After coaching high school and club soccer for fourteen years and spending 4 and a half years as an Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach at Purdue University, I have learned the best players I have had the privilege to coach were excellent at one thing. They all were good overall players, technically sound, and tactically aware. However, the best players had a part of their game that was exceptional, something that separated them from most players. There was one thing they did that was better than everyone on the field. They may have been the smartest player, the best passer of the ball, the most technical, the best header, the best competitor and hardest working, had a knack for scoring etc…. If it was a goalkeeper they may have been a great shot stopper, they may have had an unbelievable throw, which would help start the counterattack, or a 60 – 70 yard punt or drop kick.
My advice to any aspiring soccer player, or athlete in general is to find their own area of excellence, and work on developing it so that it is an area of the game that is better than 95% of the players they will play. I think the amount of reward you would get at enhancing your area of strength outweighs the reward you would get spending the time working on your weakness. I know a lot of people may say you should work to try and make your weakness less noticeable, but I think a player improves their overall game more, and makes a bigger impact on the game when they develop their strength and have the ability to do things that only a few players at their level are able to do successfully. This is what coaches look for, players that have a big impact on the game and can influence the outcome of the game in their team’s favor.
I will conclude with stating I would recommend following this same line of thinking when a player stops playing. Find your area of excellence and work very hard on developing that skill, and you will be successful once you are finished playing. It is one of the life’s lessons that I believe athletes learn when they are playing their respective sport, enhance and develop your strengths!
Soccer Coach Ohio Premier
Former Women's Assistant Coach at Purdue University