Choosing a soccer player: Future potential vs present strength

Power of Potential vs a Powerful Player

Excerpt From upcoming eBook…

Picking Your Soccer Team: Your Dream Team is Another Coach’s Nightmare

I did something stupid.

They warned me I would regret it. “Those kids are too small to be playing in the U12.” they said.

I should have listened.

This was the spring. I had coached two teams the previous fall, U10 and U12 coed teams. We’d had solid seasons with both. There was plenty to work on, but overall they’d done well.

Before the spring season began I decided to move my son, a U10 player, to the U12 team. I was then hit with requests to take some of our former u10 players up with him.

This was a tough decision. U12 is a big gap to jump in our league. The playing field gets much bigger. The kids become more aggressive. They grow taller, get faster, become smarter decision-makers, and multiply (pregnancy is “the cool thing” to do in our area. If only we had a bowling alley, with a nursery.)

U12 isn’t easy to coach either. Because of the field size, the kids are much more spread out, so it’s easier for other teams to exploit your weaknesses.

But, I did it anyway. I brought up three players from the U10 offense and three U10 defenders. Six U10s on a twelve man U12 team.

The u10’s did well enough with only a small learning curve. The field wasn’t as tiny anymore, so their legs had to grow and the extra running fortified their cardio. (The field size was large enough to even force a few moms to buy electric megaphones if they ever expected their children to hear their strong words of discouragement). It was an interesting experiment. Our U12 players took it well and were a big help in covering the size differentials.

About midway through the season we were asked to play our younger guys against our former U10 rivals. These guys were a fierce team, every year. The “team to beat”. The “alpha dog. A measuring rod for gauging other teams in the area. In recreational soccer, their coach knows his stuff. He even teaches real plays. I’m serious. He knows how to teach actual soccer plays. Consider my mind blown, and ridiculously stressed whenever we played them.

So we took our U10’s, all six of them and one of our player’s U8 sister and played our rivals.

Our U10 players showed up ready to throw-down. From the opening whistle, our guys put on a clinic. It was fantastic! Our U12 players beat drums and sang songs on the sideline. The U10’s manhandled this team, that in all previous confrontations, was an all-out war. The final score was 8-3.

We had enhanced our team’s potential. I believe by taking them up a year in competition and putting them in a harder situation primed them to play better against their birth-year peers.

It’s the amount of growth available

We measure potential in momentary skills and long-term growth.

Say you have two kids (Do it now. Say it!), one of them is short and quick, the other is tall and slow. They both become track and field sprinters. The short child is the rockstar of your track team. The tall one comes running in far after the first. After winning the race, shorty goes to the parking lot and hangs out with his track and field groupies (Like I said, rockstar). Mr. Tall Dude spends his time studying running techniques, working out in the gym, and learning from his coach or YouTube.

Our little guy might have the potential to win the next race, but the tall kid keeps studying, and Lil’ Runner keeps hitting shots out of his long-jumper girlfriend’s sweaty belly-button (You should teach more discipline to your kids, coach) and soon the athletes face tougher competition and greater “hurdles”. The tall kid is better equipped for the task because he prepared for the challenge by equipping himself with learned potential. His potential grew while he trained hard, read books, and sold drugs (Look, he’s not perfect. He was the tall dork that read a lot. He knew he shouldn’t have read those marketing books, but it expanded his mind and now he’s making a steady two G’s every morning before first period and he’s concerned that his parents might need to claim it on their taxes).

The point is, if you want to have your name in the recreational coaching hall-of-fame (it’s the case next to the bathrooms at the rec department.), you choose the kids with the skills needed for growth. If you want a quick win and are socially prepared to be hauled off in handcuffs after you punch a twelve-year-old ref, then by all means pick the short kid. But picking an athletic kid who doesn’t grow his skills and then trying to play his type every season can be exhausting. Because, you’ll always be on the lookout for the next fastest player, to replace the one that became an average performer.

Group: Recreational Soccer Veterans (Join This for Free. It’s a fun coach underground. Smuggling simple ideas out-of-view of the soccer police.)

Facebook: Recreational Soccer Survival (Like this to keep up with new posts.)

Twitter: @coach_ballew (Follow me and we’ll do the Tweeter thing.)

Nate Ballew

Father of four boys, married to one wife, coaching enthusiast, and fiction/non-fiction author.

Be The Fun Coach That Wins!

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