5 Habits You Need to Develop Before Playing Soccer at A High Level
Every player as a habit which has kept or keeping them from reaching the next stage in a soccer player’s development cycle. Some may be aware of their struggles and do nothing, but others are unaware or in complete denial. I can only talk from experience, having crossed paths with over 500 players in my career and being on both ends of the goalpost. So, here are my 5 training habits every player needs before playing at the next level:
Concentration – Going through the Motions
It’s with no doubt that you have heard almost every youth coach quote “The way you train, is the way you play”. We say it because we can’t say it any better. During any practice whether by yourself or with your team, your level concentration will ultimately decide how much you get out of your practice. Many players have fallen victim to going through the motions, especially during practice. This might be understandable for most players at the recreational levels because of the drawbacks of coaching quality and player understanding, but not anywhere else. When you go to practice, remember you’re here to improve not clown around. This doesn’t mean you won’t share a laugh or two with your coach and teammates. When a drill is presented to you, it's your duty as a student of the game to master it by giving it your all. Whether or not it drills you’ve done 10,000 times, your level of concentration should be your gauge on consistency in the way you perform on every play.
Take yourself out your comfort zone
When talking about your comfort zone I am coming at you from every angle. Your comfort zone can be from a mental, physical, tactical or technical perspective. This can be devastating, especially to youth players. Let’s give a tactical example to begin, players who have only mastered one position on the field fall short of grasping the full IQ of the game. That’s all too it, you need to get to a point where you're comfortable being uncomfortable. If you’re not the communicator on the field, then start taking steps to communicate. If you’re a defender, try to get some time as an attacker. The idea here is to push your development and understand that you can’t progress without doing the things you might hate or too afraid to do. Try taking this approach, set a small goal for yourself outside your comfort zone to complete and if you complete it, then take it a step further every practice or game going forward. You may have to wrestle with some of the inner demons that hold you back, but you got this, if you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’re in it to win it.
Have a better attitude towards failure
Failure is good! Before you just stop reading, hear me out. We need to fail and we are going to fail way more than we succeed in life. Sometimes you need to lose everything to win everything. But what’s more important is the relationship that we have with failure. Failure can define us negatively and positively, only you are in control of how you envision your life. An athlete needs to understand they will never be perfect, but they will have perfect moments. Staying focus on the task at hand will get you through any obstacle. So, you must learn to welcome failure with open arms, but not let it measure your path to success. Here is what I recommend, and I want to be as realistic as possible in terms of playing in a match. Think about a time you dwelled on not making the perfect dribble or not making the perfect pass. At this moment, you may have stopped in frustration or anger and at that same moment, you missed another opportunity to score a goal or to win the ball. We have all fallen victims to this behavior because it is our competitive nature. I challenge you to work on building the tolerance to not dwell on your failure, especially while you play and prepare yourself for the next opportunity. It’s very frustrating for any player to stop the player who never quits and always sees a chance to win.
Be Open-Minded – to new styles of play and training
This may be more of a problem than a habit in the lines of your player development. The relationship between a player and their coach plays a huge role in the way a player looks at the game. This is where the “open mind” comes in. Players build such a close relationship with their coaches that instructions from other coaches go unregistered. Every coach/trainer has something to bring to the table, whether it's mental or technical. They may even have different terminologies, methods, and knowledge that can add value to your development. Take the opportunity to get instructions from as many coaches as possible and approach each session with an open mind. Keeping an open mind will help understand the “why” and give you the best chance to learn and improve.
Every Game, Practice or Kick-About at the Park is an Opportunity
Open your eyes! Opportunity is everywhere you look. It just depends on how you use it. Football (Soccer) is just a game, but not just any game. It’s a game of love, passion, hope and so much more. So yes, you need to work hard, you need to set goals, you need to enjoy it, you need to be able to laugh and smile when you play and you need to do it with grace. I always loved this quote from Inter Milan Striker Romeu Lukaku in his article “I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY”. He said, “Let me tell you something — every game I ever played was a Final. When I played in the park, it was a Final. When I played during break in kindergarten, it was a Final. I’m dead-*** serious. I used to try to tear the cover off the ball every time I shot it. Full power. We weren’t hitting R1, bro. No finesse shot. I didn’t have the new FIFA. I didn’t have a PlayStation. I wasn’t playing around. I was trying to kill you. “ Don’t take this quote into a violent context. He is merely drawing the picture that he gives every opportunity that comes his way no time to fade away. If you want to be great at anything in life you have to take any opportunity you get and strive to be the best. You may not always see immediate results, but good things come to those who work hard in silence.
To conclude, many of our habits good or bad can be fixed with understanding, persistence and determination. So hope this article can help along your journey to becoming a better player.