Key to defending? Leg-Eye Coordination

The name of the game is reducing the mistakes to a minimum and speed doesn't help you to do that

Green with the mistake

According to a study by the German sports scientist Dr. Roland Loy, “mistakes in football play an extremely important role in the game”.

Loy examined all the goals in 20 Bundesliga seasons, and reached a conclusion that 50% of all goals happen by accident – a weird bounce on the turf, a mistake by the referee, a goalkeeper’s flop or a centre back’s lapse in concentration.

Loy’s study (Zufall im Fußball) takes Borussia Dortmund as an example.

They had about 3200 attacks in the 2010/11 Bundesliga season (up to the beginning of May) and scored 67 goals. Only about 2% of the attacks led to goals, and 36 out of the them came as a result of a mistake by BVB’s rivals – more than 50%. This is, obviously, a reoccurring stat.

So basically, 50% of football is about hoping your opponent makes a mistake or forcing him to make a mistake. The other 50% is about creating your own chances and goals (30% of those, by the way, come from set pieces).

A lot of people will claim that pacey players are the most useful, as their pace can put pressure on your rival. However, speed is a double-edged sword, as according to Loy’s study, “pacey players have a higher error rate”.

This is crucial when going out on a counter attack. Speedy players are creating problems at both ends of the field.

So what is the X-Factor that makes a team less exposed to mistakes, and more likely to make the opponent’s defender make a mistake?
According to Mark Wertheim  Ph.D., who is an associate of Ronald Loy, the footballers who handle the chaotic world of football better (and make less mistakes)  are the ones with higher levels of hand-eye (or leg-eye) coordination. Loy plans to prove that in a new
study that he plans to reveal soon.

Most of Borussia Dortmund’s players, by the way, were brought up through a youth system that worked with Wertheim, who developed the OCO theory (Optimal Coordination Order). OCO is based on sport sciences and training with neuroscience and neurophysiology.

Great coordination is related to muscle-memory, but it has even more to do with a person’s neurological connections. The better the connections, the higher coordination level is, allowing the player to react better. The OCO system works on that from a very early age.

“According to Loy’s study, a player with low levels of coordination is more likely to make mistakes” says Wertheim. And if mistakes are responsible for 50% of all goals a team concedes, then the conclusion is pretty much out there: Choose the players with the highest levels of leg-eye coordination.


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