One of the greatest myths of mankind revolves around whether ability is a gift of genetics or a learned blessing for those provided with the correct tools to succeed. As a child footballer, I was never blessed with the natural athletisism of some of my peers, who would execute step overs and audacious tricks with confidence all over the pitch – but what was the main difference? Well, I never tried the tricks…
Children who believe that ability can be learned through practice tend to succeed in situations that are difficult. On the flip side, children who feel that ability is natural, tend to give up easier or not attempt a harder task, for fear of losing their “gifted” status. Now, I’m not claiming to have been “gifted”, but what I am claiming is that it is easy for children to be put off practicing their skills, because they are a) scared of making a mistake and b) do not feel that they will ever reach the level of their peers.
We need to make sure that we emphasise the need for practicing skills in kids football and grow their confidence. It takes hours of dedicated practice to master a classical masterpiece by Beethoven or Bach on the piano and learning to play like Ronaldo and Messi is no different. Children and parents need to realise that the flexibility and dexterity required to execute a “flip-flap” or a Cruyff turn can only be built over hours of repetition, much like that suggested by the famous Wiel Coerver.
Ronaldo – the current holder of the Ballon d’Or – is a fantastic example. Has he been voted the World’s Best Player because he is naturally gifted? An anecdotal story from the summer period may shed some light. Ronaldo’s current club, Real Madrid, paid a handsome sum of money to tempt World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez to the club. James, being only 23 himself, wanted to make a great impression on his first day at training, so turned up extremely early for the session. On arriving, there was one other player already working with the ball in the training ground and that player was Ronaldo. Mind you – he did take a break to pose for a photo with James so perhaps he’s not the perfect example after all!
The message to our footballing kids is simple: If the best player in the world needs to practice – then it’s safe to say that the rest of us had better keep at it too!