Are Footballer’s Intelligent?

It’s a question that has been asked before, especially when one sees story after story pasted across the tabloids of high and low profile footballers in hot water over their behavior. One should be careful not to stereotype of course!

Players such as John Terry and Frank Lampard especially are very intelligent. Chelsea’s medical team carried out tests to assess the effect of head injuries on their players. A company was also brought in to conduct IQ tests as part of the study. John Terry was in the top three. Frank Lampard quote: “scored one of the highest sets of marks ever recorded by the company doing the tests, and higher than me,” (Dr English club doctor). Lampard’s exact score was not released but was said to be in the region of 150 on the IQ scale, which represents the top 0.1 of the population.

The fact of the matter is that although footballers often have less of a ‘formal’ education, they are in fact more intelligent than the ‘average person on the street’ and able to score higher in many IQ type tests.

One of the hindrances to players reaching their full intellectual levels is that the relationship between club and players isn’t great. Also remember that some of these players are very young. ‘Kids’ in many cases. Footballers train hard for a few hours a day but after that they have a lot of free time. The alcohol abuse that may have taken place decades ago may have all but died out but although football clubs have become more professional, they still have some way to go.

These days in their down time, many players sit at home in luxury, playing on games consoles, watching movies, gambling, or just hanging out with friends. ‘So what’s the problem?’ you might ask.

Well it’s this. Many footballers (mainly in the top flight) are spoilt! Clubs don’t want to ‘force’ them into too much extra curricular activity for fear of upsetting them. Aditionally you have the ‘dreaded’ football agent, hovering around ready to propose a move to another club for dissatisfied players.

Footballers need to be challenged mentally and it isn’t really happening. It’s a shame because footballers aren’t stupid and if clubs did more for them in the form of mental stimulation, then it is quite probable that their players would improve their performances and the team would actually do better.

Torbjörn Vestberg is a psychologist, scientist and lecturer. Some years ago he developed a test for players and visited clubs in the Swedish top division and third division. He took two forwards and two defenders each time and administered the test which involved connecting dots in as many ways as possible without repeating the same pattern. It was designed to test ‘geometric thinking’.

The ‘dot’ test was specifically chosen because it is a fair test, regardless of ‘education and background’. (For instance, footballers might not score so highly in, say, verbal reasoning tests and so on).

The players all did much better than the ‘average person’ but what was interesting is that players in the top flight did much better than those in the third tier. Additionally, in the following season, those who had done best in the test scored more goals and provided more assists than those with lower scores.

The conclusion drawn was that footballers have ‘abstract’ and ‘creative’ abilities that exceed the majority. Clubs and managers need to harness that ability more and challenge their players mentally as well as physically. Most clubs and many managers are not aware of the intellectual capabilities of their players, although some have, namely Pep Guardiola, who is known for recruiting ‘intelligent’ footballers.

Guardiola was a tactical thinker as a player and he expects the same abilities from the individuals in his teams. All that’s needed is for other managers and the clubs to do more to harness their players’ full potential.

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