While running on the treadmill this morning I was watching a soccer game on TV and had the realization that soccer is really a great game for brain fitness. I have played and been around the game all of my life but hadn’t really made the full connection to brain fitness until now.
In my last couple of posts, I’ve been introducing the concept of EPIQ performance. The fitness of your brain controls your Emotional, Physical and Intellectual performance. Soccer, and many youth sports, contributes to each aspect of your EPIQ performance by challenging all of these individual pieces.
Improving Body Control
The physical part is a ‘no brainer’. Kids and adults actively engaged in a sport will improve their physical intelligence. This may be your brain’s ability to regulate your cardiovascular function – as in aerobic sports; your brain’s ability to control fine motor skills – as in most sports; or both. Soccer is a great game for both cardiovascular conditioning and motor skills, which will improve your physical intelligence.
Strengthening Emotional Response Circuits
Soccer and other sports also boost your Emotional intelligence (EQ). Why? Sports teach kids how to deal with failure – if they have a supportive team environment. Everyone needs to learn to deal with failure and defeat and sports are a great way to learn how to do that in a safe environment. They teach you how to get back in the game after making a mistake or simply getting beat.
Sports can also teach you incredible control over your emotions – again, as long as you are playing in a supportive environment. How? In sports, you need to charge your emotions up so that you can compete at your best. You need to play with high levels of intensity. Furthermore, in contact sports, like soccer, you need to play with great bursts of aggression to compete for the ball.
But then you need to turn it all off in an instant. One second you are struggling with everything you have against an opponent and the next second, the play is over, and you need to be able to let that go and treat your opponent with respect.
Sports are a great opportunity to learn how to control your temper. Players have countless opportunities where they feel wronged by an opponent or an official – but they must learn to manage their response to be effective in the game. In the 35 years I have spent on the soccer field, I have never seen an official change his call because a player got angry.
Many people fail to master this part of sports. Kids must learn how to bring their intense emotions to bear during the play, and then let them subside when the play is over. This is where games like soccer can boost your EQ (and your game) if you can focus on the skill of emotional regulation.
IQ Boosting Sports Experience
Finally, soccer can also improve your intellectual performance or IQ. You say – come on. How can that be true? Soccer is a very dynamic game, meaning the play is changing all of the time. Many people who don’t know the game are surprised to learn that there are very few set plays in soccer. A good team just reads each other on the fly and figures out what to do next.
Because of this, playing soccer and other sports, always challenges you to reevaluate your situation and adapt in that instant. To be a good player, you need to constantly monitor what is going on around you and figure out your next move – whether you have the ball or not.
The dynamic nature of the game is constantly challenging you brain to read, interpret and respond – over and over again. This works on problem solving skills and decision-making capabilities at the same time. Not only that, but the environment that this learning takes place in is charged with high levels of emotion and intensity – which is known to enhance the learning process.
So next time you watch your kids play a soccer game, understand that they are getting much more than a physical workout. They are learning to regulate emotions, solve problems and make decisions. They are increasing their EPIQ performance that will help them in other areas of life as well.