Are great soccer players just born that way?
People commonly ask me the secret behind becoming a great soccer player. Many even ask if players are “just born that way”.
After reading Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code”, I found many great insights that are applicable to that very question. Since this is a commonly debated topic, I wanted to examine the discussion here.
In the book Coyle highlights many great points. One of my personal favorites being: “Greatness isn’t born it’s grown.”
So, I ask you:
Are great soccer players born with “natural talent”?
In my opinion, the answer to this question is No. While the right genetics do have an impact, there is much scientific evidence that confirms brilliance or talent is the result of some key ingredients and training environments. I believe, there are 5 major elements necessary to develop talent. Over the course of this week, I will do a series of posts that addresses each of these elements in detail and explains what we can do as coaches and parents to foster these characteristics.
The Key Ingredients that assist in developing great soccer players are:
1) A developed and intense love of the game
2) A burning desire and obsession to improve
3) Appropriate practice
4) Appropriate coaching / mentorship
5) Imagination, self belief / confidence
A developed and intense love of the game:
The foundation of any great soccer player is an internal “Love of the game.” As coaches and parents, it is crucial that we instil and develop this excitement for our wonderful sport. We need to share this infectious love of the game; but how do we translate a love for the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net, imagining scoring the winning goal in the World Cup Final in front of a million people or the self-satisfaction of playing your best?
Today one of our biggest battles with youth is with technology. With a new gadget being introduced daily, youth spend much more time behind the computer or TV screen, and have become much more technology dependent. We need to break this habit. Let’s encourage our young children to get out and play, rather than be glued to a game consul. As adults we must foster a healthy lifestyle for our children, and take an invested interest in the games they play. Some ways to do this include:
• Setting an example of a healthy, active lifestyle. Make sure to demonstrate a positive attitude, and sportsmanship as you are a role model to your players and children
• Have conversations with your children regarding their favorite elements of the game
• Attend local games together. There are plenty of great opportunities to watch soccer with wonderful universities and the Sounders in our backyard
• Promote the fun of the sport and celebrate in your player’s personal excellence
A burning desire and obsession to improve:
“We can only predict a player’s true potential once we, as coaches have measured their definiteness, desire and discipline. The key is to look into a player’s mind as well as at their feet.” –Gary J. White
I often use this quote, as it clearly states the need for players to acquire a definite goal, and become fixated on trying to achieve it. This burning passion is usually the difference between those who have the potential for success and those who actually attain greatness.
There are 4 established pillars in the development of well-rounded soccer players – technique, tactical understanding, physical prowess and mental strength. In my opinion, desire is the fifth element necessary and must stand alongside the established 4 pillars.
I hope you take the above information to heart. We play an integral role in shaping the lives of our youth, and it is critical that we assume the responsibilities that come with this great honor.
What are your own experiences with developing great players? What tactics have you used to foster the love for the game and a desire to improve in your players?
Up next: We will discuss Appropriate Practice and steps we can take to optimize practice for the development of our players.