Most fans can pick out their team's most creative player; indeed, they are often the main reason fans turn up to games in the first place. But how many casual observers could pinpoint exactly what these creative players do differently from their team-mates? In this fascinating presentation, Dr André Roca of St Mary's University, London, identifies the hallmarks of a creative player, and considers how coaches might be able to develop this quality in their players. The session is followed by a Q&A, hosted by FIFA's Dr Paul Bradley.
Define creativity in a football context. Identify and describe the individual behaviours associated with creative play. Suggest techniques practitioners might use to develop creative decision-making among their players.
Creativity is predicated on unpredictability and finding innovative solutions to problems. The study suggests that creative players scan the pitch more often than other players, and that they identify different cues and patterns of play when they do so.
Coaches may be able to nurture creativity in their players by modifying their approach to training, and specifically by developing sessions that help players to step out of their comfort zones. Unstructured practice may also help youth players to develop their creative instincts.
Part 1: What do we mean by "creativity" in football?
Dr Roca begins his presentation by trying to define what we actually mean by creativity in a football context, providing a series of video examples to illustrate how creative players manage to bamboozle opposition defenders and unlock defences. As he points out, creativity goes hand in hand with unpredictability, and the higher you go up the football pyramid, the bigger the difference it is likely to make.
Part 2: What do creative players do differently?
In the second part of the session, Roca explains how creative impulses can be identified in a laboratory context, and describes the behaviours that set creative players apart from their peers. His research dovetails with Karl Marius Aksum's previous presentation on scanning, underscoring the importance of scanning the pitch quickly and frequently. Roca also points to evidence suggesting that creative players are likely to have spent relatively more time playing in unstructured settings as youngsters.
Part 3: How can coaches encourage more creativity?
Given these insights, is there anything else practitioners might be able to do to nurture more creative players? In the final part of his talk, Dr Roca makes a number of suggestions in this regard, from encouraging a focus on attention by avoiding overly hands-on coaching to using constraints in training drills to encourage players to think 'outside the box'. He also demonstrates how coaches can apply the principles of differential learning to keep their squads guessing and encourage them to find creative solutions to problems.
How difficult was it to produce a framework for this immensely complex area?
Do you see creativity as a general quality, or is it more domain-specific?
I wanted to ask about a comment by Diego Armando Maradona, who described the game as "a game of deceit." Is it easier to quantify creativity in attacking players than in defenders?
You mentioned risk-taking. Is risk-taking an important part of creativity, and will more creative players try different things in training and during matches?
Is creativity at risk of extinction? We know the art of defending is on the rise and teams nowadays are very compact. Is creativity fading out of the game?
If we think it is fading away, is there anything we can do to maintain the creative aspect of the game?
I wanted to ask about harmony and balance. How do you balance the need for creativity with the importance of following a gameplan and a strategy?
I wanted to talk about the constraints-led approach. Can you tell us more about that and give us some practical examples?
You also mentioned differential learning. A lot of top clubs are using it, but could you elaborate on it, please?
If you could provide a couple of key pieces of advice for practitioners, what would they be?