A young college player sent me a message looking for guidance on his professional soccer ambitions. He sent me a link to a highlight video, which I watched in it’s entirety.
The reason I’m posting this reply is because it is very similar to the feedback that I give a lot of young AMERICAN soccer players who think they’re ready to go pro.
Here’s my reply to his inquiry:
I watched your video. It’s not like me to NOT to give honest feedback, so here it is:
Every GREAT soccer player possesses 4 things that make him better than anyone else –
4. Passion… which manifests itself ON the field as “aggression” and OFF the field as “obsession“. Passion is what pushes “GREAT” players in the gym, in the film room and on the field.
Now, I emphasize “GREAT”, but you will not witness greatness on any American professional soccer team, or most teams below the top 5 of any top-level European team. The majority of what you see in the U.S. is Fitness and Speed. The Passion is lacking, and subsequently, so is the skill.
In most of the England leagues below the Premiership (League 2, League 1 and The Championship), you will see a mix of speed, fitness and skill, but again, Passion is lacking. Again, PASSION is what drives any player to GREATness, however the Passion is usually beat out of players at a young age by ill qualified coaches, overzealous parents, and/or over-training. That’s why half of the players in top-level professional leagues are foreigners, with very little “academy” training.
It’s a horrible cycle that no one in the U.S. or England can seem to wrap their heads around. Only recently has “development” through “play” become recognized as an option. Most coaches – wrongly – preach “work“, and use value-words like “job” and “responsibility“.
Soccer is a kids game, invented by kids, and hijacked 150 years ago by adults to BET on – like horse or dog racing.
With that being said, here is my analysis of your play.
Technique: 3 out of 10
Pass/cross/shot: Every pass or shot is composed of 2 elements: The power element and the accuracy element. Power comes from the back and accuracy comes from the follow through. You have good accuracy, but if you watch your highlight video, you can see that you lack power. You’re physically strong, so the ball appears to move well, but you’re not coming back very far. That’s poor technique, probably from a lack of dexterity and flexibility.
You don’t open your hips much when you pass or cross the ball, which limits your ability to put movement or “English” on the ball.
Speed: 5 out of 10
Run/speed: You “short-step” when you run. You don’t lift your knees. You’re quick, but not fast. You have good reaction speed (compared to your very limited competition), but that’s really just becasue you’re young.
Skill/accuracy: 5 out of 10
Your long balls during play are into space, with lots of room for error. Your corner kicks and dead balls were ALL high and looping, due to limitations in your dexterity and flexibility. It’s hard to tell from a highlight video if every one of those balls went exactly where you wanted it to.
IMPROVE: On your dead balls / corner kicks, you need to SHORTEN your final step-to-plant, which will allow you to BEND THE KNEE of your striking foot. In turn, you’ll be able to RAISE YOUR KNEE, instead of your foot, creating a driving, faster, more accurate shot. A driven ball will spin less and be more susceptible to natural air flow, creating a knuckling effect. By using this same technique and instead swinging in and leaning right, you can emulate Messi’s style.
Currently, you’re good for field-goal kicking. That’s about it.
Fitness: 6 out of 10
That may sound harsh, because you are obviously moving up and down the field, but that score is based on the competition you’re playing against. That league is NOT very competitive.
Vision: 7 out of 10
This is your #1 strength and what makes you a decent player with POTENTIAL. You can see the play develop and anticipate well, which create opportunities. It’s an ability that you can build on. Vision is something that intelligent people have, and the only reason I’m taking the time to write this. If you had no vision but possessed ball skills, I wouldn’t bother.
IMPROVE: You look big from this camera angle, so you’re either in the gym alot or you’re a little chubby. Based on your on-field movement, you spend a lot of time in the gym. STOP. Stop going to the gym. You need yoga. You are stiff. You need 4 days a week of yoga for the next 90 days, and then twice a week for the rest of your career.
If all of this sounds harsh or like too much work, you were NEVER going to be a pro. There is no such thing as TEAM in a professional locker room. Everyone in there is your competition, and the management is ALWAYS looking for someone better than their weakest player in any position. Currently, you aren’t good enough for the bench of any pro team.
It’s easy to become a pro, as long as you’re willing to do the hard, physical work it takes to get you there. There are no short cuts for YOU. In your current state, you are 2 years away from a USL team and 3 from an MLS team. You can play in the NPSL, but even a PDL team won’t look at you now.
Of course, that’s all my opinion, but I can GUARANTEE that no one has ever told you those things, because if someone had, you would have already fixed them, and you’d be a pro now – if you’re SERIOUS about becoming a pro.
At this point – with NO connections to the pro game – you cannot just be “as-good-as” the weakest starter on any team. The weakest starter is there because he knows someone. Politics is in every profession, and pro sports is no different. You need to be better than the bottom 7 starters on any team, and you need to ALWAYS assume that you need to work harder and smarter than you currently are – that’s what “obsession” looks like.
Becoming a pro athlete is EASY. There is actually very little competition, because so very few people are willing to do the hard work to become GREAT. It’s there if you want it.
Start with yoga.
MikeMike Slatton | American Pro Soccer Scout