Are Great Soccer Players Born? Part 2

In my last post, we examined the question “are great soccer players just born that way?”

As established in that post, I believe that greatness comes from a combination of 5 key elements within each individual player.   As Daniel Coyle (author of “The Talent Code”) states “Greatness isn’t born it’s grown.”

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

On Thursday, I discussed the details (and ways to foster) a developed and intense love of the game  and a burning desire and obsession to improve.  Today we will tackle appropriate practice and appropriate coaching/mentorship.

Appropriate practice:
When we talk about appropriate practice we must look at the amount, type, and quality of environment created for training. The amount of deliberate training required can also be affected by the number of other sports children play prior to the age of specialization. The finer points and details of other sports can be translated to soccer.

Player development requires organization of training, creativity and as much repetition as possible. We have all heard of the 10,000 hour rule but it is the quality of the 10,000 hours of practice that is the true defining factor, not the actual hours that will have the lasting impact on players.

We need to create an abundance of early unstructured play/practice opportunities in our training schedules to give our children chance for repetition with the ball. Some examples of this include even small sided games, uneven small sided games, 1 v 1’s ect. These environments highlight the realities of the game. In order for players to attain the acquisition of skill we must place them in creative, competitive and fun training environments enabling them to enjoy the game while developing.

For more information on age appropriate developmental priorities, visit the Technical Zone on and take a look at the Long Term Player Development Plan.  You can also find video and print guides on pre-planned age-appropriate training sessions under the Technical Zone.

Appropriate Coaching / Mentorship:
As a coach or parent you play a vital role in a child’s development. You must empower and motivate your players in order for them to achieve greatness. Create constant environments where you take them to the boundaries of their ability, and then ask them to reach forward for more!

In the end, it is your players who make the decisions in real-time on the field; therefore we must properly prepare them in training so they can make the smart decisions under pressure. Involve them in the decision making and ask them to create their team values and set their goals. Coaches and parents must monitor these goals for achievement, and help players continuously create more. We need to allow our players to be involved in rules that affect them; this will help to instill accountability.

How we as adults manage our player’s mistakes is key:

As a coach or parent we need to stand back and observe more.  Be aware of the mistakes players are making in training. If no mistakes are being made for long periods of time, then the exercise may not be challenging enough, so gear the session up.

The use of positive praise is crucial to individual and team development; make sure you give positive reinforcement, while holding them accountable. You must be strategic in how you communicate with your players. Know what is effective for them on an individual level.

What are your strategies for developing practice sessions and providing your players with mentorship?  Parents, what conversations do you have with your children to discuss their performance in practice or games?

Up next: we will discuss Imagination, self belief / confidence and how that affects developing a player.

This entry was posted in Coaching, Parenting Techniques for Soccer, Player Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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