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What a REAL soccer player is (in my opinion).

When I wrote and put on the internet my article, ďYouth soccer in the U.S. The constant and harmful misunderstandingĒ, I already knew that it would be a sort of Ďcourageousí thing to do.

It is in my character to throw a stone in a quiet pond and see what happens.
I never follow the current and when I came to the country of free speech and free opinion I thought I had come to my ideal home.

I received a few emails from readers, I must say they were very polite, stating that they didnít agree with me. A few others, differently, just unsubscribed. I believe they where a Ďlittle moreí in disagreement!

In the article I often talked about being REAL soccer players. I didnít realized that, this not being a soccer country, it wasnít clear what it means to be REAL soccer players so, hereís what real soccer players are, obviously, in my opinion.

-Independently of their age, (there are no real soccer players below 10 years old) REAL soccer players are able to decently trap and pass the ball. Trap the ball, doesnít mean put our feet ON TOP OF THE BALL. In doing that, often the ball PASSES under the feet! So, trap means going with the foot in the direction of the oncoming ball and, after making a soft contact, accompanying the ball toward us. Pass means, being aware, with the corner of the eye, where the other team mates are. It means NOT PASSING WHERE THEY ARE, but where they will be when they receive the ball. After having passed the ball, running as fast as possible (that means SPRINT!) to a better position to receive the ball back to keep building soccer actions.

-Being REAL soccer players, means not being statues on the field. Following the action, supporting team mates in going to the correct position to help them make an easy pass under pressure and not make them desperately try to find someone to pass the ball to, while under attack.

-It means coming back as fast as possible behind the ball, if the team looses it. Not always thinking: ďIím not a defender. Theyíll take care of it.Ē Real soccer players know that, when a team loses the ball, there are 11 DEFENDERS and he or she is one of them!

-Under pressure, REAL soccer players, pass the ball back! Itís not important if a few parents, who have never played soccer, keep saying: ĒBoy, too many back passes, sometimes I don't know which goal we're going to !!Ē They will NEVER UNDERSTAND that for a team, keeping possession of the ball is more important than continuing to try to go forward and, regularly, losing it. (that means the ball!)

-REAL soccer players, DONíT CLOSE THEIR EYES while hitting the ball with the head. Hitting with the head is fundamental because, in the middle of the field, it prohibits the opponent team from winning the ball, by sending it directly to a team mate, before it hits the ground. Hitting with the head during a cross, is the best way to score. Hitting with the head during a cross against, is the better way to avoid a goal.

-REAL soccer players, know exactly how to shoot the ball. They will lock the ankle of the foot and snap the knee of the leg that kicks. He or she will feel where the goal is and always kick to the far post and, if close to the goal, will not put full power into kicking, but only put the ball in the net, using precision. REAL soccer players know really well that THIS is the rare opportunity to win a game and the only important thing is to put the ball in the net, not to make a hole in the net by kicking it as hard as possible!

-REAL soccer players, listen to the coach, not to the parents and are able to tell the parents that during the game, they did that, whatever it was, because the coach told them to do it!

-REAL soccer players are always on time, often early, to games and practices. They know itís their responsibility to remind the parents that itís time to go, not the opposite. They will remember the jersey, the soccer cleats and socks, water and snack. They will be the ones playing soccer, they will be thirsty and hungry, NOT THE PARENTS!

-They wonít argue with referees, team mates or opponents. They know that in doing this, they will only lose concentration and maybe will be expelled from the field. REAL soccer players, know that the only weapon an opponent less gifted has, is to provoke them, forcing them to lose concentration. They will never fall into that trap, like the parents who yell at the referee. REAL soccer players will answer the provocations in only one way: they will put the ball in the net of the opponent team. Good-bye and good luck the next game!

-They know how to immediately forget a mistake and forgive themselves. They are immediately focused on the next play and donít continue to think about what just happened, resulting only in making other mistakes.

-REAL soccer players know that they are the best coach that they have. They donít need to be reminded to constantly get better. They know that being a soccer player is not a destination but a journey that will last their whole soccer careers! So they know that, everyday, they need to do juggling, foot work, run 10/15 minutes, eat healthy and sleep enough in the endless effort to constantly get better. Through this interior discipline, soccer aside, they will act as little men and little women and when they grow up, they will be men and women ready to succeed in life, using the same interior discipline.

Of course there is a lot more, but this makes clear what a soccer player is, in my opinion, compared to other millions of kids. These other millions have the right to have fun by kicking the ball around in the backyard, in the parks or at the beaches. They just enjoy playing soccer, and that is very good and fun, but they are not REAL soccer players just by doing that.

They need to understand, and parents too, that to dress as a soccer player doesnít make them automatically soccer players. If they donít act in the way I explained above, they just wear a costume, like dressing as Batman, Spiderman or Harry Potter at Halloween. That is really fun, but none of them believe that they can fly across buildings. So, for the same reason, donít make them believe that they are soccer players, just by wearing a costume!

And because Iím talking about something that is an illusion, you remember when I said that REAL trophies last forever? Do you want to know what happens to the trophies that kids have as a prize, just for wearing soccer cleats?

This was published on Craig List recently:

Recycle Trophies?

Reply to:
Date: 2006-04-02, 10:41AM PDT

Does anyone know if there is an organization that recycles those trophies kids get for soccer, baseball, walkathons? I'd like to avoid throwing them out. (Now that my kids are adults, I'm taking a picture of them for posterity but otherwise getting rid of them).



Just to conclude, if itís not clear yet what REAL soccer players are and how they handle the ball, here are a few examples that bring ball control to the level of art: (thanks Bruce) requires high-speed connection & QuickTime.

I know I canít expect this level, even if it would be greatly appreciated to see this kind of control sometimes on the field.

Coach Gianni
Posted on 03 May 2006 by coachgianni
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