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A scientific approach behind Ronaldo

Monday 13th February 2017
Ronaldo. A word, name and brand that millions around the world will instantly recognise. Believed to be the best player to grace the Earth, many wonder just how is he so good. Even now, into his thirties, he is still running riot in La Liga and across the world stage. In this article, I will be looking from a scientific view to try and piece together how he has achieved just what he has achieved.

Power is a big part of Ronaldo's game. Whether it is heading a ball from a standstill at a fast pace past the onlooking goalkeeper, sprinting explosively with a change of pace, hitting the ball quicker than anyone, or out-muscling an opponent. Power is everywhere and is a key component of fitness that all elite sportsmen and women will have high levels of. Whilst it is a trainable aspect of Ronaldo's game, with Madrid's sports scientists devising a gym plan for the athlete on a day to day basis, genetics also plays an important role. Every muscle in the body is made up of muscle fibres. Muscle fibres come in three forms, type I type IIa and type IIb. Type I is for aerobic, slow paced exercise, whereas type IIb is for explosive, ballistic and powerful movements. A person cannot massively change how many of each muscle fibre they have- how many they have are determined by the genes they inherit from both parents. As Ronaldo is an extremely powerful athlete, he can thank his mother and father for some of his good fortunes.

Another aspect of a human being that is determined by genetics is height. At 6' 1” it is fair to say that Ronaldo would not be the player he is today without his height. He relies on his height on multiple occasions, he certainly has scored a lot of headed goals. However, also height allows a player to have longer legs, therefore longer strides increasing the player's overall speed. Mr Ronaldo is no slouch. However, one disadvantage to his height in the fact that he faces a higher centre of gravity; as opposed to a lower centre of gravity. This means that he is likely to be more unbalanced than a shorter opponent (e.g. Lionel Messi)- this is something that Messi uses very well as he becomes hard to knock off the ball (push over).

Now here's the debate between nature and nurture. Whether an elite sportsman's success is down to his genetics or his upbringing (practice and coaching), is an ongoing question in the world of sports scientists. There is evidence for both sides. The argument for nurture is the fact that, it's obvious that Ronaldo was not born to score 45-yard free kicks in the Premier League (against Portsmouth) and then do the same multiple years later. Closed skills with numerous stages of preparation (steps from the ball, run up, kicking the ball, recovery) takes practice. In a psychological sense, the more you repeat an action correctly you will receive positive kinaesthesis (physical feeling) and it will become encoded and stored into the long-term memory for retrieval in the future, to recreate the action. Again, in English, this means the more Ronaldo practised a free kick and he scored past a goalkeeper it would be remembered. In the future, when Ronaldo wanted to recreate this action (score a free kick), without knowing the winger would retrieve it from his long-term memory into his short-term memory and score (hopefully). This is all learnt, and is unlikely to be formed through genetics). It is true in the sense that some are good at this retrieval and others aren't.

Personality is also key to an athlete's success. There are many personality models, but one model describes each athlete as having a ‘need to achieve' or a ‘need to avoid failure'. It states to be successful an athlete will need to have a ‘need to achieve' personality. This is a personality which strives to try new things, be the best at the things they do, want to take on challenges, rather than take easier challenges to guarantee success. Clearly, Ronaldo does not shy away from a challenge, which has played a major part in his success- imagine if he never wanted to take a free kick in case he didn't score?
Jack Drury
19 years of age. Sport and Exercise Science Student at Loughborough University. Peterborough United.

Total articles: 76

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