What You Can Learn from How Brazil Develop Its Soccer Players


Not all skills are developed in the same way. For instance, 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. The world does not work that way.

Part of the problem is time based. It's hard to get quantity of reps you need for feedback with the variety of situations you need to develop improvisation. You can't, for instance, practice every single possible situation you might face because time is limited. So it makes sense to practice the most common situations a player will face. This practice creates opportunities for feedback, whether from the coaches or yourself and we move forward.

This doesn't mean things are hopeless. Far from it. You can tinker with the environment to force people to make faster decisions, increase the number of repetitions, and force a velocity that increases the variety or situations a player can practice. This is what Brazil does differently.

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.”

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.

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


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.