So you want to become the best soccer player you can possibly be? Well, let me tell you something. There is nothing more frustrating as a coach than when we hear kids say, "Yeah, yeah I want to be a pro soccer player, how can I improve?" only for us to see little or no improvement in the areas we talk about over the year. Yes, as coaches it’s up to us to design sessions that facilitate learning, to stimulate and to help you improve. But as a player with a real desire to be the best you can be, it’s up to you to take our advice, expand on it, work on it and surpass our expectations. One of the biggest examples of this is working on the use of your weaker foot. Coaches all over the world must be sick of telling their players that being able to use both feet will instantly make them stand out. But progress in this area is often slow or non-existent, which tells us as coaches that you simply don’t practice.
Self-development is the key to success in any area of your life, and soccer is no different. Here in Australia, the blame for the lack of players coming through at the top level is thrown at reasons varying from the high cost to the lack of quality coaching and burnout. Yes, burnout is cited as a reason for kids failing to develop to their full potential. It's a pretty laughable statement when at the top levels of youth soccer, they literally train three times a week and play one match. The problem certainly isn't burnout, and to me, it's damn right obvious. The problem that stops kids from developing in Australia and elsewhere is down to the player themselves and how much they want it. Parents seem to be on the lookout for the magic club or coach that will turn their child into the next Ronaldo. When they don't find it and their child doesn't progress, they know exactly where the blame should be shouldered. The kids lap this up and will have the same thoughts as they bounce from club to club and coach to coach, "I’m not the problem, it's the coaches' fault." What parents should be doing is pushing them to show passion and desire in their own development.
It's long been said that you can tell what your true passions are by looking at what you do when no one is watching and this is where real progress is made. Can you self assess? Can you take on board criticism and work on those little things that need perfecting? Not just in a training session when the coach is watching and trying to help you, but at home and in the park on your own when it's cold and wet and your friends are out having fun. This is the real desire, passion, and grit that it takes to make it to the top.
The truth is, it doesn’t take much to get started. Take the use of your non-preferred foot in soccer. If you were to dedicate just 30 minutes every day to working specifically on the use of that foot, in just one year you would have amassed 182 hours and 30 minutes of practice. Up that to 45 minutes a day and suddenly it’s a whopping 273 hours and 45 minutes. That’s amounts to nearly 12 full days, now tell me your foot skills wouldn’t improve significantly over that period of time.
Finding that time isn’t hard either. Instead of watching TV before school or work, spend 30 minutes in the garden. Don’t get up early enough? Do it from 3:30 to 4 PM straight after school against the school wall. Mum wants you straight home? Do it when you get in, before turning on The Game of Thrones marathon or playing Fortnite. Take control of your learning, take control of your development. It doesn’t take a lot, but there is no doubt that the power of 30 can totally transform your game.