Is there a difference between “knowing” a skill and “doing” a skill?

“Beginners at the basics classes at our aikido school will do a simple blending move about eight or ten times, then start looking around restlessly for something new to distract them.  Black belts at the basics classes have the knowledge and experience –the feel—necessary to appreciate the subtleties and endless possibilities contained within even the most rudimentary technique.” Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment, by George Leonard.

As coaches and parents, we have all heard it, “Oh, that is easy, I can do that.”  And sure enough, the player begins showing us that he can do whatever is being asked:  Toe Taps, Juggling, Dribbling, Passing, …  And in some regards the player is right, they do know the skill being asked, but the question comes down to this:  Does knowing the skill, mean they can really “do” the skill?

“Football is a simple game, but the hardest thing to do is play simple Football.” Johann Cryff, [Famous Dutch football player]

Doing the simple things right, time and time again, allows for a player to truly begin raising his level.  As important as the tactical, physical and mental aspects of the game are, if we cant control the ball with our first touch, beat a defender down the line or knock a cross to the far post, then those aspects of the game are not nearly as important.

The iSoccer Assessment was deliberately built to address this exact issue:  Empowering each player to really “do” the simple, yet required skills of soccer.  The iSoccer program is very simple to understand, yet impossible to master for even the most capable players.

Lets take a quick look at one of the 16 iSoccer skills tested: Change of Pace. The cones don’t move, there are no defenders and you are only dribbling in a figure 8 for 20 seconds.  Sounds simple, right?  Next time you are performing this assessment, challenge yourself by asking the following questions:

  1. Am I cutting the ball just as sharp with the inside of my foot as I am with the outside of my foot?
  2. Could I be closer to the cone?
  3. After I round the cone, how hard am I accelerating to get to the other side of the grid?
  4. How many touches am I using between the cones?
  5. Can I use less touches while still staying in control?
  6. Could I be a little sharper and a little faster?

Returning to the opening quote, can anyone ever really “know” the simple things or is soccer (as in life) just a lifelong journey of constantly getting better at “doing”?