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In life and in sport, we are taught a lot. We are taught so that we can acquire skills equally or more quickly than our predecessors so that we can do bigger and better things and it works. It also comes at a cost.

Look at this video of a young Lionel Messi, long before his successful pro football career. This applies far beyond football.

I don't know exactly how old he is in this video but it's rare to see somebody around that age dribble like that.

His dribbling 20 or so years later is very similar in style to this, just faster and more refined. Coaching hasn't noticeably changed it like it will have changed his game tactically.

Most kids are coached to dribble and yet they never get near this level of proficiency. How come tactically players change more easily than in terms of their dribbling ability?

Forget football for a second as what I'm alluding to here is bigger than one sport.

Teaching can be an impediment sometimes. I think the times when it really impedes the learning of athletes is when speed of action in an ever-variable environment is necessary.

To go back to the dribbling example, the way many players are taught/coached to dribble are through drills. They learn ball manipulation and tricks repetitively to the point where they should become habit that can be produced quickly in the appropriate situation.

"Habit" is the problem in my eyes.

It implies speed of action which is good but how can a habit - a memorised response - be a true solution to an ever-variable situation?

Reaching inside of ourselves for our "habit" gives the opportunity for the moment to pass. And that's if we ever had an appropriate habit in place to deal with the exact situation in front of us anyway.

I speculate (I have no scientific data in front of me - my speculation is based on years of coaching, reading of research and other topics around the matter...maybe even a little of my own thinking if I'm lucky) that part of what set Little Messi’s dribbling apart right through his career is a lack of habit and a resistance to coaching.

If the technology existed to read his brainwave output during his dribbles I think we would see more activity promoting awareness of the current moment in time and less activity in the memory centres than with his less-skilled counterparts.

He sees and does.

The less skilled of us kind of see, search for a memory of what to do in this partially understood scenario and then do based on this.

That is one clunky process. Is it any wonder there is such a difference if this is the difference in what goes on?

Some of you will rightly point out that Messi has been at one of the top football clubs in the world since the age of 13 and so has been coached for many years on a daily basis.

My opinion is that his ability to dribble hasn't benefited from coaching there but has lots from playing lots against other top class players day-in, day-out.

He's been " in the moment" against progressively more demanding situations.

Teaching is awesome for some things. Spontaneity, creativity and improvisation don't fit that bill.


Arton Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab

P.S. forget about Messi being in the moment when you're practising and playing. He'd be just another thing taking you away from being in your moment. Only you can create for you.