Farnam Street helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.

With over 350,000 monthly readers and more than 88,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub.

How does Brazil Develop Its Soccer Players?

Developing soft skills is different than developing hard skills. It’s impossible to directly teach someone to improvise their way to a brilliant goal in hockey or soccer. Part of the problem relies on the variety of situations faced. Lionel Messi, an Argentine football star, can’t plan where everyone on the field will be and how they will all react — he has to improvise by recognizing patterns and responding.

In The Little Book of Talent, Daniel Coyle writes:

Soft skills are built by playing and exploring inside challenging, ever changing environments.

Brazil is the home of many of the world’s most skilled soccer players. So you might wonder how it develops its players? They use a game called futebol de salão:

This insanely fast, tightly compressed five-on-five version of the game— played on a field the size of a basketball court— creates 600 percent more touches, demands instant pattern recognition and, in the words of Emilio Miranda, a professor of soccer at the University of São Paulo, serves as Brazil’s “laboratory of improvisation.”

That game is designed to encourage soft-skill development. When developing a soft skill you want three things: 1) variety; 2) reps; and 3) feedback.

Like what you’re reading? Join my free newsletter. It comes out once a week on Sunday and it’s full of Brain Food.

Still curious? Discover how to practice; an effective way to learn new things and identify holes in your knowledge; and why some people are so much more effective at learning from their mistakes.