To many the soccer ball may seem simplistic in nature; one may think the sole purpose of this round object is to be kicked into a large net. The soccer ball possesses greater significance than what people perceive. Prown says an object has meaning if it is linked to a sense of self, the structure of the soccer ball does connect an individual to their sense of self by teaching the importance of diligent practice, by improving cognitive problem solving and by encouraging introspection and acceptance of one’s mistakes.
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The soccer ball teaches an individual that daily preparation and training are essential to perfect a certain skill.
The aerodynamic properties of the soccer ball allow it to travel at speeds of up to sixty miles per hour when kicked aerially to another player (source 2). Through meticulous training, players develop fundamental skills such as passing, shooting, ball control, first touch and dribbling. Perfecting fundamental skills allows players to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the game. For example, in soccer first touch is defined as the opportunity a player has to touch the ball with his or her foot, body, or head as the receiver of a pass (source 1).
It is not uncommon for players to extensively practice this skill; an article published in the Guardian found that players in the Dutch football club FC Trent would do a drill where they would practice the first touch skill ten thousand times during the duration of a practice session up to six days a week. Furthermore, the coach added that players were expected to practice this skill further when they would go home (source 3). The less time a player takes to complete an action, the more time he or she has to take advantage of the situation. To successfully complete any basic skill in soccer, one must have adequate ball control from all parts of the foot that can only be built from practice. Furthermore, practicing soccer drills also helps build cognitive decision-making in players.
Cognitive decision-making is defined as a human decision-making based on information, knowledge, and preference (source 4). When a soccer player practices a fundamental skill repetitively such as passing or dribbling a soccer ball, they are building a cognitive blueprint, which they can visualize during game scenarios (source 5). This rehearsal allows players to make decisions instinctively rather than having to think about what they have to do, which can be very beneficial in a game scenario. A deep reservoir of skills is essential to have but it must be accompanied by the ability to make important decisions in tough circumstances.
The soccer ball presents players with multiple options when facing a particular situation. While taking a corner kick, a player has the ability to simply pass to another player on his team along the ground, cross the ball aerially to one of his teammates or even try to score a goal from the corner line. In this scenario, a player must be able to successfully analyze the game situation and pick an appropriate action. This helps promotes cognitive decision-making and forces a player to analyze the scenario before choosing what to do (Split second decisions, ball can go where you want) In the boarder sense, the soccer ball creates a need for acceptance and introspection of an individual’s mistakes. Mistakes are an integral part of any competitive sport and a player must identify and rectify his or her mistakes to be successful. The game of soccer is a test of precision and very seldom do mistakes not change the outcome of the game.
For example, common strategy teams use to score goals is to give a player the opportunity to head the ball in the goal during a corner kick. If a player misses an easy chance to score a goal off a header, it is ultimately his or her fault because they should have sufficient knowledge and skill to execute a header correctly. Only the player can be responsible for the missed chance; the ball is an inanimate object and simply serves as a medium through which the player’s actions are communicated. In this scenario, an individual has no choice but to look at his or her mistakes and introspect to ensure the mistake isn’t repeated in the future. Some may argue that the structure of the soccer ball may cause an individual to lose their sense of self.
Players often gain an obsession with perfecting their skills to the point where their actions become mechanical causing them to forget about their sense of self. This is a logical argument, however it is not necessarily a negative thing. Some player’s use the soccer ball to define their sense of self. The legendary Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho was quoted saying, It’s everything to me.
Without the ball I am nothing. While this may seem to prevent someone from finding their true sense of self, it also ensures the players are completely focused on perfecting their skills which leads to a better game experience for the players and views. The soccer ball does connect an individual to their sense of self by teaching the importance of meticulous practice, by improving cognitive problem solving and introspection of one’s mistakes.
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