What is Ball Coordination?
Every movement we do with our limbs requires a complex cooperation between our central nervous system and our muscles.
By contraction and relaxing, our muscles are able to move our joints they are connected to by the tendons.
Muscle fibres contain receptors for signals sent by our central nervous system to either contract or relax. This is called a motor unit. Even for the most basic movements we do like walking, many motor units are involved to control them correctly. Which motor units have to be controlled? How long should the contraction last? How much contraction is required? In what order should these be done? These movements are written to our long-term memory as procedures.
While moving our limbs, our senses create a feedback loop to our central nervous system to correct our movements.
Since all this is a quite complicated process, it should come as no surprise that we look rigid and funny when we learn new movements when sporting, playing music, dancing, ... or even when someone has to learn to walk again when rehabilitating.
From short-term to long-term memory
By repetitive practising a certain movement during training, this new procedure is written to our short-term memory. In this stage it is still volatile and fragile. That's why we should not learn too many new moves at the same time as they could easily be mixed up.
This new information is processed and partly written to our long-term memory during our next sleep. That's why it is useless to continue when we feel it doesn't work out like we want to. It usually feels easier when we leave it alone for a little while or when we 'let it rest for the night'.
While it is less fragile at this point, it still takes an effort to get the right procedure out of long-term memory and to execute it correctly. Confusion can still show up when new movements are introduced too early.
But by continuous repetition of this movements we optimize the procedure. Loading it out of long-term memory will become an automatism. Now we can be confident that we made the movement and procedure that comes with it our own.
Phases of ball coordination development:
Every starting soccer player will look rigid when handling the ball because even the most elementary movements like dribbling with the ball are not yet imprinted to be an automatism. The player has to focus for the full 100% on these basic tasks and even then mistakes are all too common.
After a relative short time it goes smoother and more elegant, but the player still has to focus quite hard. Failing is still common, but progression is noticeable. How fast one progresses is of course depending on the individual.
When the required movements can unconsciously be executed, we can say they are imprinted and reliably written to long-term memory. The player is now more conscious about his opponents and teammates and becomes more confident in his actions.
As soon as a player can focus on the game and surroundings, he will recognise situations in an instant and be able to take the correct decision more quickly. The player unconsciously and intuitively picks the most suitable move of his collection of moves he mastered over time. When the player improvises by connecting several moves to successfully handle a situation, we can say he really masters the ball ... and the game!