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My answer to every kid

“How could I make it?
I want to be a professional footballer too”, asked a young boy from me.
Many kids have come up with the same question before. For me it is always an intimidating situation. I don’t know what and how to answer.

This time I was saved by that little kids coach who called him to warm up for a game. So he left before I had time to say anything. However the question still bothered me. Especially because I want to help kids but I didn’t know anything about this boy. So I decided to watch bit of his game.

He was playing well, did a good job for his team in the midfield. Actually he was not a bad player at all. On the other hand neither was the rest of the bunch. From the lot he didn’t really catch your eye. They were all quite promising footballers, much better standard for that age than in my home country.

I started to think his chances to become a professional footballer. I knew not many players in this game would make it. Or from any game of under fourteens. Statistically from these 25 boys approximately 10 percent makes it to Academy level. And only 5 percent of all Academy players make it to any professional level at all. So it is easy to count that statistically from this game 2,5 players will become Academy level footballers and 0,125 players will get a contract in any of the league teams. That equals a bottom half of one kids calf from here would make it.

But which kids calf could that be? The boy I came to watch was among the best players on the pitch, but they were all quite alike. And when I think of it, it was hard to point out any single player from that game. Only times I got bit excited was when someone did something special, maybe hit a clean ball or tribbled well. And I saw some coaches making notes about these situations as well.

I realised that you have to be different, do something different to be noticed. The best thing would be to specialize in something. If you have a one area of excellence, you have a better chance than being decent in all the areas. You make your way up with your strengths but your weaknesses decide the level you stay.

One of the boys was bigger and stronger, he bossed the defence with his muscles. The coaches and parents seemed constantly to make remarks about this boy. The game has become very physical. I can honestly say to every kid that they won’t make it if they can’t cope with the physical side of the game. Obviously it is not the main criteria but there are number of teams and scouts that are looking for just pure athletes that could be turned into players.
The boy that I was following was comfortable with the ball. There is no substitute for skills, all professional players must posses at least the basic skills for their position. I thought the boy could maybe master technical ability. However then he should become really special to be noticed, not just a midfielder with a sweet touch. David Beckham is a great example and role model in this. He is a world-class player, but he is also a limited player. His excellence in kicking and passing has made him one of the best players in the world although his overall game is only average. Kicking technic and tribbling are usually most appreciated. These are the skills that give you the best chance to have an edge towards other kids.

Game was almost finished but I still had no idea what to answer to that little boy. I couldn’t even tell who would be the most potential of these kids to make it. After all it is a very arbitrary judgement. Me, scouts, coaches, managers… we would all probably pick a different player. Everyone plays and sees the game differently. You also have to have a bit of luck to play the right game at the right time to be noticed.

I think of myself. When I was that age, I wasn’t anything special, there were always many more talented players. None of those players have ever played professionally though. I have. Why? I would say because I was the one who never gave up, always worked hardest and was determined to make it no matter what other people said.

There will always be a lot of talented players. I would say the main reason of making it or not is in the head. The ones with personality, confidence and will-power have the best chance.

And it is not always a nice journey. One wise man, probably so wise that he made it, once said: ”Success comes before working hard only in the dictionary”. You have to run through a big pile of shit to get yourself closer to your dreams. Still it might be not enough and you would just stink after all that.

You need dedication, commitment and courage to go through it all. Every player, especially every kid, will have a time in their football that they will be turned down, they will be said that they are not good enough. However the important thing is what you want and what you are willing to do about it. Coaches, family and friends can either help you or disturb you, in the end it has to be your way. Through the years I have been told I am not good enough but still I have played ten years as professional footballer.

When the game finished I had come to a conclusion about my answer. To become a professional player is a mixture of things. You need a talent. You need the physical attributes. You need personality. You need to work hard. Combining these elements you might make it. Or not. You also need luck. And there is not just one right way. Otherwise everyone could make it. Every way and story is different.

My aim was to help that kid. I could have told my story or some facts what is needed. However my truthful answer would have been, that he is probably never going to make it. I couldn’t say that. He will realise it when the time comes. Still for me it was in a way a moral dilemma. It would have been wrong to shatter his dreams but in a way I might also have done him a favour by pointing that he could look other options as well. There is much more life than football out there. I wouldn’t encourage any kid to believe that football is their only calling. I can encourage them play and test their limits, but not to think that it will be their answer to everything.

The kid comes happily to me after a win. So I say: ”My best advice is that play football in a way and level you enjoy it the most. People who enjoy what they are doing, usually do it better than the others. Then whether you make it or not, at least you have enjoyed it. All other stuff won’t make you happy if you don’t possess this. I hope you have great time with your football.”
“Thanks”, he says. “I enjoyed playing today.”
And that is what it is all about, I think.

This year I recommend:
1. Not starting it with an injury
- my New Years resolution of not getting injured took less than 36 hours to fail -
2. Enjoying whatever you do
- only way to be happy and the best way to do it well -

I do not recommend:
1. Master and commander -movie
- I almost would rather stick pins to my eyes than watch again two boats just following each other for three hours -

" For New Years resolution.. I promise to stop smoking ", I said.
" But you have never smoked", replied a friend.
" Exactly, at least I can keep my promise then"


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