Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Can youth soccer players become “past it”

Well not past it, but you know they don’t want to play anymore. It’s a sad time when you see players you have put such a lot of effort in turn away from the game you have taught them. A lot of my players are the guinea pigs for Better Soccer Coaching sessions.

I was thinking about this when I watched the great Arsenal and Brazil player Gilberto turning in a performance where he was dropping too deep, far deeper then he had done before and so let the opposition come on top of him. He’s a World Cup winning player, a captain of Arsenal. He’s no fly-by-night, he’s the real thing. They don’t give World Cup medals to just anyone.

And yet somehow he is suddenly defending too deep. Although still strong defensively, he seems to have forgotten how to attack.

Early on in the season Arsene Wenger had dropped him. A World Cup winner and former captain dropped. But Wenger has been proved right, so why did he go back to him? Loyalty plays such a big part of these decisions. You can’t cast aside a World Cup winner can you?

I see this happening to young players, not because they burn out or are past it, they just don’t want to play anymore. They outgrow it and they stop reading the game, are too deep or too far forward or just are not there. The buzz has gone and the passion has died.

And I too feel that loyalty. I made a mistake this season with one of my strikers. Michael was obviously much more interested in golf than soccer. He had told me so last season but asked if he could play in some matches this season when he wasn’t playing golf. I agreed but only because he had played so many games for me. He didn’t play well, he missed some easy chances and half way through the season left to take up a golfing career.

This boy was the van Nistelroy of the under 10s but somewhere along the way by Under 15 he was past it.

Gilberto is a wonderful player but he no longer reads the game as well as he did. At the top level, the very top level, he is past it.

And I have players in my team that were once the heartbeat that made the team tick, but as they grew older and other things took their interest and took them away from soccer I too, like Mr Wenger, had to pick other players to take their place, and I too like Mr Wenger wanted to play the players who had played for me since under 4 even though they were “past it”. Their ghosts haunt the pages of Better Soccer Coaching.

The time to be soccer superstars is very short, both at international and at youth levels.

David Clarke, editor, Better Soccer Coaching


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