What most players learn when they are older [ages 17+] is that they weren’t as good as they thought they were. I recently watched a video of US Women’s National Team player, Crystal Dunn who said she learned when she was 17 that she was behind technically compared to other top players. She grew up as a top youth soccer player – dominating due to natural skill and athleticism. The higher the level you go the better you have to be technically, not necessarily athletically.
Some people find out after they get out of college that they are not skilled enough to compete with the pros or national team. Like in most things the best are a mix of naturals who never fill their potential and then the ones with above average talent and a super strong mindset. If you can get the two mixed, you have a Ronaldo, Lebron James, Serena Williams type athlete.
Arrogance and attitude will bite you in the end
It’s almost a attitude of pride and arrogance that players and parents have growing up on the “best teams”. And I am not talking about anyone I know. All you have to do is go to 1 select soccer game and listen to some of the parents. The fact that you are reading this sets you apart from those who think they are so good. If you’re not currently a top youth soccer player, remember that it’s not about being the best at a young age. It’s about trying to be the best you can be.
Once kids get to the college level they find out that there are thousands of other players who are good. The level keeps getting better and the pool keeps getting deeper. You don’t want to find out too late that your technique is not good enough. There’s a difference from a college player who plays and starts as a Freshman, to those who never play.
There are players who get to college and never play, even their senior year. The reason is because you are competing against players who work hard or came up late. Just like the movie ‘Waterboy’ with Adam Sandler, where he plays the role of a football player who basically game out of nowhere and dominating. There are people like this all around the world, who come out of their shell late and end up being better than everyone.
Being at the top doesn’t last forever
Most humans who always have it easy or reach the top end up becoming content with where they are. The best athletes never have that attitude, even if they know they are the best. The best have high character and try to perfect the simple things. Truth is that most of the higher level youth athletes are at the top because of their natural abilities. Then in college it’s a mix of the natural athlete and the ones with a very strong mindset. Strong mindset is usually what makes the pros.
Just a few weeks ago I read something about how the majority of kids who were the fastest between ages 7-10 were not by age 16+. This means there are lot of kids who develop late in their adolescents. I remember at growing up from 10-14 I was above average speed and then in 9th grade things changed. By college I was the fastest player on the field and same with pro. But I didn’t have good enough first touch and passing skills to reach my potential. This is one reason I love helping the younger generations.
The best pros work harder
The best work harder than everyone else, which is why they are the best. Some of them are better athletes, like Lebron James. But he puts in work to stay the best he can at the skill elements, or else he won’t be the best. He is so naturally gifted that he would be a top 20 player, but without working on his skills, he wouldn’t be near the player he is. Same with Jordan or Carli Lloyd.
Besides Allen Iverson [former NBA star] I can’t think of any top level pro’s who don’t keep working on their game as much as they should. I loved watching him, but he was not a good role model off the court. He had people thinking you could just go out and smoke blunts, show up and ball out. That’s not the type of person you would to look up to and be like.
If you remember Peyton Manning the NFL Quarterback. He was not super athletic or smooth, but he was built to play that position and he worked hard year after year to perfect his throwing mechanics and fitness. I love him for winning a Super Bowl for Denver, but think about how bad he was the last year, even though they won. Think about if he didn’t train on his own and with a trainer… The right training always works.
There is always a next level, no matter who you are. Even the arrogant Ronaldo, knows he has to keep working. He hasn’t and probably won’t win the World Cup and this will be something he will always think of. Same with Messi! These two players do work hard on their own, but it’s a team sport and sometimes things don’t roll your way when it comes to winning championships.
You have to put in the work away from team
You might be the best athlete in your town, but this alone will not help you reach your potential. It’s so common to have the natural players coast through just because they are one of the best. If you want to stay at the top and continue to reach for your potential you have to keep working for it.
Running on your own in off-season, doing some speed and strength training, core work, skills work all are things that will make you better. If you are improving most at your team practice, you are not being fair to yourself or your teammates. If you were a coach, would you prefer to have players who train on their own or players who only go to team practice? The players who believe their coaches and parents, that working hard pays off are the ones who continue to improve.
Players are working on fitness way to early
Nowadays some of the best young soccer players are losing out because they are being put through more fitness and tactical training then technical. This is a big problem that will never change for some. So if you want to do something about it, educate yourself and surround yourself with as many like minded people as you can.
In Barcelona they will tell you that they don’t care or work much on strength training or running several miles. You have to understand that soccer is very difficult to be good and it takes years of good practice for it to look great. To become a top youth soccer player you have to be patient. You have to believe you can always improve no matter how good you already are.
Former pros who were told no
Some of the best athletes are so because someone [usually a coach] told them they weren’t good enough. This feedback lights a fire that cannot be put out and drives a person to work harder than their competition.
Bringing up Jordan again… He said that he wouldn’t have become the player he did without his HS coach cutting him his Sophomore year. The next day after he was cut, MJ was in the driveway at 6am shooting hoops solo. The grit and determination to prove people wrong is what will turn you into a top youth soccer player.
Technique is most important in soccer
Most of the best footballers in the world are smaller players with exceptional technical skill. And I’m not talking about corny tricks, I’m talking about first touch out of the air on the ground, passing different ways, shooting with both feet. There are many players who ended up playing in World Cups, but when they were youth players u-13 – u-17 were told that they were not good enough to even make their club team as a teenager.
Never believe a coach who tells you that you’re good enough. Keep working on your own, stay patient and enjoy the ride. Self belief, positive thinking and the desire to improve are all vital pieces to your success. If you’re a top youth soccer player please don’t be content with that. You have the giftings to be great, and your opportunity comes from the choices you make