Brain-training apps like Peak, Elevate and Cognito have been a big hit with consumers, combining mental dexterity tests with hand-cramping addictive gameplay. But where are the apps to sharpen your footballing brain?
Here’s one. Nike recently added Pro Genius to its football app. The new section offers a series of tools designed to help aspiring young footballers and battle-tested weekend warriors develop the mental skills to complement and improve their physical performance. But can an app really make you a better footballer?
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What Does it Do?
The current version includes four tools designed to hone your mental game. These cover visualisation, self-talk, counter-attack and priming options, with more planned to be added later in the summer.
Our favourite is the counter-attack game, which features a series of two-second clips shot from a first-person perspective as your team-mates break forward. The aim is to tap the player who represents the best passing option. It’s a split-second test of reflexes and decision-making that’s fun and instantly addictive. Nike recommends completing at least 80 reps per day if you want to reap the benefits on the pitch.
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In the priming game players have to tap, hold or avoid a series of hexagonal buttons that appear in various positions in different orders. Nike has pitched it as a pre-match dressing room tool that’ll test your reactions, “warming your brain up like a muscle” to “perfectly complement your physical warm-up”. Like all the best smartphone games, it’s quick and simple to use but deceptively hard to master.
The first section has a link to a short YouTube clip starring Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski visualising his goalscoring exploits ahead of a big game, with a voiceover explaining the benefits of the technique and how to practise it. It’s useful advice presented in a stylish, concise format, although it lacks gameplay.
The same goes for the self-talk segment, which features Manchester City and England keeper Joe Hart, describing how he incorporates this strategy into his pre-game ritual by reflecting on his career-best performance: a truly heroic effort for City against Barcelona in the Champions League in 2015. It’s more personal than Lewandowski’s clip, but is still just a video without any interactive elements.
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Does it Actually Work?
It’s tempting to dismiss Pro Genius as a gimmick fit for nothing more than killing time at the bus stop, but the technology in the priming and counter-attack games has been adapted from software that’s currently used by some of the world’s biggest clubs – including Barcelona and Man City, whose coaches had input into the app’s design.
The ability to drill specific on-pitch scenarios repeatedly is particularly useful for players whose playing time is limited to one training session a week (if that) plus a game. And while it obviously won’t do anything to improve a shoddy first touch or a predilection for shanking passes, it’ll certainly help aspiring Andrea Pirlos pick the right option in a high-pressure midfield situation. The self-talk and visualisation techniques, meanwhile, are proven performance-enhancers that you can apply to any aspect of your life.
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Between 2010 and 2016, Ben was the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Ben also contributed exclusive features to Coach on topics such as football drills, triathlon training plans and healthy eating.