Effects Of Sleep On Football Performance.

Football performance is affected by a combination of technical (ability to execute football skills), tactical (decision making), physical (body’s ability to execute the demands of football), and mental (functioning of the brain to affect behaviour) factors.

Those four factors are greatly affected by the quality of sleep.

Football requires excellent coordination to enable players to perform the complex movements that are required to execute football skills, and the physical demands of football like agility, leaping, endurance, physical speed etc.

Quality sleep greatly improves the movement of neurotransmitters from the brain to perform reflex and non-reflex actions that affect coordination.

A football player that has quality sleep will have improved coordination and the opposite is also true.

Coordination greatly affects the quality of the above attributes which affect football fitness.

Football has many situations that constantly change every second which requires excellent learning ability and a good memory that enable quality decision making in responding to these situations.

Quality sleep greatly improves the brain’s capacity in learning and memory. Learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions; acquisition, consolidation and recall.

Deep sleep is what enables acquired information to get stored and consolidated in the long-term memory which enables the brain to recall that information when needed.

A player that consistently gets quality sleep is capable of being able to recall football situations and respond appropriately.

The three functions of learning and memory are greatly affected by the quality of sleep.

Football matches and training sessions are mentally and physically draining which requires recovery sessions to enable an individual to return to a state of being able to perform better in the next training session or match.

If all the other recovery methods like adequate hydration, timely nutrition, and quality stretching are followed then quality sleep enables the repairing process of muscles, bones and tissue to be complete.

This repairing process enables footballers to have more energy reserves the next day and to reduce the probability of getting muscle related injuries.

A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep will struggle to train or practice at their best capacity which affects performance in matches because you can only compete the way that you train/practice.

Football matches present problems that requires cognitive speed and reaction speed to solve. Cognitive speed and reaction speed are affected by concentration, attention, and focus.

Quality sleep greatly improves concentration, attention and focus which helps footballers to improve on the awareness required to respond faster to situations that happen during training and matches. This means; avoiding tackles that could get you injured, avoiding being reckless, and having the ability to punish mistakes made by opponents or recovering to correct the mistakes made by team mates.

A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep consistently would struggle to recognize how to solve the problems presented to them in football matches.


It’s important for parents to monitor the quality of sleep especially in teenagers because that’s when they usually lose their discipline to sleep due to a lot of changes in their lives.

Footballers should target sleeping for 8-10 hours at night and avoid using electronic gadgets 60-90 minutes before sleep because the light from the gadgets affects the brain’s ability to release sleep hormones and the activity on the gadgets might cause stress or anxiety that will delay sleep.

For individuals that train in the evening, it’s important to target having a nap in the afternoon.


The 5C’s of Football

Football performance is affected by four major factors; technical ability being converted into a skill in the presence of opponents, Tactical ability by being able to make the right decisions, physical ability by the body being able to perform football-specific movements and mental ability being strong enough to enable players to perform well.

The mental ability has many factors that are mainly affected by the 5C’s, these are; confidence, communication, control, commitment, and concentration.

These 5C’s can’t be isolated, they are interrelated.

It’s very important for football coaches working with developing players to plan training sessions that will help players to develop the 5C’s that help improve the mental strength of players.

Football coaches must explain to parents how they play an important part in the development of the 5C’s because it takes a very long time developing them.

Describes the player’s ability to focus their attention on the right thing at the right time.

At a high level, a football match is very competitive and lasts 90 minutes, each minute on the pitch can have up to 30 situations that require a different action.

That translates into 2,700 situations that require consistent concentration for the different actions as a team, within 90 minutes.

Concentration is not limited to 90 minutes but in training sessions, before the match, and after the match.

Describes how the player is motivated.

It’s very important for developing players to be taught how to have a genuine passion for football.

Genuine passion helps to have intrinsic motivation which helps the player to overcome challenges that would deter them from playing football.

Football coaches should praise effort and attitude over the outcome as a way to recognize that players are committed.

For example; If any footballer is going to make it to the top level, the motivation should be from within the player, the rest like parents and coaches can only support the player and offer extrinsic motivation.

If the extrinsic motivation is greater than intrinsic motivation, then commitment levels will be lower.

Describes the player’s self-belief in their ability to achieve goals.

Confidence comes from knowing.

Developing players should be encouraged to express themselves and that making mistakes is part of the learning process to mastering football skills.

There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance.

It’s very important that coaches observe when over confidence might make players complacent.

Football coaches should help players to build confidence by creating a no failure environment.

Describes how well a player can control and manage their emotions.

Emotions arise out of good times like winning a match, scoring a goal and being on form or bad times like poor referee decisions, conceding a goal, losing a match and being out injured.

Coaches can help players to improve their ability to control and manage emotions by highlighting negative emotional reactions like anger, self-criticism, poor body language, negative thoughts, blaming others, etc.

Describes how a player uses eyes, ears, and mouth to take in and give out information from the game, coaches, teammates, officials, and opponents.

Communication is an important skill in football because the decisions made in football arise out of the ability to communicate verbally or non-verbally.

Coaches should help developing players to have effective communication by recognizing and praising players that demonstrate good communication like looking over the shoulders while off the ball, acknowledging and listening to teammates and coaches, using peripheral vision, looking up while on the ball, etc.

Football coaches should role model the 5C’s by using good and bad examples within football to increase awareness of the importance for each of the 5C’s.

Engage players in game situations that test the 5C’s skills under pressure.

Publicly praise players that demonstrate the 5C’s as a skill or behavior.

It’s important to emphasize that at a high level, all players have excellent technical, tactical and physical attributes to perform well but having mental strength with the 5C’s keeps the best at a high level for a longer time.

Football: Roles in attack.

When a team is in possession of the ball, it’s the attacking team. All players involved in the attack have roles to play.

The roles in attack are; Player on the ball (first attacker), supporting player (second attacker) and unbalancing player (third attacker).

Its important for football players to be taught the roles in attack after understanding principles in attack.

The player on the ball (first attacker): this the player in possession of the ball also known as the first attacker.

The role of the first attacker is to maintain possession of the ball then determine if penetration is possible by playing the ball forward.

This might be throwing, passing the ball forward, shooting or traveling with the ball to commit space.

In some cases, its possible for the first attacker to improvise by using creativity to beat a defender if faced with a 1 vs 1 situation.

Supporting player (second attacker): these are the players within one pass from the player on the ball.

They offer support by making sure they create the appropriate distance and angle to receive the ball.

The basic way of offering support to the player on the ball is being positioned forward, sideways and backward depending on the position of the player on the ball.

The more support offered to the player on the ball, the more threatening the attack will be.

Unbalancing player (third attacker): this’ the player that is usually more than one pass away from the player on the ball. The unbalancing player has to keep getting in positions that unsettle the opposition defense by moving off the ball to occupy dangerous space or moving the defenders with you to create space for other attackers.

Roles in attack are performed in relation to the principles of attack.

The player on the ball will use penetration or improvisation, the supporting players offer support while the unbalancing player offers width and mobility.

It’s important for all players to learn football attacking skills like shooting, traveling with the ball, attacking headers, passing and having excellent ball trapping skills because at any point they could be the first attacker, second attacker or third attacker.

“In Ugandan football, we have a challenge of players in the attacking team all getting attracted to the ball, all of them verbally asking for the ball and all of them wanting to be on the ball at the same time.”

Ben Mwesigwa

Its important for coaches to teach players how to understand that during an attack, all players have a role to play either on the ball or off the ball.

The players off the ball greatly help the player on the ball when they make the right actions in relation to the roles in attack.

Example: Belgium Vs Japan at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Please observe the following; What does the Belgian goalkeeper do when he gains possession of the ball?

How does Kevin De Bruyne react to get the ball?

What does De Bruyne do when he is on the ball?

What did Hazard, Meunier, Chadli and Lukaku do as De Bruyne travels with the ball?

What did Lukaku do for Chadli to score?

Football players that have been coached to understand the roles in attack will construct attacks with efficiency.

They will mostly take advantage of situations in which they you have more attackers against defenders.

Football speed.

Football speed is not like a 100 meter race, it has specific forms of speed that are a huge factor in performance.

These different forms of football speed are; Physical Speed, Mental speed and Technical speed.

The application of speed within football is determined by; movement of the ball, movement of the opponent and movement of a team mate.

Physical speed involves; Pure speed, Acceleration, and Deceleration.

Mental speed involves; Perceptual speed, Cognitive speed, Awareness speed, Anticipation speed, and Reaction speed.

Technical speed is the speed of applying a football skill.

Pure Speed: This is the speed of running from one point to the other in the shortest possible time. While it’s okay and desirable for footballers to have a good sprint time in a distance of 100 meters, footballers rarely run that kind of distance. The most common sprint distance in football is between 0 meters to 40 meters.

Good pure speed requires having good body coordination.

Acceleration/Deceleration: Acceleration is the ability to change (increase) speed in a given time.

Deceleration is the ability to change (decrease) speed in a given time.

In football, it’s being able to reach maximum speed in the shortest possible time and distance or being able to reduce speed in the shortest possible time.

Having good acceleration/deceleration is a very helpful factor of agility which helps a football player in 1v1 situations defending or attacking.

Acceleration/deceleration requires good and quick footwork, powerful muscles, a strong core and good strength and mobility of pelvis, knee and ankle joints.

Technical speed: Is the ability to manipulate the ball while applying a football skill.

Everybody can receive, pass, shoot, head, and other football skills that are applied on the ball, however, high-level footballers are able to execute these skills in the shortest possible time rarely compromising on accuracy.

Technical speed is learned through individual practice then improved under the pressure of space and time in matches with opponents.

Small-sided matches offer the best way to do match practice because activities can be done and repeated more often in a shorter time. Technical speed requires good body coordination.

Anticipation speed: Anticipation is the ability to know what is most likely going to happen.

Knowing when a teammate will cross the ball to jump and time a header, goalkeeper coming out to handle crosses, are examples of using anticipation in football.

Anticipation speed comes from experience especially that of playing small-sided games when players are in the development phase.

Awareness speed: Awareness is being able to know what is going on.

In football, it’s being aware of the ball, opponents, teammates, score, time and space e.t.c.

Having good awareness helps to know and use what is going on to your advantage.

The basic way of improving football awareness is to keep looking over both sides of your shoulder when you are off the ball.

Cognitive speed: Cognitive is being able to recognize a problem and find the most suitable way to solve it.

Good cognitive speed helps footballers to know and solve the problems facing them by applying the most appropriate skill that requires the least time.

In a 2v1 situation, the two attackers should be able to know and solve the problem of one defender stopping them, the same will apply to the defender, and they should be able to know how to behave while defending two attackers.

Cognitive speed is built through playing puzzles, non-violent based video games and board games like chess.

Reaction speed: Reaction is a response to a stimulus.

In football, the stimulus is mainly the ball in relation to the moments of football.

Football players should have very quick reactions while defending and attacking in order to take full advantage of space and time.

Reaction speed in football is improved through playing small-sided games that have football development conditions but first, the players need to know and master each football skill then learn and understand the principles of attacking and defending in football.

Having good ability of all football skills and knowledge of the principles of play will enable players to react faster.

Perceptual speed: Perceptual speed is mainly (85%) through visualization the other percentage is about hearing.

The ability to look up, interpret what is going on then come up with a decision.

In football, situations keep changing in a very short time, good footballers have the ability to keep track of all changing situations and to make the most appropriate decisions for those situations in the shortest possible time.

An example of perceptual speed in football would be; as a footballer receives the ball, they will decide if to pass, shoot, dribble, run with the ball e.t.c all depending on how they interpret the situation after looking up to interpret.

The same applies to defending, do you need to press or delay the opponent.

It’s important for coaches to know and track how footballers score in football speed tests in order to keep on improving.

Mental speed is mainly controlled by the ability to concentrate and is developed from a young age through quality nutrition and good sleeping hours.

Physical speed is controlled by coordination of the body while technical speed is about coordination, how much time a player spends practicing with the ball and the time they will get in small-sided games or street football.

Factors affecting football performance.

A footballer’s performance has factors that affect it.

These four factors are; Technical, Tactics, Physical and Psychology (mental).

These four elements are very dependent on each other, they can only be applied in unison. You can hardly apply tactics and ignore technical, physical and psychology.

Technical and tactics are mainly taught by football coaches but learning happens during matches.

Physical is mainly DEVELOPED from a young age (aged 3 to 12) by working on exercises that develop coordination and can also be learned by allowing upcoming footballers (aged 3-12 ) to participate in different sports and fun games, it’s then MAINTAINED in later years of a footballer. (These days even after retirement).

Coordination is responsible for all the physical demands in football.

Psychology (mental) is the most neglected element yet it’s as important as the other three or must-have for better football performance.

Reason? It’s the element that is taught by parents/guardians from a player’s infancy stage to adulthood then improved through coaching.

It’s very much the foundation stage of a footballer’s performance.

Concentration accounts for almost 60% of the mental demands in football.

Technical includes football skills like; passing, shooting, the first touch, heading, dribbling, tackling, marking, handling, diving (goalkeeper) and throwing.

It’s basically the skills that are applied to the ball.

These skills need to be learned and perfected before the age of 20 then developed until they can be applied under the immense pressure of space and time.

Coaches, parents and upcoming footballers should ensure these skills are constantly developed until they can be applied in a pressured environment.

It is important for footballers to learn, master and be comfortable executing all football skills regardless of the playing position.

The quality execution of football skills is affected by coordination.

Tactics are the how, when, where and why the application of football skills or decisions on the pitch.

Quality footballers are able to perform better because they have been taught to answer who does what how when where and why?

Answering those football questions is derived from knowledge and understanding of the principles of attacking and defending in football.

Coaches and parents should ensure that young footballers (aged 6-12) are given the chance to express themselves with the ball and in small-sided fun matches while growing up so that between 12-15 years of age they can start to be taught who does what how when where and why?

Physical includes; agility, acceleration/deceleration, jumping, stamina, balance, flexibility, footwork, strength (power for footballers), pure speed (not to be confused with overall football speed) and natural fitness.

This element is developed from a young age with better nutrition, playing creative fun games and using quality training equipment to develop coordination of the body.

Psychology or metal includes; passion, decision making, teamwork, work rate, enthusiasm, concentration, communication, commitment, confidence, control, creativity, determination, influence, off the ball and composure.

Having those attributes helps a player to be; confident, ambitious, versatile, focus, adaptable, consistent, good and positive attitude, professional in behavior, sportsmanship, bravery, etc.

Parents should put more emphasis on the psychological element in the development stage of a footballer because it requires a lot of time, effort and hard work to instill and can’t be tolerated if lacking in a professional set up.

As mentioned earlier, these four elements all work at the same time and can’t be separated.

Scenario: A defender has a striker bearing down on goal facing her in a 1v1. In that scenario the defender has to track backward with bent hips (physical), has to know when, where on the pitch, how and why a defender tracks backward (tactics), has to focus on the ball and be confident (mental) in her ability to defend then finally might have to tackle (technical) or apply principles of defending.