Tryouts are over and so is the spring soccer season. Players have been called and team assignments have been made. Players either made the team they wanted or accepted offers for a team that was not their first choice. So the next question every player should be asking themselves is "So what's next?" It is very easy to settle in for a long three months of television, sleeping by the pool or just taking it easy. But any player that wants to improve will realize that the months of June - August are a great opportunity to develop as a player - and one that will be sorely missed if not taken advantage of!
Once tryouts are over and team assignments have been made, it is time to become proactive. After being assigned a team, players should immediately switch focus to their improved development. That means putting the work and dedication towards improvement; physically, technically and mentally. So what does that even mean? Summer break is a great opportunity for soccer players to focus on themselves (since they are usually out of a team atmosphere). During the season, players and coaches have to balance the ever changing balance of development vs. winning, personal improvement over helping the team as well as team social pressure to succeed. But once "out of season" and school, players have the opportunity to focus on their individual development!
So what can I do to improve this summer?
First thing first, start setting your goals for this summer/next season and ACT ON THEM! What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to improve? There is no point in wondering "why" and "what if" about your tryout process. You can only move forward if you want to succeed. So what exactly can a player do to improve this season AND for their future? There are many factors, and each of them require dedication, honesty, and focus:
BE HONEST - Realistically evaluate why you made the team you made and make sure you are honest with yourself. Don't blame it on a bad tryout, the tryout coaches or "soccer politics"! Sit back and look at how much work you put in last season and decide if it was enough to make the team you wanted to make. What were your strengths and weaknesses? What was your team attitude and understanding of the concepts your coach was teaching? What was the level of competition, skill and effort of the players that did make the team?
MAKE A TRAINING PLAN - Decide on what you need to improve and how to accomplish that! How comfortable on the ball are you? Were your shots accurate? What was your effort level in every practice and game? Did you communicate well with teammates? Did you move to support your teammates consistently? Ask your coach on their opinion. Ask your teammates. Sometimes we can't form an accurate skill evaluation of ourselves until we hear an outsider's observations. Make sure your training includes the important aspects of development; technical, tactical, mental, physical and nutritional (more on that in upcoming articles).
DEDICATION - If you want to improve, you have to put the work in. Many players think 4-6 hours of practice a week and a couple games will ensure that they will be at their best. That couldn't be further from the truth. You have to train enough to make the skills of soccer a second nature. While every player is different, I would suggest 1.5 - 2 hours a day on the ball. Whether juggling, working on foot skills, or striking accuracy, it is this focus on technical repetition that will develop the muscle memory and comfort on the ball required to execute in game situations! It is the players that put 110% effort into their training that have the potential for the greatest improvement; especially when they could easily be doing something else less challenging.
PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION - A great asset to many players is to work with professional coaches (aside from their team coach) in order to improve on their individual skill. One important aspect to look for in a private coach is their approach to training. Do they just run the player through drills or do they help the player to understand technique in regards to actual game application? Anyone can put a player through "drills", but true coaches will help a player understand "why" and "how" a technique works. One of our most fundamental focuses at Quick Touch Soccer Development (QTSD©) is not just whether a player can execute a technique, but rather can they understand why it works as well as can they adjust instantly when the situation requires them to.
PERSONAL CHARACTER AND PASSION - This is sometimes a crucially overlooked aspect of personal development. How bad do you want to improve? Are you the first one at practice and the last to leave? As a coach, I have always remembered the kids that are at practice ear