This weekend, I had the pleasure of working with some really high level 8th grade girls who all play for Development Academy teams. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Development Academy, it is an elite national player development program that was created this year by US Soccer and is designed to maximize youth player development. This program, in general, is where you would likely find the most elite youth soccer players in the country.
Since the girls had a game this weekend, we didn't do anything that would be too taxing to the body. I put together a session that emphasized perfecting technique and challenged the girls in fun ways to handle the ball better out of the air. I had a great time training such motivated and enthusiastic players!
At the end of the session, I asked the girls and their parents if they had any questions about the session or just in general. The question I got most from the players and parents was, "Do you have any advice about dealing with the upcoming college process and the stress and pressure that comes along with playing on such a competitive club team?" This is a good question and sadly one that comes up so often with young girls that I work with.
For those of you that have read any of my previous posts, you know I talk a lot about my passion and love for the game. I've reflected a lot on why I was successful as a player and why so many opportunities came my way. The truth is, I enjoyed my moments. I played with love for the game and things came naturally as a result. I truly believe this carries over to all aspects of life and is something I've reflected a lot on recently. I played and trained a lot, but not because I was obsessed with the destination of being recruited to play in college; it was because I loved playing. I had an insatiable hunger to be the best and I felt so satisfied and accomplished when I noticed improvements in my game.
I recently read a Player's Tribune article on Cristiano Ronaldo's journey and he talks about this same desire. To further highlight our similarities I shared my Ronaldo photo with all of you ;-) Anyway, I didn't get caught up with what club name I had on my jersey, nor was I obsessed with committing to a college program. To be honest, I wasn't even thinking about that in my early high school years; I wasn't even sure I'd get recruited. College recruitment wasn't what drove me to play and I think this is very important.
So, to answer this very popular question, I have reflected long and hard this week about how I would approach the perceived "pressures" that parents and kids feel. Here are my top five pieces of advice for parents and players going through the college recruitment process.
1) Whenever you step on the field (during training or games), think about being the best version of yourself. After all, that is the only thing within your control and the most important!
2) Do NOT focus on comparing yourself to your teammates. You are your own individual. Everyone develops at different times and has different strengths and weaknesses. I personally was a late bloomer. :-)
3) Do NOT obsess about the end goal of playing college soccer. Enjoy the journey that comes with improving every day and putting the time into improving your game every time you step on the field. The only way you will get recruited is if you are making an impact on the field.
4) DO train - and train in the right way. Work on all aspects of your technical game. Perfect passing technique and accuracy! Get the basics down and the rest will become a lot easier. (Sadly, there are still too many players who play for top clubs who cannot pass a ball well.)
5) Do NOT overtrain. With so many obligations to HS and club teams these days it leaves very little free time for players. Take care of your body and allow it to rest. This is really important for you physically and mentally.
Enjoy the journey and feel free to reach out to me with any questions!