Who ‘makes it’ versus who doesn’t is just as much a matter of circumstance as it is a player’s quality.
Ben Lederman wasn’t some phenom, out of this world, player.
But before we proceed, let’s get something clear: he was a player with good qualities and potential before he left to Spain. And having seen him train with our U12s this summer, and most recently at the U14 National Team camp, I can say he’s gotten much better. Only the untrained eye would question his call-up to Hugo Perez’s camp.
Now, the rest:
- He was playing in Southern California. What if, instead, he had been playing in Montana?
- His team manager made a connection with a little club that, at the time, happened to have a relationship with Barcelona. What if that connection didn’t happen?
- The decision was made (and possible economically) to take Ben’s team to compete in Barcelona. What if that didn’t happen?
- Barcelona agreed to play a match against Ben’s team. What if they hadn’t agreed for whatever reason?
Barcelona rolled out their B-team for this match (pretty sure they thought they were going to destroy this ‘fan club’ from America). Ben’s team jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Barca then rolled out their A-squad. Final score 4-1. Spanish eyes were opened! So … the what if’s:
- What if Barca rolled out their A-team from the beginning? What if Ben’s team was not as talented individually as it was? If Ben’s team was not of sufficient level and they got thrashed, would he have been identified? Would a trial have been arranged the following year? Or what if … Barca had an outrageous crop of players on that team already – would they have made room?
- After the trial, how important was the relationship between Barcelona and us in determining whether they offer Ben a spot?
- What if Ben’s family didn’t have the wherewithal and the brass balls to uproot the family and move to a foreign country?
And so on … ad infinitum.
Yes. You need to have a requisite quality or potential as a player. But there’s so much more to it than that:
- How many other players across the nation could be in Benny’s shoes if their ‘Matters of Circumstance‘ lined up? (Don’t all you parents jump on that boat at once.)
- How many former college players would have been drafted if their team had made it to the college cup instead of not even making the tournament?
- How many current MLS players wouldn’t be pro if they hadn’t landed on the right college team?
- What player would not have been released from their pro club, if the coach were someone else?
- Would Jermaine Jones ever smell the National Team jersey if Marcelo Bielsa were the coach?
- Would Dempsey have been playing Champion’s league with a top 10 club if his ‘Matters of Circumstance‘ were different?
- How many players would have been recruited to a top D1 school if only their club coach had more initiative and influence?
I mean, we could do this all day.
It seems to me that it’s difficult to appreciate the magnitude of these things. Human beings tend to simplify the world around them, so they may navigate it. We are creatures of generalizations – particularly when it comes to topics we’re ignorant or novices in.
It’s far easier to have a blanket worldview where the ‘cream rises to the top‘, than to take the difficult journey of acquiring domain expertise.
It’s far easier to believe Josh Gatt got to where he is because he’s among the very best produced American players, than say he’s primarily there due to ‘Matters of Circumstance‘.
How much is a particular player’s situation due to quality, versus circumstance?
Well, that requires some expertise in what quality means and an appreciation for what the field of circumstances are, doesn’t it?
Every time you reach another level of domain understanding (or sometimes just experience), you realize things aren’t as simple as they seem from the outside.