Saturday, February 25, 2012

What is a "good" player?

I had a discussion with some students the other day talking about this guy who is "good ... but" or that guy who is "good ... but...".  Then I was thinking of some former players who went on to successful playing days in college, university, men's competitive, semi-pro and professional.

Here is my opinion: if there is a "but" after the "good" then you're not "good".  You might be decent, or very effective, but "good" might be a strong word.  "Good" meaning a player who would be scouted for a professional youth academy or NCAA D1 school. 

A good player has many dimensions to the package they deliver.
  • Playing for the right reasons and because they want to
  • Strong work ethic, in training and competition
  • Internally motivated
  • Proper training/coaching
  • Technical proficiency is a must.
  • Mental toughness is a must.
  • Athletic over and above their sport
  • Intelligent enough to process what's going on around them and make decisions (understand the game)
  • Physical dimensions that lend themselves to success (in some cases certain aspects are way above average to compensate for lacking in other aspects)
  • Lifestyle choices lend themselves to success.
  • Strong emotional support system and environment for success
  • Hidden X-Factor --- Can make things happen or "that little something extra"
Finding an athlete who is truly "good" is rare.  A lot of athletes have talent and potential but are not driven.  We find kids who are driven and tough, but not particularly gifted or technically strong.

I use the word "good" very rarely.  I find myself saying "decent" and "suitable" often.  Sometimes I would say "incomplete".  I will say if you find a co-ordinated athlete at the right age who wants to play and learn, you can eliminate items on their deficiency list with the proper exposure and training.

I think highly of players who play for life and give back to the game and register their children.  But the conversation was about being good.

Players who are on their way to becoming good need the right guidance and incentive to finish their journey.  This is where soccer falls apart in Canada.  Players at 13/14/15 who show real potential for getting to the next level have little incentive to continue.  Scholarships and professional opportunities are not readily available, but that is slowly changing. 

We do have young Canadians playing professionally in MLS and overseas.  But the stage is set for developing a greater number of quality players.

Community clubs are taking a different approach to player development at young ages.  The soccer powers are seriously rethinking and changing their approach at the younger age groups (See Ontario and Canada Soccer's LTPD).  In Canada we now have 3 MLS teams with youth academies and 10 provincial programs offering elite opportunities for young players.  Private academies are also connecting ambitious players with potential trials over seas. 

Hopefully we will see a stronger and bigger crop of U12-U14 players in the next 3-4 years.

There will also be long term benefits to a larger group of players who continue to play into U15 and into adulthood.  These people will become the coaches and decision makers of tomorrow.

We need better training in a more appropriate environment for younger players.  Then we need to  develop more destination programs for our young players who show promise and continue the process of turning them into good players at the right time in their life.