Youth Soccer and What Makes a Top Player

Soccer is the world’s game. No matter what corner of the world one hails from, chances are there is an ancient game or tradition dating hundreds if not thousands of years that is similar to your favorite sport. One might say soccer is in our genes.

Interest in the sport often starts young with a child wanting to model themselves after their favorite soccer player. Some of these children grow to love the sport purely as spectators and some become the next crop of stars. You may wonder what the deciding factor between the two is. I’ll give you a hint – talent may be a factor but it definitely isn’t that alone.

Soccer-centric culture and its effect on talent

The difference between countries that are constantly at the top of the world stage and those that just qualify for tournaments is usually a culture that’s developed in a soccer-centric manner. The people in these countries practice at home, at parks, on beaches or in the streets and their clubs are often brimming with talent. This talent isn’t simply a product of a passion for the game.

There is a formulaic science behind the scenes in their culture that results in the staggering number of skilled players coming from specific regions – this love for the game often leads to long hours of skill-based drilling from a young age. In many of these countries, soccer is woven into the social and political culture. Training isn’t viewed by younger players as a chore or just another extracurricular activity. Rather, it’s just what their people do. Their country has a national identity and style in the game and they’re another in a long line of x countries soccer players. They carry this torch with pride. A look at the rosters of top teams or time spent listening to interviews will give you a peek into this mindset and where it’s prevalent.

Fortunately, dedication can be found anywhere

If you’ve ever had the fortune of watching high-level training, no matter the team, there is always a common thread – extensive drilling. Sharp, countless and repetitious, drills are the backbone of what constitutes a brilliant soccer player.

Natural coordination, explosiveness, and creativity in play may separate the top percentage, but it’s the comfort and confidence in their movements that enable them to act correctly in the moment. This confidence and comfort are sourced from an intuition developed over hundreds of thousands of ball touches during time spent on the pitch, at home or elsewhere. For a dedicated soccer player, time spent drilling is like putting money in a bank – a literal investment in their ability and future in the game.

Your child, the soccer player

If your child has taken interest in soccer I’d suggest starting them early. While Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours is great for a foundation, the intricacies of the game likely mean your child will require more time to achieve what can be considered a true mastery. Enroll them in an academy that believes in developing fundamentals and working them consistently. Encourage them, but remind them the game and their performance on the pitch don’t change how much you love them.

A good way to help your child is to educate yourself. They only spend but so many hours with their coach and team. If you’re searching for an online source of information has kit reviews and basic drills to get you and your child started. Watching and playing games with your child is also a good way to raise interest and field intelligence.

Ingredients for success

The concept of “total soccer” originated in the Netherlands and has caught on in multiple countries as an ideal and training method. The idea, at a base level, is simple, but implementing and training it is complex – every player should have the skills needed to fill the role of any other player.

This is no simple feat and requires hours upon hours of drilling and coordinating with the team, but it’s this spirit forged in dedication to craft and teamwork as well as the success it’s brought that has inspired other countries to take it up.

This dedication to craft and willingness to learn is what makes a great soccer player. With time, effort and attention to detail, you and your child can grow in the game you love. Just remember to be patient and have fun.