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Great Athlete Not Making the Team? Here’s why…


Every great athlete needs confidence.  Without confidence, there is no risk, and without risk, there is no score.  Better skills, equals less risk of failure, but sometimes, success too early, can result in…
unexpected results.

Sometimes you end up with an exceptional athlete who has terrible communication skills; Better known as “cocky“.  They’ve been good for so long, and heard that their skills were a “gift from God” enough times that they actually BELIEVE it.

An exceptional athlete with a cocky attitude is like a physically beautiful man or woman with chronic BAD BREATH: No matter how hard you want to get excited, every time they open their mouth, it discourages you.

In professional athletics, there are players who are so cocky, that no team wants them – no matter how good they are.  They end up with short-term contracts (until a suitable replacement can be found), and bounce from team to team – USED, but never fully accepted.  These players “know” so much, that you can’t teach them anything.  They expect you to build the team around them, and constantly offer their opinion on teammates who don’t suit their style of play.


In youth sports, cockiness can be two or three-fold.  A cocky athlete with “very” proud parents can be hard to bear.  The cockiness a young athlete expresses is usually a manifestation of overwhelming parental praise & pride.  For a coach though, it can be very frustrating to have a young player who believes that they are too good to play certain positions, or that they are not getting enough playing time.

Playing time is necessary for development, which means that ALL youth players should get adequate time on the field – no matter what the level of play .  For teams with a large roster, one player playing a full game may result in another not playing at all. Cocky players and their OVER-supportive parents, don’t care though.

The result is that a very skillful player may end up:

  • On the bench, because they won’t execute specified strategies
  • Cut from the/another team
  • Banished to the “B” team or development squad

Of course, just because these things may happen to your athlete, does not necessarily mean that they are too cocky or that you (as a parent) are over-bearing.  However, if you see a pattern, season after season, you may want to do some Introspection.



About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop confident, detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. It's important that players NOT be afraid of making mistakes, to encourage an appreciation of failure as a learning tool. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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