There aren’t many children who dream of becoming accountants when they grow up. It is neither glamorous nor stimulating but boring and tedious. It is fair to say that many who chose it as a career do so because it is a good bet for a decent job and wage. Trust me, I know: I’m an accountant myself.
The thing with accountancy is that you know what you have to do in order to get there. Either get into university to get a degree or else study in your spare time as you work in a related job during the day. The path leading to accountancy is pretty clear.
It is usually the same for most professions. You have to work hard to get there but, still, you know pretty much that if you do that you will make it.
The story is pretty different in so far as art and sport are concerned. You might want to be a great singer but what must you do to get there? Different artists take different routes and what works today might not next year.
Same goes for sport. The desire to become a footballer (or at least be the best player you possibly can) is quite natural but there are different routes to getting there. Jamie Vardy had to keep up believing in his ability for years whilst someone like Marcus Rashford got his chance at the highest level mainly because of injuries to others. Talent is important and so is hard work but they’re far from the only requirement.
All of this makes the process difficult. Your coaches might be telling you what it is you must do but if you leave your progress wholly in the hands of other it is unlikely that you will succeed. You have to own your progress.
A good way of doing so is listing the five most desired qualities of a player in your position. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, list what qualities you believe are needed if you are to excel. Let’s say that you play in midfield and would like to model yourself on the likes of Xabi Alonso. Then you know that you will need exceptional passing, strong shooting accuracy, tactical intelligence, stamina and physical strength.
Those will form the basis of your goals. The next step is that of seeing where you are on each one. You might do well in your passing, stamina and strength so that tells you straight away that you need to work harder on your shooting and ability to read the game.
Suddenly you have a path that you can follow. You can measure yourself better because you have something against which you can actually measure yourself. You know what you have to aim for.
Naturally, this does not mean that you can ignore all other aspects of the game but that you know on which to focus more. Great players usually put in a lot of extra training to improve certain aspects of their game, they have a greater desire to achieve. More than that, however, they also have a focus on where they should be putting their energy.
The finest free-kick takers for instance tend to be players who spend a lot of time practising their free-kick. They might have some natural skill to start off but when they decide that this is an area that they would like to improve they do so by putting in the work.
That is a crucial point. Commitment towards getting somewhere does not lie in the simple act of having it in writing but by consistently putting in the work necessary to do so.
Try This Out: Step-By-Step Instructions
Get your players to identify a players who plays in their role that they admire and would like to emulate. Naturally each player makes his own choice.
Ask them to study that chosen player, looking for the details of what makes him stand out from the rest.
After they have studied their player tell them to note down the five characteristics that make him so special. Help them out so that they’re as specific as possible. “Scores a lot of goals” is not a good characteristic but should be broken down so that it is clearer. It could be “times his runs well” or “strikes ball well with both feet”.
The next step is to ask the players to think about how well they themselves rate in each of those characteristics. It is important that they think about this exercise and it is not something that they do offhand. Again, get them to write their thoughts and, at the end, ask them to rate out of ten how they see themselves.
Afterwards comes arguably the most important step which is getting them to think what they can do in order to improve themselves on each of those characteristics. Using the previous example of “strikes the ball well with both feet”, one task could be to do some additional training shooting with their weaker foot so as to improve their ability in that respect. Once this is done every player should have a list of goals in the form of characteristics that they would like to possess along with a path to getting there provided by the list of action points.
It is important that all this is noted down. There is a lot to say for physically writing everything but if the players prefer to note it down on an electronic device, let them. The most important thing is that they regularly look at and think about this exercise.
Schedule meeting with them at regular (but not too regular intervals; perhaps bi-monthly) points in the season so that you re-evaluate. Talk together about whether they’ve progressed in each characteristic, whether they are seeing enough progress, if they’re being too harsh on themselves or if there are any different training routines they could try out. Always let them do as much of the talking as possible: let them take charge of their personal development.
It is important that you use your judgement at each stage of this exercise. You can decide whether your age group is mature enough to handle such an exercise. Similarly, whilst you may believe wholeheartedly in the process, be ready that some individuals will not see the benefit in it. Try to convince them of the merits but forcing people through it will rarely work.