The attraction of youth soccer today in the US and especially Las Vegas compared to 20+ years ago is monumental. Kids are now able to watch their favorite teams and players live in action, with access to the top soccer leagues.
This can be a positive as well as a negative, WHY?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SKILLS & TRICKS
Kids naturally want to emulate the advanced skills or tricks of their favorite players and many believe this level is achievable in their first few years of playing soccer. In reality the advanced skills and tricks professionals display are the basics (passing, receiving, dribbling) practiced over decades and performed at an accelerated speed.
There is a big difference between skills and tricks.
For example, having a skill is being able to perform the basics under pressure (in a game). Tricks are like added bonuses to the game; only a handful of professional players around the world can perform these tricks and use to their advantage.
As a youth soccer coach in Las Vegas, it never ceases to amaze me that so many players are attempting and/or able to perform the tricks in practice but unable to execute the basics accurately. If a player’s focus is on tricks (what looks good) in practice it will delay the rate of their development and how well they perform in games.
REPARTITION ON & OFF THE FIELD
There is no hidden secret behind enhancing your abilities to pass and receive the ball but REPARTITION!!! This is one of the most important yet neglected ingredients needed for a young players progression. Repartition requires a lot of concentration and a positive mindset to stick with it long term! Acquiring these habits consists of the coaching environment you’re exposed to and the personal level of enjoyment you have for the game.
Repartition not only consists of showing up for practices, but the work you put in when you’re not training with your coach. Whether it’s a private training session or simply kicking a ball against the wall. 5-6 days of the week should consist of touches on the ball. Repartition allows you to eventually perform these skills with ease and mentally builds your confidence adding extra layers to your game.
98% of professional soccer games consist of players displaying the basics at an accelerated speed, that’s what makes it so exciting to watch. The other 2% are special moments you see a handful of top players reveal in a game.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AS A YOUTH PLAYER
I’m a big advocate of the technical side of the game. And it thrills me when I see youth players adopting the pass, dribble and movement components of the game.
As a youth player in the UK, the first professional academy club I played for was Wimbledon FC. The physical and athletic component of the game was the core of the clubs DNA, while the technical aspect was secondary. This made me ask myself, “Why were the better youth teams I played against focusing on the technical aspect and why we didn’t?” Naturally being a technical player myself caused a problem for me because as a youth player I wanted to trust my coach’s ability to guide me, but the training I was receiving didn’t allow me enough time to practice these basic technical skills. So I would go to the park and train on my own time everyday.
Deep down I knew in order for me to achieve my goal of becoming a pro I needed to develop the basics to a point, that it would be impossible to be overlooked.
In the end sticking to who I was and what I believed was right, led me to my goal, of becoming a professional soccer player.
Focus on the basics when thinking about your future success. The 2% is impressive, but not necessary to make it to a high level.