Written by A. Rodrigues - Former Professional Soccer Player
When it comes to getting better as an athlete, everyone has heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”
And although training on the field and in the gym can prepare you for game day physically, most sports take so much more than just muscle memory to excel.
As an ex-professional soccer player and former Division I student-athlete, I learned firsthand that no matter how much I trained, both on my own and at team practices, nothing could replace developing my game IQ.
And to better my understanding of the game—the ebb and flow of play-making, positioning, and team shape—I would need to do something more off the field and outside of the gym. I would need to watch game film.
In soccer, we use film for so much more than just making a highlight video to send recruiters (but more on that later). We use it to evaluate our team, the other team, and even ourselves while we play to help better our performance for the next game.
In this article, I’m going to be showing my firsthand account of how game footage has personally helped me advance my career from my earlier years in club ball than as a professional soccer player in Europe, while playing on two national teams (both Brazil and Portugal).
If you’re doing your part on the field, focused on the task at hand, and holding yourself accountable in performing your best, it can be hard to concentrate on your team’s overall performance. After all, the responsibility of noticing a team’s weaknesses on the field and correcting them often lies with the coach, who has the power to make certain changes that a player often doesn’t have.
However, looking back at film of a game or training, whether on your own or with the entire team, can help give you a better view as to what really happened out there regarding positioning, set plays or ball movement—whatever you may need to work on as a team.
Team Film: How does your team move together?
In soccer, there is a lot of creativity in play. It’s very seldom that you have certain “plays” that you need to follow, where every player knows where exactly they should run. One can only practice together so much during training and know which areas they should be covering according to their positions.
Watching game film can help point out problem areas when it comes to following roles regarding set plays—whether or not I’ve been able to reach that first post or not during a corner kick or if I simply need to start my run earlier.
It can help regarding defensive or offensive shape—is our right midfielder a little too wide when we lose the ball? Should our left-back be tucking in more to seal the hole in our flat back four?
Having a team move perfectly in sync can be almost impossible—especially in such an unpredictable and creative sport. However, watching game film can help you or your team, as a whole, point out those minor mistakes that need to be adjusted or can help you or your coach identify an entire issue that may mean the difference between letting a goal in or not.
Whether it was our Tuesday morning film session in college or our before-the-kickoff game footage of our next opponent on the National Team, we were able to gain an advantage heading onto the field that teams and coaches could only dream of decades ago.
We had access to the other team’s playbook—their set plays, their formation, their key players—all in one easy-to-view video. Although some video quality was better than others, a bird’s eye perspective of how a team moves together and favors one side over another or one player over another definitely helped us strategize a way to best defend them.
No matter if we were playing against a team from a completely different part of the world, where we would not be able to understand a word on the field that they were saying, we had the footage that spoke for the speechless. We were able to watch what they did and how they did it without understanding one word of what they said. It puts international games at an equal level.
Team Film: Scouting out your opponent can help you prepare for your next game.
Although you shouldn’t adjust the entire way your team plays in order to defend your next opponent, you should give them enough respect to see how they play and identify their strengths (and weaknesses).
If you know No. 5 is a strong header off of corner kicks, game film is an opportunity to note that, take it into account in assigning your tallest player to mark her, and then adjust the play accordingly.
You can also take note of their formation. If they are playing with three forwards and you have only three in the back as well, you may want to consider adding another defender back there so you always have one player open to sweep up the defense.
In my career, especially on the national team and in college, we always watched footage of the opponent before our game. We either would watch the entire game to help get a feel of how they play as a whole or would watch clips of their highlights, so we would take note of their set plays, how they scored their goals or their weaknesses of how they got scored on. The film was pivotal for not only the coach to watch and plan our defense and attack accordingly, but also for the players to see, to truly grasp what was ahead.
Watching film during a team video session can also be an effective opportunity to have the entire team there at once, so you can call out players on what they need to do for the next game and why based on your next opponent.
Our Own Performance:
The final whistle blows, you walk off the field, exhausted. In your mind, you’ve just played the game of your life. You have no idea why your coach was yelling at you about your positioning or your defensive marking, etc. To you, your performance was nothing short of first-class, top-notch.
However, that was just your perspective—and that’s the only perspective you’ve ever had access to. Not only did you experience the game through your eyes and through your eyes only, but you also have particular biases when it comes to how well you did—because we’re evaluating you.
Film, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game—so to speak.
What can I get out of watching a game that I’ve already played in?
Think about it like a bird’s eye view.
It gives you a completely different perspective—where you can view your game from outside of your own eyes.
It had helped me see where I was in regard to positioning to other players and on the field as a whole. It had helped me see my decision-making from an entirely different perspective—I knew why I made the decision in the heat of the moment, but now, I can see what better decisions there were to be made. It had helped me see my strengths and my weaknesses, what I can train harder at my next practice, and what to pay attention to come next match.
It helped me become a better player both individually and within the team. Game film gave me the best opportunity to see myself from an outsider’s perspective—and approach my performance with that same perspective, eliminating any adrenaline-game-bias or need to defend my own decisions.
It also helps me put my best moments on the field in one place. Throughout my career, this has helped me nail my first impression and catch the eye of college coaches, pro teams, and other scouts.
Film to Push You Forward
Whether I was analyzing game footage with highlight clips of every time I touched the ball in the game with my head coach, whether we were watching the other team’s best (and worst) moments of their last match or whether my coach brought together the entire team to watch our last game and how we moved together, game film was always a part of my soccer career.
Not watching game film to better yourself as an athlete or get better as a team together is like having access to the key to winning a match and not putting it in the door to unlock your potential.
There’s something powerful about seeing something physically and having it resonate with you as a player.
Whether you need to figure out how to start filming your games or practices or how to access that invaluable footage, doing so can be the missing piece your game has been needing to improve your performance and excel as an athlete.
SVT Can Help
If you are trying to figure out options for filming your child, club, high school or even pro team, we at SVT are here to help. We would be glad to answer questions and discuss needs.
Why should you choose to go with SVT? We work with clubs and teams across the US and several other countries. We have several packages to choose from. Our Package 3 is the most popular and consists of a strong, lightweight aluminum tripod with a sturdy 16-foot carbon-fiber composite camera pole, plus a monitor and remote. We provide power packs and all of the cables and cords that you need to make the system work together. Once you purchase our system – use it as much as you like. There are no contracts. Contact us today for more information.