There is a term commonly used in English football conversation - “Turning on a sixpence” - used to describe a change of direction with possession of the ball where the player essentially rotates on the spot to create space for themselves.
Turning in football is commonly thought to be a skill more easily mastered by little players but with the turn on the sixpence, this is not true. One just has to look at the likes of 6'4” Sergio Busquets and 6'3” Zlatan Ibrahimovic to see this skill executed by a big man at the highest level.
There are many ingredients that combine to make a tasty turn on a six. Amongst them are the technical ability of the player to have a soft, controlled touch on the ball to direct it around themselves speedily and extremely closely and also the perceptual skill of the player to identify the positions of their team-mates and opponents so that they can make us of their skill within the context of the game.
Another important ingredient that is more the domain of this site is use of the body to maximise the effectiveness of the turn. I identify speed of rotation and balance as the key factors which if enhanced will skyrocket the effectiveness of this move which is not just applicable to football but to any sport that utilises a sharp rotation on the spot.
Let's take a quick look at some master rotators in action.
With both dancers, the speed of their ability to rotate is controlled by their radius. For any of you a little rusty with your mathematical terminolgy (you are not alone!), the radius is the distance from the centre to the outside of a circle. Looking at a person from above, let us say roughly that the crown of your head is your centre. The further you put your arms and/or legs out away from your centre, the larger your radius and the slower you will be able to spin. Conversely, packing your limbs closer to your centre will shorten your radius and make it much easier for you to spin quickly.
For your best turn on a six, keep your limbs in close.
Another part of keeping your radius small is standing tall. A bend at the waist will slow your turns and will also affect your balance. Imagine spinning a pencil on its sharp end. Now imagine spinning a pencil with a slight bend in the middle. Would you agree that the bent pencil would wobble and fall before the straight one?
Tall and tucked in. Check.
Tall and tucked in are both examples of what I call macromechanics. I define macromechanics as large movements you can consciously perform like with this example of the turn, standing up tall and keeping the arms and legs close to your centre. This is the relatively simple stuff to do.
The ease with which you can perform your macromechanics is heavily dictated by what I call your micromechanics. Micromechanics are the fine details of movement that are dictated unconsciously. The label is given in relation to how well you use your joints full potential individually and in cooperation and harmony with each other.
If we go back to the example of standing up tall (the macromechanical instruction), let us consider a person habitually doing stereotypical old person posture. Asking them to stand tall will have them stand as tall as they are currently consciously able to. No amount of intent on their part will allow them to overcome their current micromechanics in that very moment – they will be unable to move out of their habitual exaggerated curve of their spine, forward position of their head relative to their shoulders, etc. They have lost control of movements that were once macromechanical and are at that moment micromechanically restricted.
In my opinion, the majority of people, even athletes, are to a fair degree micromechanically restricted meaning that even standing tall is not really standing as tall as possible. Most of us are missing a few inches due to our current (they are changeable) micromechanical habitual way of doing things. This means that turning on a six with perfect macromechanical form with the arms and legs as close to the centre as possible can still be physically improved.
Your micromechanics impact your ability to perform all movements and you are so unaware of them because of your nervous system's habituation to them, you don't even feel what you are missing out on.
I hope you can take the macromechanical lessons from the ballet dancer or bboy and apply them to your turning on a six, whether it be in football or another applicable activity.
Spinning more effortlessly has its performance benefits and feels amazing. Practise and benefit!
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