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  • Writer's pictureKrystian Buszta

Coordination motor skills in football player development

The appropriate level of coordination motor skills (CMS) in a football player is one of the factors determining the effectiveness of their actions. Adaptability and complex reaction time are of particular importance in models of coordination requirements in football.

When talking about effective performance in sport, an appropriate level of motor skills is high on the list. These include coordination motor skills (CMS), which are one of the primary factors influencing a player’s effectiveness during a match. These findings are supported by studies indicating that increasing the level of specific coordination motor skills is one of the most important factors in achieving the intended performance results.

Coordination motor skills are determined by cognitive and control-regulatory processes, which means that a person’s coordination predisposition is determined by the system of regulation and control of movements—i.e., the efficiency of the information organization mechanism —and their external expression is manifested in the economy and precision of movement. This makes it easier for players with a high level of specific abilities to learn new skills and motor activities, as they can rely on a wide range of technical and motor skills acquired during coordination training at an earlier age. This approach has already been adopted by national football federations, for example in Germany, where a coordination plan is one of the goals of the modern “DFB Talent Support Program”. Studies have also indicated the existence of positive relationships between the coordination indices of motor skills and the level of general and special fitness.

Although the choice of the significance of individual coordination motor skills in a football game may differ—that is, the opinions of different researchers differ —models of coordination requirements in football often emphasise the;

Adaptability (motor adaptation)—this ability is defined as the ability to quickly adjust the developed forms of movements or to shift from one motor activity to another according to changing conditions either existing or probable. Adaptability is responsible for 26.07% of the variance in the common structure of coordination abilities in male football players. It also correlates with the ability to combine movements (16.7%), rhythmisation ability (13.9%) and balance (9.3%)

In athletes who use cyclical movements (especially athletes who practice rowing), there is an apparent impossibility of learning new motor schemes, whereas in athletes who use motor diversity (dance, gymnastics, or fitness) or who practice sports games (which require quick adaptations to various situations determined by the player–team–opponent relationship), the speed of motor learning is very good. Moreover, in athletes, an increase in motor skills such as speed of action, reaction time, balance of muscle strength, skill, and coordination is noted.

That's why is really important to avoid cyclical - monotonny and repetitive movements during the gym practices.

When you should work on coordination skills?

According to Piaget's theory, intelligence is developed through the motor activity of children, and this development occurs in four phases where the most important phase is the "Movement applied to sports" phase, which spans from 7 to 20 years old.

The optimal age to improve coordination for soccer players is during their childhood and early adolescence. This is because coordination skills, such as balance, agility, and fine motor control, tend to develop most effectively during this period. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are typically more receptive to coordination training and have a higher potential for improvement compared to older age groups. However, it's important to note that individuals can still enhance their coordination abilities at any age through targeted training and practice.

Research suggests that the optimal age for improving coordination in soccer players is during the pre-adolescent (10 -12) and early adolescent years (12- 14). This is due to the developmental stage of the nervous system and the plasticity of motor skills during this period.

One study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences (Reilly et al., 2000) examined the coordination abilities of soccer players aged 7 to 16. The findings indicated that coordination skills, such as balance, agility, and reaction time, showed the most significant improvement during the pre-adolescent and early adolescent stages. This suggests that the neural pathways involved in coordination are more adaptable and receptive to training during this period.

Additionally, a review published in the Journal of Sports Medicine (Bartlett et al., 2007) analyzed various studies on motor skill development in youth athletes. The review concluded that between the ages of 10 and 14, children experience a "window of opportunity" for motor skill learning, including coordination skills. During this period, the brain is more responsive to motor skill training and can enhance coordination abilities more effectively.

As we can see, there isn't a specific age that is optimal for improving coordination. Although there may be a greater tendency for improvement during the ages of 10-14, I believe that coordination can be improved at any age. The key factor is not when but how to approach it.

How we can improve those coordinative aspects with players?

1. Individual Flywheel Training - It is a specialized training using inertia-based devices where one works on strength, motor control & coordination simultaneously. The focus is on movement rather than individual muscles, allowing the athlete to develop holistically. Working with a wide variety of exercises enables the athlete to improve their adaptability, which has been described as a key component of coordination.

2. Coordinative circuits - It is specialized on-field training that focuses primarily on three levels of specificity while making simple decision-making processes. The aim is to improve player-specific coordination, targeting the match-related requirements associated with the player's position.

3. Differential learning - It is a training approach based on the research of German scientist Dr. Wolfgang Schöllhorn from the University of Mainz. One of the top coaches of the contemporary generation, Thomas Tuchel, closely collaborates with Schöllhorn. This approach is founded on a high variety of exercises and simultaneous engagement of both hemispheres of the brain. Research conducted by Schöllhorn confirms that diversified training leads to better adaptations compared to monotonous repetition-based training.

4. It is a highly comprehensive method for developing coordination. Games involving a small number of players on a reduced field require continuous motor-perceptual adaptation from the players. Decision-making and movement behaviors are specific to the game, which positively impacts the development of specific coordination skills.


(1) Bojkowski Ł, Kalinowski P, Śliwowski R, Tomczak M. The Importance of Selected Coordination Motor Skills for an Individual Football Player's Effectiveness in a Game. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Jan 10;19(2):728. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19020728. PMID: 35055554; PMCID: PMC8776055.

(2)Alesi M., Battaglia G., Roccella M., Testa D., Palma A., Pepi A. The improvement of gross-motor, and cognitive abilities by an Exercised Training Program; three case reports. Neuropsychiatr. Dis. Treat. 2014;10:479–485. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S58455.

(3))Gayatri, P.; Jayashree, A.; Vivek, P. Comparison of coordinative and proprioceptive abilities among selected team games Dr. Gayatri Pandey, Jayashree Acharya and Vivek Pandey. IJPESH 2020

(4) Buszta K. (2021) Autoorganizacja Proces Treningowy z Perspektywy Nauk o Kompleksowości. Futvalley


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22 jun 2023

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