coaches and influences. At 8 months the older one would spend her time trying to flip through the yellow pages, she would get upset because her fat little fingers couldn’t grasp the pages and end up throwing a tantrum, she would look at the words on each page as if she somehow understood them. One day I caught her listening to her audiobook, it was snow white, one of those books that read for her as she turned the pages she would listen and try to follow the letters all this before we even began teaching her the alphabet. Soon after she asked me to teach her how to read at a very young age, she picked it up in no time, we would drive around and she would read the road signs.
My other one was very different I also taught her to start reading at an early age but she didn’t ask me! She was happy to just follow in her sisters’ footsteps, her personality was very different from her sisters and both have some wonderful characteristics. Tijana, for example, was always a natural at sports and just so happens to love art but unlike her sister has no patience for things like user manuals, she is very much a doing by trial and error girl. One day my eldest asked me to teach her how to play tennis I made a net we could use in our cul-de-sac and we would spend a good 20-30 minutes practicing, she would miss half the balls I sent her way but she had this desire and work ethic that said I’ll get this, at one stage we stopped and said Tij your turn now my then 4-year-old picks up the racket the first 3 balls I send over she smashes with proficiency over the net. Then looks at her sister and says Jess your turn now. On another occasion when Jess decided to trial for select football, Tijana had tagged along with her friend. My wife said Tij why don’t you have a go, you’re here you guys might as well have a run and have some fun. 5 min after the trial started with Tijana still in her Dural public school uniform and sneakers she came running over to her mum and said mum they want to talk to you. Madam, we want her to sign for the club today they enthusiastically explained to my wife. Jess, on the other hand, got picked on her second trial. Perhaps the fact that I had been her coach since she was 7 may have helped but Tij was always a natural at the arts.
So, I guess the underlying common factor is that within each individual is a unique personality, this personality is what drives us and perhaps these personality traits stem from the possibility that we are influenced by how our brains function based on our environment. As a football coach and former player, I can ascertain that I seem to derive my personality, my points of view and my general demeanour from the right side. For example, I have very little patience for rigid structure, however, I still need structure in my life, it’s the level of structure that I have difficulty grasping especially in terms of academia. The best way to explain it visually would be as follows:
Left Academic Right Creative
Now here is the thing I don’t think that these attributes are a product of birth and genes. I believe it is simply a product of environment and personality. I believe that IQ may also be a determining factor, but environment enables or enhances ones learning capacity. If you begin to introduce letters and numbers to a child at a very young age you are creating an environment for the brain to be stimulated.
For example, when it comes to football. I find it difficult to explain how I do what I do, in other words breaking things down from point to point. In fact, when I show kids how to strike a ball I feel awkward and uncoordinated and this is perhaps because I myself am putting attention and thought into the specifics. Normally I don’t think about what I do I just tend to do it. In fact, I tend to do things better when I’m in a real game when I’m under pressure and I have less time, it feels as if the more time I have to think the worse off I am! The question is how did I get to that point? If I look back at my youth my passion for the game did not hit obsession until about the age of 12. Up until that time I did not put in the amount of effort and time that many kids are putting in today. What I did do however was play freely a lot. In my backyard with friends and at school during recess and lunch. I watched a hell of a lot of football on TV, spent hours studying the moves of my favourite players and my dad took us to watch games every weekend. So, my development environment was very much from the right. No one ran me through a step by step tutorial on how to strike a ball. My ability came from repetition first born from chaos then from repetition against a wall but that wasn’t until I was about 12/13 years old. I wasn’t in SAP there was no SAP in fact I played Div 2 for Liverpool Rangers club when I was 8. My story is probably not much different from many others from my era, an era labelled as the golden generation. I just so happened to have a father who loved skill and creativity. He drilled it into me at a young age and taught me to believe in my style of play which at every stage was frowned upon in this country and still is to a large extent.
Today kids have many more structured opportunities but not enough opportunity to play freely without all the rules and supervision. So, what we have are technical robots, that’s why we produce great Goalkeepers and very good defenders but we struggle on the top part of the field where creativity is paramount.
Football is a very simple game, two teams, two goals, use team work and individual ability to score and the same to defend. Today we have become experts at breaking the game down into bits and pieces. We have video, satellite and computer data that tells us how far we run, where we run, how many good passes and how many bad passes. These are excellent tools which I endorse but we are dangerously close to killing the romance of the game. It has become way too rigid and the world cup has shown this to be so. Spain whose philosophy is to attack can be beaten by Russia who sat 10 men in the box for 120 minutes. I have no recollection of a team doing this growing up. But perhaps it is not Russia’s fault for being negative perhaps it is a sign of our current generation of players that lack enough creativity to break them down. I do however think it is our responsibility to a game that we all love that we don’t disrespect it by playing or winning ugly. It ruins the spectacle and what I believe that the game stands for which is principles. Those principles include fair play and sportsmanship. Through these principles one has integrity but the moment you forego these principles your integrity goes with it. When you cross the line, you set a new line in the sand and each time you continue to cross that line without any real consequence your moral values are driven deeper and deeper into unethical behaviour, you find yourself doing things you never thought possible not knowing how you got there in the first place.
So, if we factor the mountains of evidence that exists that environment plays a crucial role in developing ideas, culture, traditions then we must always be prepared to question the environment in order to maximise creative potential. This leads me to the conclusion that in order to enhance creativity one must be constantly in an environment where decision-making processes are always present especially more so when we are in groups, which in today’s environment is minimal. Most kids will only train one to two nights a week with his or her team. Compare that the statistic that on average Brazilian kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds spend an average of 3-4 hours a day playing pick-up games on the street.
Heres an example of the kind of area that kids would migrate to, most are concrete, they use a heavier smaller ball which develops their touches from a young age.
Brazil, when you observe its suburbs via google maps the first thing you find is that they don’t have many full field/pitches or parks in their major cities. Take Sao Paolo on the image below for example. I urge you to go to maps and zoom in you will see that their infrastructure is nothing like ours, we are blessed and privileged in this country to have so many facilities and parks for our kids
to play on. Heres the funny thing though, you would think that with so many parks we would see kids in their hundreds playing out there after school but if you go and survey our parks they are mostly empty. From time to time you will see the odd bunch of kids there but for the most parts, they are barren.
Sao Paolo Brazil barely a pitch or park in sight
Sydney in contrast, this small area of Sydney has a plethora of parks and sporting fields not to mention Tennis centres in most areas.
This specific environment where kids don’t have parks means finding and using small enclaves in which to play pick-up games. Most kids in Brazil grow up playing futsal as the only or major form of competition. They spend most of their time playing games and somehow, they still manage to produce an endless stream of players. In fact, at last count Brazil exports close to 700 players a year world-wide, that’s enough to create 5-6 A league competitions! Are Brazilians born to play football? of course not but they are very good at it due to certain circumstances that are almost impossible for us to replicate here. But there are some things we can do to improve how Aussie kids develop and this is something we can learn from Brazil. The key to it all is games, free from excessive coaching, overbearing parents getting caught up in competition and emotions, more game time, smaller fields, fewer numbers and later entry into competition structures. In my honest opinion, this is the key to Australia developing skilful players. We the adults need to give our children ownership of the game. More autonomy in free play, the way we grew up. Today playing the game is monitored, controlled and influenced by adult agendas and emotions. We make decisions based on the structure of the competition instead of structuring the competition based on the characteristics of children. We compare our kids to others due to the environment that we have created.
The three best teachers for your children are: 1 Example 2 Example 3 Example