40 Ways to Score by Football Coaching Lab
Get 40% off only until 10 March, 2024

website image

Artists Over Athletes




In his second blog, Coach Ellis Riley, founder of “Soccer IQ”, focuses on the notion that fundamentally developing creative players can harvest a greater individual and team performance on a more consistent basis.

Today’s players, specifically (in my own experience) those in the USA, come back in for pre-season subject to the dreaded understanding of “fitness testing” … These tests usually revolve around timed runs, possibly around the track, or straight line sprints up and down a field with some physical conditioning built-in. Now some players love this time of the year, usually the ones’ who know they are physically superior on a consistent basis. But for many players it’s a daunting period of time each and every year of their careers. Leading up to pre-season, as the days hastily pass by, you find players mentally and physically trying to prepare themselves for the strenuous weeks of ‘work’ ahead.

"We label Messi a world class athlete, but the reality is, it's his artistry that we all adore."

This leads me into discussing the title of being an ‘Athlete’ and how inconsistently, and superficially, the tag is ‘branded’. When referring to Soccer players in this modern era of the game, we think immediately of those who have caught our imagination, Messi, for example, a talent never seen until he descended upon world football some 13 years ago. We label him a world class athlete, but the reality is, it’s his artistry that we all adore. The way he weaves through players, dropping his shoulder, gliding with the ball, skipping around opponents, and delicately embarrassing those “professionals” around him on a game by game basis with phenomenal ball manipulations.

Here’s why I believe our coaches today should focus on helping create players with a vision. There is nothing more satisfying seeing players exhibit a stress-free style of performance when in situations of high arousal on the field. Players who play ‘off-the-cuff’ without straying too far away from a team model or goal in mind. As football analysists, we thrive seeing players do inventive things with the ball, as it makes them unique and potent within game situations.

The most dangerous yet rewarding players are those who take risks and look to exploit their opponent, rather than simply ‘play them at the game’.

"Players wo are artists with the ball, and not robots, are the difference makers within teams in the modern era."

It is certainly an intriguing era of the sport that we find ourselves coaching in. We see many coaches seek the ‘Athlete’ prerequisite when looking to recruit players, how fast can they run? How physically capable do they look? But one thing I would try challenge coaches to look for (and assess) is how cognitively efficient is your player? Can they see what others can’t? How comfortable are they without the ball at reading the game? Can they dictate the tempo of the game around them?

All these notions can be traits to look for in your next recruit. Players who are artists with the ball, and not robots, are the difference makers within teams in the modern era. Some players know how to play their position with clarity and stability, the one’s we call “dependable” performers in the game. But those who adapt based on the ever-changing game environment are the players who thrive on a more consistent basis.

Coach Ellis Riley

website image

This article was written by Coach Ellis Riley, founder of “Soccer IQ – Ahead of the Game”. Find more info on his website, Twitter page or on our Blog.

Your Team from



*No payment info required