Soccer Skills – What Muscle Memory Really Means

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By Michael Shanks

What does it mean to juke somebody out? To juke another soccer player often provides the highest level of Joy (see gives me great joy) that a soccer player can attain. A juke is when you use a fake or a move to dribble past another soccer player.

So, what is so exhilarating about faking someone out on the dribble like Neymar or Messi does on a regular basis? It’s obviously fun to show off your skill and talent and to get past a defender. But it’s more than just that. For top soccer players all the repetition and practice over the years creates muscle memory. Messi could nutmeg players in his sleep.

Lionel Messi nutmeg defenders with such ease.

One perspective might see it as proving that we are “better” than our opponents, at least in that individual instance. This plays to the view that we are immensely competitive creatures and are always looking for ways to assert ourselves as the best at something.

One soccer player is literally able to outsmart another, by moving his body in such a way that gives the defender the wrong impression as to where the player will dribble. In that way, a physical dominance, as well as a mental dominance, is asserted.

Maybe the enjoyment of a juke has largely to do with an offender taking joy in watching another soccer player be affected by something he has done. This relates to an innate happiness that all humans can experience, simply of feeling connected to the universe. The phrase that so many people say when referring to something they enjoy “it really makes me feel alive”, has more meaning than just on the surface level.

By seeing that one’s actions do have an effect on others, the individual feels connected with humans in general. According to many a philosopher, a sense of community among other humans is a necessity for happiness and a content existence. Hence, the simple act of juking someone out really does make us feel alive.

But in order to get the joy, you have to work on your craft and practice your dribbling moves on a daily basis so they become engrained and you don’t even have to think anymore when you’re dribbling the ball. Do you think Messi or Neymar stops and thinks when they’re going at a defender?

No, both players skills and dribbling ability part of themselves, in their body, the skills are now muscle memories. So they can dribble the ball and beat players without really thinking too much, they instead react and adjust in the blink of an eye.

Muscle memory is when you’ve done something so many times that your legs or feet start to do that dribbling move or fake more efficiently and almost without even thinking. That’s what the best soccer players in the world do with the soccer ball at their feet, their skills are so refined that they can do them in their sleep.

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