What is required to be a top Football player? It is a question that I am sure many coaches, parents and players ask themselves on a regular basis.
Many seem to think that certain people are just born with their natural ability, I beg to differ. Yes, I believe there are certain individuals who will learn quicker than others and don’t need a lot of input from coaches, but even the most talented players need extra guidance to reach even higher levels.
in this post, I will discuss 5 important attributes of a football player and why all players should work towards having each attribute.
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Technique and Skill
If the football player has not developed the adequate skills and techniques then there will be fewer options available to them when they play the game. A player cannot survive with great technique alone, they also need to have high levels of skill.
‘Skill’ is a pressurised technique (Cartwright, 2008), in order for players to develop high levels of skill they need to train in practices that replicate game situations where they make decisions on time and space as mentioned earlier.
Using ‘drills’ that don’t encourage players to make these decisions will not help them to associate when & where to apply their techniques.
If you are working with a child 1 to 1 then consider creating practices with multiple outcomes.
I see many individual practices where the player can only achieve 1-2 outcomes that the coach/parent has stated before the start of the practice. I understand the reasons behind this as the coach wants to focus on performing a certain technique.
My issue with this is, yes the player may learn how to use a technique but will they be able to transfer this to the game without the understanding of where, when, and why?
As a parent/coach think about how you can adjust your practice to include multiple outcomes that could occur in a game. Football is a chaotic game that requires many decisions to be made throughout the match.
Therefore to help the player make a quicker association with game we should work hard to create environments that guide the players not dictate to them!
Game intelligence is perhaps one of the most difficult things to teach, as there are many different situations that occur in a football match and it is difficult to plan for every situation.
How we measure if a player has good game intelligence is down to the decisions they make in the game and how quickly they make them. Have you ever wondered why the best players seem to have all the time in the world when they have the ball? it is normally because they have developed the knack of recognising the gaps to move into quicker than others thus giving them more time when they receive the ball.
Recognising space quickly is the first step to improving your decision making because once you can see the bigger picture then we can move to the next step which is choosing the correct action.
Should I run with the ball into space or should I pass to my teammate instead? should I play a 30-yard pass to my teammate or should I stay with the ball and wait for a better option?
A coach/parent can help guide a player to make better decisions but ultimately it is the player who has to learn when & where to apply them. This will take a lot of practice in a game specific situations where the player is constantly having to make decisions on time & space.
Football players also have to learn when to take a risk and when to keep the ball. This is what separates the great from the good, Players who know when they need to beat a player or drive through those gaps between the opposition when others will take the safe option.
Just remember it is ok to take the safe option and keep the ball but this shouldn’t be your only option.
Use Both Feet!
When I work with young football players I always stress the importance of being able to use both feet. All players have a favoured foot, but the best players are also comfortable with their less favoured side as well.
Only being able to use the one side will limit you as a player and make you a lot easier to read when you play against defenders. When you can play using both sides, defenders will find it harder to play against you because you can use either side (outside or across defenders).
When shielding the ball the player is not forced to protect the ball with just the one side, but they can also change direction and keep the ball on the safe side at all times because they are comfortable with both feet.
So remember to always practice using both feet in every situation, this will help you become a better-balanced player.
Having the right mentality can sometimes be the difference in whether you progress as a football player or continue to stay at the same level. There are many areas that fall into this category so I have broken it down into short points.
- Self Belief – if you r child doesn’t believe in themselves then they will more than likely struggle to achieve their goals. The best players tend to have great belief in their own ability, which is why they can perform at the level they do so often. Giving your child positive reinforcement every so often can help them have confidence to try new things and themselves to improve their game.
- Determination – no matter what level you play, there will be times where you have to overcome set backs or bad performances. No matter how hard it gets on the field players have to show that mental toughness to push forward.
- Train With Focus – help your child realise that having a good attitude to every training session is important. You want them to always train with purpose and with an acceptance that every session is a chance to learn something new.
- Set Goals – You want to have a vision of where you want to be in terms of your development as a football player and write down the steps you will take to achieve that goal. Discuss this with your child and agree some goals with them but remember this should be child centred.
- Self-Motivate – Your child needs to understand no one is going to do this for them. To take their game to new heights they will have to push themselves all the time.
No matter what level your child plays at, there is always room for improvement. Even the best players like Ronaldo, Neymar etc. will spend extra time after sessions and do more training to give them that edge on match day. I encourage young players to work on their game at home or on the playing fields with friends whenever possible.
As I mentioned earlier train with purpose and plan what you need to work on each day. If your child needs to improve on their first touch get a ball, find a wall, and get them to start hitting it at the wall using different parts of the foot to control the ball. Keep doing activities like this until they become more comfortable in that area and then work on something else.
Make sure that you are consistent with your training. To get the best results aim to do at least 20 minutes, 3 – 4 times a week of purposeful football training whether it is with other players or on their own.