The advantages of playing a team sport are well-known: Athletes learn valuable communication skills, the necessity of hard work, the meaning of commitment and the importance of teamwork. A 2017 study by the London School of Economics even found that team-sport athletes have greater overall life satisfaction, possibly due to the feelings of belonging. However, to get to the next level, you’re going to need to put in hundreds of hours of work in addition to team practices and games. For soccer players especially, individual and small-group training is an excellent way to turn your weaknesses into strengths and to prepare you for success in more challenging environments. In those sessions, coaches are able to concentrate on what you need, which ensures that you’re getting specific and useful feedback that can translate into gametime success. Here are seven sure signs that you need to supplement your soccer team training:
Your teammates are getting more playing time recently
If you used to start and now come in off the bench, you need additional training. This shift is likely due to a combination of your teammates elevating their games (perhaps they’re doing some individual training!) and your game staying stagnant or even declining. At this point, your team’s practices are no longer sufficient to address your deficits or challenge you further. To earn back your minutes, you need to put in the additional work to grow your game.
You’re feeling uncomfortable/behind at practice
Feeling anxious, unsure, or indecisive at practice sessions are emotional indicators that your confidence level has taken a hit. Individual training can help to combat this and improve self-esteem by providing the support, structure and the individualized feedback that you require. Confidence is the key to success both on and off the field, and private training sessions provide a safe environment in which to try new things and work on weaknesses that you may be attempting to hide during team practices.
You want to play in college
Just 7.1% of high school athletes end up playing collegiate soccer. With odds like these, it’s essential that you do whatever you can to give yourself a leg up. Supplemental training helps develop your technical skills, tactical understanding and – perhaps most important – mental toughness. Participating in individual and small group sessions can prepare you for the most challenging situations physically and mentally, which will give you a major edge when it comes to college recruitment.
You turn over the ball consistently
Consistently turning over the ball can cost you a starting spot, playing time and countless recruiting opportunities. Turnovers indicate poor decision-making, which makes you less recruitable. Coaches look for well-composed players who take care of the ball, and whom they can rely on to make the most of the touches they get. Supplemental sessions can be tailored to simulate countless situations, including those in which you turn over the ball the most often, so that you can gain ample practice in making the correct decisions and maintaining composure on the ball.
You constantly make one-touch passes
One-touch passing has its time and place and, when used appropriately, can be incredibly effective in creating space and opportunities. However, almost exclusively making one-touch passes communicates to others that you do not want the ball. It indicates a fear of possession and a lack of confidence with the ball at your feet. 10,000 touches per day is recommended and commonly practiced by international teams and developmental leagues alike around the world. Individual and small group training sessions increase the number of touches you get on the ball and, over time, will increase your confidence so that you can keep possession and make one-touch passes only occasionally.
You’re uncomfortable taking or giving instructions to teammates
If you find that you’re too timid to speak to your teammates on the field – be it asking for the ball or letting them know they have a man coming – then you’ve identified a major deficit in your game. Coaches from every level consistently praise the power of communication; it lets others know that you’re a confident, knowledgeable player who is not afraid to lead. Training outside your team environment provides an opportunity to build comfort and practice putting your voice to appropriate use.
Your distribution is soft and slow
There’s nothing more fatal to a teammate than receiving a “hospital ball” – a slow, obvious pass that will either be intercepted or leave your teammate vulnerable to a nasty tackle. Such distribution is a sign of a lack of confidence in decision-making. Crisp, firm passes exude confidence and self-assuredness and to build these qualities you must practice, practice, practice. Running through game scenarios and passing options in individual sessions will do wonders to boost your on-the-field conviction and performance.
If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, supplemental training would be a great next step for you to improve your game. In addition to helping you grow as a player, individual sessions help develop confidence and the often-overlooked mental aspect of sport. If you’re serious about your soccer career, taking advantage of all opportunities that can give you a leg up will position you well for college recruiting and playing time.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.