A general outline not meant to capture exceptions:
1) Be obsessed with the game.
2) Put in your 10,000 hours.
3) Have coaches for many years at the youth level that can polish you.
4) Debut professionally as a teenager. Again, with a coach that has a clue.
5) Get transferred to a “big club”, if not already there.
6) Continue learning and working harder and longer than your peers.
7) Be lucky to get recognized as a special player every step of the way.
I don’t think you can stress point number 1 enough. All the best players seem to eat, sleep, and breathe the game, they can’t not be around it and that’s what separates them.
Gary Kleiban says
Yep. And you can already start seeing who’s who at the youth level.
Even looking at the top teams in the U10 age group, a clear distinction can be seen between players who are breathing the game vs those that are just playing it.
I would argue that coaching has less impact on their development as world class players than we think. If coaching was as important in their production than han it would seem the coaches who found Messi, Zidane and so on, would be producing more and more of those types of players. I am not saying it isn’t important just that we put to much emphasis on it. When in reality the game is the teacher…coaches should be there to help unblock certain issues and let players struggle to find their own way when necessary. Sir Alex Furgeson said it best. “The best education for coaches is an education in people”
I would stress in place of coaching the play would need a willingness to make mistakes and to struggle with learning how to correct them. That attitude is in every great player!
I think number 4 is one of the more important. To that point, Cruyff has stated that the Real Madrid academy is every bit as good as Barcelona’s, and produces players of equal quality, as well. The only difference, he continues, is that Barcelona gives their top prospects opportunities to play with the first team earlier, to “finish” the development of these players, whereas Madrid tends not to do that.
However, if I understand Gary right, I think the point he is making can be easily mis-understood: I don’t think playing with the pros as a teenager is so much about being challenged by bigger, stronger men that run faster and hit you harder, so much as about playing with people that think and act faster, give you less space to play, and make better decisions.
Gary Kleiban says
That’s right Alberto.
Speed of play is everything. The brain needs to get challenged to compute and make decisions faster. Which also means that your technique needs to get better in order to execute your decisions on the ball. And the sooner a player with potential gets exposed to this, the easier and quicker they’ll adapt.
This is why “playing up” at the youth level can be so beneficial. It’s not about getting used to the physical.
soccer grit says
Once again agree with thought of G.K. stating importance of playing or practicing up . My comments here reflect personal experience to that of youth development at club level. The purpose of playing up takes player out of comfort zone enough to push their processing and decison making. This puts player in position of having to react and direct actions that stay with the flow of game and determines if player technique and tactical skills need to be improved to handle increased pressure and control possession. Adaptive learning takes place when reinforcement not assured thru more challenging circumstances to make better quicker decisions and challenge his position of how to give purpose and intent to team attack and shape. In ideal situation dedicated developing players gets exposure to this at least 1/3 of time in practice and can maintain positive attitude in game situations if allowed and expresses appreciation of priviledge of being allowed to by dedicating time to self improve. The difficulty of doing this on YOUTH club level will meet resistance on every level from clubs adminstators, coaches, players, and worse parents. Also personally dont feel it has to be done wholely 1/3 time practicing down can be healthful too to refine technique skills and specific tactical manuveuers for players favorite field position receiving positive feedback more constantly. . Ideally other 1/3 time done for fun , creativity, social connnecting and responsibilty. The ability of not being afraid to fail and it being motivating factor for self improvement to help team in most challening situation is one of joys of soccer and also personal development.
i think it should be added that you should avoid signing any type of contract with the MLS because if you are any good they won’t want to let you go on to bigger and better things. see clint dempsey (had to wait for his MLS contract to run out before he could go to the premier league bc they wouldn’t let him go).
Gary Kleiban says
When it comes to the US, I think you’re right.
This is precisely why Agudelo along with others that have potential, need to get the hell out of here ASAP!
A mom says
How? How does a player with talent “get out of here” (US) and at a young enough age so he can get the requisite training he deserves, get noticed and go on to bigger, better things?
Gary Kleiban says
Lot’s of things have to go right.
But first and foremost, you need to be plugged into “the network”.
And there are very few people in the US who have some degree of access to the tiny European / South American pipeline. And even fewer who have any credibility or weight that can be thrown around to make things happen.
Soccer development can be broken into Technical, Tactical, Mental, Physical as you know. Tactical is largely learned through player experience and coaching. I’d say as much as 40% is from player lessons learned. Mental is learned and some players aren’t born with mental toughness for high level competition. Coaching helps, but again largely player. I’d say as much as 80%. Physical I’d say is largely player specific. Practice hard at training and on your own. I’d say as much as 90% of physical is based on players mentality as the two are often related. That leaves us Technical. I’d say that too is mostly (80% or more) player specific. So coaching is really there to help players focus, learn from their experience, and point out things to work on. So a more motivated, soccer obsessed player will go far (assuming he has God given ability). And if that player focuses his efforts on Technical at U13 and below and start weaving in Tactical at about U11, he will go far. Physical and Mental come later. Use formative years of U5-12 for ball mastery and soccer IQ. We often talk about our lack of success at national team level, but I think it’s largely because players don’t spend enough time building skill and soccer IQ and coaches focusing on winning tournaments. US kids don’t have DNA disadvantage or size and power problem as compared to top soccer nations — it comes down to technical and soccer IQ at young ages. And that’s where it all starts. I don’t necessarily think a wholesale overhaul of our development system is in order. Maybe just refocus of attention.
Gary Kleiban says
The vast majority of the responsibility falls on the player, no doubt!
But here’s the key:
That 10%, 20%, 30%, or whatever it is that falls on the coaching is CRITICAL.
That is what refines, polishes, and completes the product. So if the goal is to produce quality professionals/internationals, that 10% is necessary!
Big Al says
July 17, 2012
Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, use’s FCB in his most recent blog post What World Class Practice Looks Like, Part 2