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How to B.E.A.T. the odds and Play Football (Soccer) Professionally

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How to B.E.A.T. the odds and Play Football (Soccer) Professionally

In 2018 Michael Calvin wrote a book called “No Hunger in Paradise”. The book was significant by identifying the odds of young players in the UK becoming professional football players. Only 180 of the 1.5 million boys who play organized youth football will become a professional player in the Premier League! That represents a success rate of 0.012%. Dig a little deeper and it will reveal that of all the boys who enter a professional club academy at the age of 9, less than 0.5 % go on to become professional players.

 

There are three ways for young players (and their families) to interpret those statistics. The first option is to decide that the odds are not in your favour so many abandon their dream of playing professional football. The second option and the one chosen by the majority is to set a goal of playing professional football but not follow through with the required dedication and focus to achieve this goal. They will do additional training now and again, will be happy to be a top player in their local region but are not fully committed to the number of deep-practice learning training hours over the long-term (10+ years) day in, day out. They may ultimately play at the semi-professional or US College levels in North America but are not able to reach their full potential.

2.8 % of the players we have trained have progressed to playing for professional clubs

At the other end of spectrum is a very small percentage of players who fully commit themselves to play at the professional level and design an environment that will fully support their goal. They will fight through the inevitable struggles and set-backs, they will put in the required work that no one else is willing to do and they will back themselves to overcome the odds. It will take them a minimum of 10 years to achieve their ultimate goal of playing professionally.

During the last few weeks we have been profiling former players that we have worked with who have gone on to sign professional or academy contracts with professional clubs in Europe or for Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs. You can read more about these players here

Out of the 350 players that I have worked with, since 2012, on a regular basis (at least once/week), 2.8 % of these players are currently playing within professional club environments. During 2020 over 30 of our players will be training overseas at professional clubs in Europe so our aim is to dramatically increase these statistics in the coming years. What we have learnt is that young players in North America can B.E.A.T. the odds and play at the professional level, providing they adhere to the following formula:

B.E.A.T = Best+Energy+Accelerate+Tenacity

  • They must fully commitment to being the Best. Bo Eason in his book “There’s No Plan B for your A-Game” outlined how he as a young athlete wrote up a declaration to play in the NFL at a very young age. He fully committed his life to this goal, even when every college in the country turned him down. He defied the odds by becoming the 1st player within his local area to play professional sports. He achieved his goal by making a firm declaration to achieve this and by designing an environment to fully support this.

  • They must ignite what they do with high Energy. What do you see when you watch the game’s top players like Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, George Best, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff and Pele play? You see a deep passion for the game and a relentless energy to keep pushing themselves beyond normal boundaries.

  • They must Accelerate the learning process with significant hours of deep practice learning. Andres Ericsson outlined the benefits of “deep practice learning” to achieve expert performance in the following research paper. Learn more . The quality of the training process plays a greater influence on skill acquisition than simply the quantity of hours. Young players with 10,000 hours of deep learning practice will be so much further ahead than other young players competing for professional playing opportunities. The young players we profiled who have graduated to playing for professional clubs all trained by themselves at home or with their friends and pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones to accelerate their development.

  • They must be Tenacious to go the distance. Becoming a professional athlete is a marathon, not a sprint. Many young soccer players still believe that they will attend one Player ID camp or train in front of professional coaches for one week and will be selected. They focus more on the Talent Identification process than the Talent Development process! Young players get selected by professional clubs for the 10 years of work that the have put in and on the future player that they might become. Theo Corbeanu was first identified by Wolves in 2012 in Canada and ended up signing for their academy in 2018. Young players must be mentally strong to overcome the inevitable set-backs and positively cope with the struggles (over many years) and be tenacious in never giving up on their dream.

 

Yesterday, I asked the 15 players that I was training how many wanted to play professional. All their hands went up. Then I asked how many would be prepared to train before school and after school EVERY day with deep practice learning activities that would push them out of their comfort zone. Only 4 hands were left up!

Everyone want’s to play professional football (soccer) ….only a select few will put the work in to achieve this goal

 
 

So, how do young players in North America beat the odds? Well, we know from the case studies of our own players that players within our program can get signed by professional clubs. We also know that most players are prepared to do the hard-work and struggle long-term to achieve the goal of playing professionally. That provides those who are motivated, focused and prepared to design a lifestyle in the long-term to support their goal with a clear advantage over others. As a species we are naturally competitive. Our most competitive players will be the one’s who are capable of overcoming the odds and playing at the professional level. These are the players who are constantly challenging themselves competitively to exceed their previous performance levels.

 

We are also launching a new initiate in the coming weeks to improve the odds for North American players even further. Our players have a disadvantage of being over 3,000 miles away from soccer’s most successful player development systems in Europe. They also have limited access to top coaches- in Spain there is one UEFA licensed coach (A or B) for 27 players. In North America there is only one A or B licensed coach for every 1,000+ players. In addition, players playing within academy programs at professional clubs in Europe have a team of physical trainers, nutritionists, video analysts and sports psychologists to support their player development process.

 

My plan is to work with a select few supremely motivated athletes online and offer technical/tactical training support in addition to game analysis and sports psychology support. With online delivery there is no restriction for players in North America geographically and I can deliver benchmark testing versus academy players at professional clubs in Europe. From there, I can then formulate an individual learning plan plus provide players with placements at professional clubs in Europe – depending upon their levels of performance. The aim is change the game for young players in North America and help more and more young players overcome the odds!

 

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