One of the most enjoyable aspects of my summer thus far has been the opportunity to get to know players of all ages in our club. Our players are fun, nice, polite, energetic and inquisitive. I have had a lot of really good questions, which I love, and have met a lot of players who want to grow and improve as players, which is really exciting to me.
That aspect in particular got me thinking about our players and what they can do to get better on their own. Trainings are tremendously important for player development as coaches put our players in game like situations so they are comfortable, confident and successful when they play but so much growth can also take place from time spent on your own.
Below are FOUR Different Activities that players can do on their own to get better:
- Use a wall to improve in different areas of your game. By far and away the most important of the four. A tennis ball hitting wall at your local tennis courts is by far the best wall to use. Walls are awesome, your strike the ball well and it comes right back to you. This is a tremendous way to get repetition and improvement. You can work on chipping the ball with both feet. Shooting with your laces with both feet. Passing with both feet as well as one touch passing and of course trapping with both feet. So much can be gained by spending time getting touches and striking the ball against a wall. Your ball may get a little beat up but it will be well worth it.
- Juggle the soccer ball. Mainly using your feet but it never hurts to use your thighs and head as well. Always start with the ball on the ground and get very good at flicking the ball up and starting your juggling from the ground. Try to keep almost all of your touches with your feet low and under your knees. Use the tops/laces of your feet and try to get some back spin on each touch so that the ball comes back to you and you can get a nice rhythm. Remember, keep the ball low below the knee. The ability to juggle helps immensely on your touch!
- Practice 1 v1 offensive moves on your own: To get great at going at players and beating them 1 v1 you need to first be comfortable with the moves and there is no better way to do this than on your own. Getting comfortable with the cutting, the pace, the timing and the acceleration after you put the move on. Keep it simple at first and then add more challenging moves to your repertoire. Make sure you practice moves for different situations. Have a couple of moves that you do when your running at a player facing them, a move that gives you more time on the ball and protects the ball at the same time as well as a move when you have your back to a defender. Once you have a move down get some repetition in running at an object that is a pretend defender. Remember not to put the move on too close to the object/defender. A two yard cushion is always good so that the defender cannot reach the ball.
- Dribbling: A great skill to have is the ability to dribble through traffic, keep the ball close and escape danger when you have to. Dribble around anything. Cones, bottles, cans, any object. Maybe each object is 2-3 yards apart in a straight line at first. Dribble using both feet and keep your head up as much as possible. Stay in control while going as quickly as possible.
Have fun and See you soon!
a PDF version of this article can be downloaded here
There is never anything wrong with striving to be your best at anything you choose to do. Below are 10 aspects that I believe you will find within all great soccer players, athletes and people in general, striving to be their best at what they do.
- WORK HARDER THAN ANYONE ELSE
I believe this is the fundamental quality of all top players in any sport. You simply have to put the work in if you are to progress and get better. This is not to be confused with working hard during a team training session, because that is a given. Instead, the top players spend hours on their own perfecting the touch and the feel of the ball. I suspect the very best players are also the ones who have a ‘first in – last to leave’ mentality when it comes to practice. The best players also approach practice as a proving ground every day and this cannot be compromised. There are no shortcuts to become a great player.
- COMMIT YOURSELF 24/7
Personally, I feel fitness levels are a sign of commitment and actions speak louder than words. The top players usually cover the most distances. Pat Riley famously said: “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” The same applies for elite performers. Every coach who has worked with David Beckham has praised his commitment towards his fitness and training above his talent and skill. I would suspect that is why he has played for the world’s greatest teams. It takes an enormous self-discipline to commit yourself to doing the right things at the right time – every time.
- MANAGE THEMSELVES
Great players do not rely on people to determine their performance. Yes, coaches and teammates can help them from time to time. But to become a great player, you must take responsibility for your own performance. Top players prepare for games in the right way and because of this, ‘stay’ in the game at all times. They never catch themselves looking back at a mistake or looking too far forward. Always focused on the task at hand, no matter how small
- DEAL WITH SETBACKS
To be successful, you will inevitably come across setbacks. The top players make sure that they can deal with these setbacks and recover from them. The key, however, is that these players can put it behind them and move on to the next game or even the next play. Winston Churchill believed the key to success was going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Unless you lead a charmed life, it all goes wrong from time to time. The difference between the top performers and the rest, is how they deal with it. It takes courage but can be learnt through having the right attitude and ‘owning’ your performance and then getting back at it again with a positive approach.
- DEAL WITH SUCCESS
This often goes under the radar but is vital if a player is going to reach the top level and more importantly, stay there. Success will be part of the journey but also has its downfalls. Complacency, lack of drive, and dropping standards can all be potential by-products of winning. There is a line on every mutual fund prospectus that reads: “Past performance is no guarantee for future success.” When a player does achieve success, individually or with the team, they must stay grounded and keep working on their game. It takes a special player to stay grounded during a successful period of their career – but it is a necessity to reach the top.
- CONSTANTLY EVOLVE THEIR GAME
When you reach a top level, people are always looking to catch up and, sooner or later, they do. It is important that you keep looking to bring your game a step further and add another string to your bow. This is done on the practice field and involves a purposeful type of practice that is both mentally and physically challenging. Coachability is also a key factor, where top players have a willingness to learn, grow and adapt.
- DELIVER WHEN EXPECTED TO
When the stage is set and expectations are highest, the great players typically step up and perform. Maradona, Pele, Cruyff and Messi and many others have defined themselves by producing. Courage is a key factor in this. It takes a special player to want the ball and express themselves in an important match or when a game is on the line.
- SELF BELIEF
Self-belief is a belief in your ability to deal with the challenge of any situation. It can sometimes be carried in your body language but it does not spring from nowhere. It arrives from hard work, and knowing that the things you are doing to your game will take you to another level. It is probably the most important factor in success on the field. When players have similar skill and physical qualities, the one difference maker is the confidence in yourself to perform and make a difference. The really great players carry this belief to such effect that it impacts their teammates in a positive way as well.
You just have to be willing to put in the time and work. Sometimes that means not choosing an easier path but truly deciding to take the less traveled road. Putting the time in will pay off. If you want something bad enough in life, believing that you will achieve through dedication and work is a great start, putting in the work will get you there.
- DO THE SIMPLE THINGS WELL
Our ‘YouTube culture’ has programmed us to think that the great players are full of flicks and tricks that set them apart from the rest. However, in reality, the exact opposite is actually true. Players like Ronaldo, Henry, Rooney, and Messi are masters of the basics first and foremost. They all have a fantastic knack of doing the simple things well and making the right decision nine times out of ten. Barcelona players symbolize this best because of the way they play. Their style of play and team structure revolves around quick, one and two touch passing and players are not free to simply do what they want. There is a time and place for the spectacular – the great players know exactly where and when this is.
Great players have a number of things that separate themselves from the majority. How many of ten factors I have identified are innate or natural? Not many. Talent is certainly needed to be a great player, but there are so many more factors to go alongside it. Each quality above can be worked on either by working on it physically or mentally. The goal here is not to become a professional player, that may occur, but It is about fulfilling your potential in every area. A player who takes responsibility, prepares well, commits themselves to doing the right things every day, never takes shortcuts, and focuses on getting the best out of today and tomorrow has a great chance of becoming the best player that they can be. That I what is important and the path that this level of commitment will take you will most likely be one of great enjoyment, confidence and success.
Download PDF version of this article: 10 Things that All Great Soccer Players do