What advice would you give to a young footballer
This is a question I’ve often been asked.
Starting out as a young footballer is truly exhilarating.
Not only do you embark on an exciting journey, but you also set the foundation for many years to come, all while enjoying every moment.
As someone who has played football throughout my life, I can vouch for the fact that my youth football years were the most enjoyable.
With that perspective.
I’m here to offer guidance to all the budding footballers eager to enhance their skills and elevate their game.
Looking back, I truly wish I had this knowledge when I first fell in love with this remarkable sport.
Table of Contents
Advice for Young Footballers
In this section, I am going to go over some of the main advice I would give to any of you youngins looking to better yourself in the game.
So without further ado let’s get into it.
1. Have Fun
The very first piece of advice and may even be the most important of them all is to have fun.
If you are not having fun playing football.
Chances are you are either doing it wrong.
Or you have the wrong approach.
Football is a game that is supposed to be enjoyable.
But due to the pressures that come with making it as a professional.
What you find is many footballers who see it as all or nothing.
Which 9 times out of 10 is going to lead to one outcome.
Now why am I saying this and why is it so important?
Well, I personally went through this myself.
When I left college I became obsessed with becoming a footballer.
To the point where I stopped enjoying playing the game.
Once I stopped putting so much focus on ‘making it’.
Whatever that even means.
I was able to actually start enjoying the sport.
Which then led me to make more progress.
2. Work Hard and Stay Dedicated
Like the age-old quote ‘hard work beats talent’ being able to work hard in this sport will take you a long way.
While having a bit of talent is always nice, just check out the brilliance of Messi, who you could think was simply born to be great.
But honestly, if you are willing to put in the hard work.
You are going to be able to beat those who are putting in low to medium work.
So what can you work on to put you in good stead?
Here are some key tips to follow:
- Set clear goals: Firstly figure out what it is from football you want to achieve. Do you want to play at a premier league level, be a skillster maybe like a freestyle or simply to keep fit. Knowing what you want to achieve will help you form a plan.
- Develop a disciplined routine: Once you know what your goals are then it’s time to plan out a training schedule that aligns with it. So if you want to become a professional footballer you may want to make it more intense or relaxed
- Stay committed: If you have signed up for a team, make sure you are committed. Not only will this say a lot about you and show you in a good light, but this will help you improve. Throughout my time growing up playing for numerous teams, you would notice those few players who would very rarely turn up. Don’t let that be you.
- Push your limits: Always aim to become a better footballer, whether that be giving 100 per cent in training or staying after training to practice a few freekicks like Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo would.
- Seek guidance: Coaches are going to be imperative in your coming up as a footballer. However, I will also say that not every coach will help you. So try your best to identify a great coach who can help you along your footballing journey.
- Stay focused: Now you going to want a life outside of football, but still make sure that its a priority over lesser commitments. For instance, if someone has a party on the same day as a football game, you know which commitment comes first, right?
- Maintain a positive mindset: Believe in yourself and don’t let any setbacks get you down, even when its so easy to let them. Just remember your persistence and work ethic will be paid off in the long run.
- Take care of your body: Eat a balanced diet to fuel your performance and ensure you get enough rest and recovery to prevent injuries and optimize your training.
- Learn from mistakes: Embrace failures and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. Analyze your performances and make improvements accordingly.
I was always told by scouts and coaches growing up that one of the biggest factors in looking for players was theirWh mentality.
They would say how they could tell if a player had potential if they had the right mindset.
What they were getting at here was that if you rebound quickly from mistakes, work hard and be dedicated, you will go far.
So if you use those principles above you will already be halfway there, to becoming the footballer you desire to be.
3. Focus on Skill Development
The quicker you start developing your skills the better.
As you will be able to not only nail down the foundation.
It can take years to master a skill.
This is why as a young footballer you have the benefit of starting that process early.
Now if you want to do this, then you want to practise regularly.
This doesn’t even mean that you need to be playing constantly.
Just enough to the point where you are becoming more comfortable with the ball at your feet.
Something my father always tried to get me.
Even when I was 7 years old, is hit a ball against a wall over and over again.
In order to improve my ball control.
Now you not only want to improve your touch, but learn the techniques for shooting, dribbling and passing too.
Other things you can do for skill development consist of:
- Seek guidance from experienced coaches: If you play for a club then you want to take on board all feedback a coach has to offer. They will teach you how to refine your skills.
- Participate in drills and exercises: Engage in training drills that specifically target the skills you want to improve. This could involve practising specific movements or scenarios commonly encountered in a game.
- Analyze and learn from top players: Watch and study professional football players who excel in the areas you want to develop. Observe their techniques, decision-making, and positioning to gain inspiration and insights.
- Play in different positions: Don’t limit yourself to just one position. Experiment and play in various positions to broaden your understanding of the game and enhance your versatility.
In addition, young footballers should also consider the following suggestions:
- Set goals for specific skills you want to improve and track your progress.
- Keep a positive attitude and always believe in your abilities.
- Stay dedicated and committed to practicing even when faced with challenges.
- Seek opportunities to play with players of different skill levels to challenge yourself.
- Find a balance between skill development and enjoying the game, remembering that football is meant to be fun.
4. Listen to Coaches and Mentors
I have had a mixed experience with coaches and mentors over my footballing life.
So while I recommend them to any youth footballer looking for advice and ways to improve.
I would also say that a good coach is worth its weight in gold.
If you can try and find that.
As over my career, I have had coaches who manage EFL football clubs.
But then coaches who to be honest didn’t really care much for the development of players.
So if you are able to find a great coach.
My first advice is to pay attention to there instructions.
With the top ones, they have been there and done that.
They have the years over you.
Which is why everything they say to you.
Is only going to help you in your growth as a footballer.
Along with that, you want to be respectful towards them.
You also want to embrace any feedback they give you and implement them into areas of your game to improve it further.
5. Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle
Some footballers have this idea that its everything on the pitch that matters.
However your lifestyle off the pitch is so key too.
If you want to be a footballer who can perform at the best level they possibly can.
Then you want to be making sure that you are getting the right sleep, well hydrated both on and off match days, eating well, and listening to your body.
Even if going to sleep can sometimes be really tempting.
Or eating that second McDonalds of the week.
So by maintaining a balanced lifestyle you are not only going to be looking after yourself.
But also giving you the freedom to play to the best of your abilities on the pitch.
6. Train Regularly
Next on the advice I would give to any youth footballers is to train regulary.
Now I am not saying go and play football every day.
Because that is one way to not only lose any enjoyment.
But also knacker you up.
So instead what you need is a balanced schedule.
This in my eyes, would be 2x training sessions a week and a match at the weekend.
Now what your training consists of will depend on what level you are playing at.
If you are in a academy then you will already have that taken care of by the club.
But if your playing for a sunday league side.
Apart from a 1 hour session each week.
You won’t have much to go off in order to develop.
So you will need to do more beyond that:
- Develop a training schedule: You will want to divise a schedule so that with every week that goes by you are actively working on each area of your game. You don’t need to be spending hours on this. Just a few hours here and there to work on areas such as endurance, speed, agility, and skills. For example going on 1 hour run in the evening on one night out of the week to improve your stamina.
- Practice technical skills: Training doesn’t have to be that one slot you have with your club each week. In your own time you can find ways to improve your dribbling, passing, shooting and ball control. A few ideas could be to go to your local fields with some cones and create drills, or go to a cage with a few mates.
- Play small-sided games: Taking part in local 6 a side leagues, was something I loved doing as a teenager. Joining these are not only really fun with mates, but also great when it comes to sharpening your skills on a small pitch.
Now depending on your goals in football, you will want to keep to your training routine.
You will want to be disciplined especially if you want to make progress as a footballer.
7. Rest and Recovery
I used to think I could just sleep for 5 hours a night and be good to go on matchdays.
Turns out this was a big error on my half.
I mean its pretty obvious though right.
You need that proper rest and sleep, if your going to sweat it out for 90 minutes.
Or even for any training type of day.
Here are some steps to follow:
- Get enough sleep: Aim for at least 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night to help your body recover and rejuvenate.
- Take regular rest days: Allow your body time to rest and repair by scheduling regular days off from intense training or matches.
- Hydrate properly: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and aid in recovery.
- Eat nutritious meals: Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to support muscle recovery.
- Stretch and foam roll: Spend time stretching and using a foam roller to relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility.
- Alternate training intensity: Vary the intensity of your training sessions to provide periods of lower intensity and recovery.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to any signs of fatigue or pain and adjust your training accordingly to avoid overexertion.
Resting isn’t the only thing to remember.
Its also just as key to remember to allow yourself time to recover.
So while you may be getting the 8 hours of sleep each day.
Make sure you aren’t over doing it playing too much.
That means have days where you are playing football.
Then others where your chilling.
Just like a professional footballer would.
As while the idea of playing a match every day, may sound appealing.
It would certainly destroy you mentally and physically after a while.
So if you want that longetivty in the sport, this is something to bare in mind as a young footballer.
Developing Technical Skills
It wasn’t until I reached my teenage years that I started to take my technical skills on the pitch more seriously.
Which proabably explains why looking back, I struggled to play positions such as midfield.
As my passing, shooting, dribbling and tackling wasn’t up to par.
So what do I recommend.
Well that is to make sure you to improve each of these skills.
I don’t just mean one either.
I am talking all as a collective.
As this will make you into a more versatile and complete footballer.
1. Master Ball Control
First up we have ball control.
Which argubly is the most important, as if you can’t control a ball.
Then your going to have a real issue on your hands.
If you want to keep the ball for your team.
And not dread recieving the ball in the game.
Then here are a few steps for you to follow:
- Increase your mastery of ball control by practicing with different parts of your body, including your feet, thighs, and chest. This comprehensive approach will ensure your comfort and proficiency in receiving and trapping the ball.
- Enhance your first touch by practicing the seamless reception and immediate control of the ball. This fluid motion will allow you to effortlessly maintain possession and swiftly transition into your next move.
- Refine your dribbling abilities by engaging in various drills that emphasize close control of the ball. Focus on keeping the ball in close proximity to your feet and employ quick, precise touches to maneuver around opponents.
- Sharpen your capacity to rapidly change direction while retaining ball control. Dedicate time to practicing quick turns and agility drills to improve your overall agility and control.
- Attain mastery in different ball control techniques, such as the sole roll, stepover, and Cruyff turn. These skillful maneuvers will deceive opponents and create valuable space for yourself on the field.
Remember though that you are going to make tons of mistakes.
I am not saying this to discourage you.
But more to prepare you and make you realise how normal it is.
So if you make a bad touch in a game.
Don’t dwell too much over it.
Just learn from it, and keep on working at mastering that first touch.
It will come you just got to give it time.
2. Improve Passing and Receiving
Moving onto passing and recieving.
These are an important area to a footballers game.
Maybe even more for younger players.
As I personally found that the energy of my opponents teams, meant I was never left with a second of time.
So perfecting your passing and recieving is going to be key for getting the ball around quick.
While also building the skills to take you into adult football.
So here are a few things you can focus on, to perfect the art of the passing:
- Practice accuracy: Regularly work on improving the accuracy of your passes. Aim to consistently deliver the ball to your teammates’ feet or in the space where they can easily receive it.
- Improve Passing and Receiving: Develop vision: Learn to scan the field and identify the best passing options. Look for open spaces, anticipate your teammates’ movements, and make quick decisions to deliver the ball efficiently.
- Master first touch: Work on your technique to control the ball when receiving a pass. Develop a soft touch that allows you to keep the ball close and quickly transition into your next action.
- Improve communication: Communication is essential in passing and receiving. Use verbal and non-verbal cues to let your teammates know where you want the ball and provide clear instructions when passing.
- Master different passing techniques: Practice various passing techniques such as short passes, long passes, through balls, and lofted passes. Enhance your passing repertoire to be effective in different game situations.
- Develop spatial awareness: Learn to position yourself strategically to receive passes in advantageous positions on the field. Understand the movement of your teammates and opponents to find open passing lanes.
Working on your passing will not only make you a better footballer.
But you will also gain trust of your teammates, as they will know if they pass it to you.
Chances are you are going to be able to recieve it and do good with it.
3. Enhance Shooting and Scoring Abilities
Next up we have shooting, which at least from my experience was never a chore to practice.
So while you will never have trouble motivating yourself, to shoot multiple balls at goal.
If you want to get better at it, then I would recommend focusing on the following techniques:
- Developing proper shooting technique: Mastering the correct technique is crucial for consistent and accurate shooting. Young players should prioritize learning the proper body positioning, foot placement, and follow-through. By regularly practicing shooting drills, they can refine these skills.
- Improving accuracy: Precision is essential when it comes to scoring goals. To enhance accuracy, players should dedicate time to practicing shooting at specific targets, such as corners or specific areas of the goal.
- Enhancing power and shot velocity: Strong shots can be a valuable asset on the field. To increase shot velocity, players can strengthen their leg muscles through exercises like squats and lunges. Additionally, practicing shooting with power will contribute to more effective goal-scoring.
- Developing quick decision-making skills: Scoring opportunities often require split-second decisions. It is important for young footballers to work on improving their speed of thought and decision-making ability in order to capitalize on scoring chances when they arise.
- Practicing shooting under pressure: In game situations, players often face pressure from defenders or encounter time constraints. By incorporating defenders or time limits into shooting drills, young players can become more comfortable and effective in high-pressure situations.
When you focus on shooting, you will find yourself able to enhance your ability to do so.
Therefore you will be able more dangerous, when finding yourself in a shooting position.
As well as more importantly as a result of working on your shot more confident in your ability.
Just make sure you choose the right times to shoot, and dont just shoot from 40 yards every time.
4. Work on Dribbling Skills
Another bit of advice I would recommend is to work on your dribbling skills.
This will make you more confident on the ball, and make it more challenging for opponents to get the ball of you.
Here are some specific steps you can take to enhance your proficiency on the field:
- Practice with both feet: To become a skilled dribbler, it’s important to be able to use both your right and left foot effectively. Dedicate time to work on your dribbling exercises with your non-dominant foot to improve your overall ability.
- Master close ball control: Work on keeping the ball close to your feet while dribbling. This will allow you to maintain better control and agility, making it harder for opponents to steal the ball.
- Develop change of direction moves: Learn and practice different moves such as step-overs, feints, and cuts to quickly change direction while dribbling. These moves can help you evade defenders and create space.
- Improve speed and coordination: Focus on developing your speed and coordination through specific drills and exercises. This will help you work on your dribbling skills at a faster pace while maintaining control of the ball.
- Play small-sided games: Participating in small-sided games, such as 3v3 or 4v4, can significantly improve your dribbling skills. These games provide more opportunities to work on your dribbling skills in tight spaces and under pressure.
By following these steps, you can work on your dribbling skills and cultivate your abilities to become a stronger player on the field.
5. Enhance Tactical Understanding
Something that comes with time, is tactical understanding of the game.
Has you play more, your understanding of this only goes up.
Now while having all the skills to play football will help you.
If your not putting yourself in a position.
Where you can pass, control, shoot, dribble.
They are effectively useless.
This again took me years to build up.
But by combining watching a ton of football on TV.
Along with playing alot of football.
My understanding grew.
So if your young you want to start this process early.
Study different tactics.
Watch games on TV.
And essentially get as much exposure to the game.
The more you learn, the easier it will make playing on the pitch.
As you will know where to put yourself.
What decesions to make at certain times.
Be able to help your teammates through communication too.
So don’t stop learning.
I am still doing so myself.
Understanding the Importance of Teamwork
1. Communicate And Support Your Teammates
Talking of communication.
Here comes my next two pieces of advice for you young footballers out there.
Make sure you understand the importance of communication.
Now what you will find is that the team your playing, will play a big role in this.
The closer bond you have to your teammates.
The easier this is.
Of which when I look over my career, I can easily recognise.
That the teams in which communciation was a high level.
We also played at a high level.
The reason for this is that we were all supporting and encouraging each other.
Which ultimately pushed everyone to get the best of each other.
So theres two lessons to take from this:
Firstly you want to find a team of teammates, who want to work as a team.
Secondly you want to be that person that is contrubuting by showing communication skills.
That way your helping your teammates achieve the best.
And vice versa.
3. Embrace Leadership Opportunities
My dad used to make funny of me as a young footballer.
We’d be on the drive home.
And he would say ‘you were so loud today’
When in reality I hadn’t said a word on the pitch.
That was young me.
However what he was getting at, which I grew to understand.
Was how important it was to speak on the pitch.
It can be so daunting on the pitch.
You have all the spectators watching you play.
But guess what and this seems obvious.
When you don’t speak you only stand out more.
Not only are you not contributing to the team.
Whether that is saying man on warning a teammate that there getting closed down.
Or simply organising your team.
Leadership is so important.
So make sure you communicate effectively.
Maintaining a Positive Mindset
As I was touching upon at the start of this article.
I see so many young footballers who have the wrong mindset.
They see every mistake as a huge failure.
Which is the worst thing any young footballer.
So in this dedicated section, I am going to give a few bits of advice when it comes to adopting that healthy mindset.
That will see you blossom as a top footballer.
1. Set Realistic Goals
I don’t see anything wrong with setting huge goals.
So by all means, if you want to be a Premier League.
You make that your goal.
However its still important to not get so caught up over it.
Too the point where every moment of the day you think about it.
So setting realistic goals isn’t just going to be helpful to you.
Especially in the short term.
But is going to help you in reaching those big goals too.
Lets say you want to score 5 goals in the next season.
That is a great goal.
And chances are you may even smash it too!
2. Stay Motivated and Focused
Staying motivated in regards to everything can be tough.
As for the most part its quite short lasting.
So instead lets rephrase that.
To staying disciplined.
Have that goal you want to achieve.
And in the mean time, you come up with a routine that you will stick to, to achieve it.
So for instance, if you want to lets say play in a higher division.
Then staying disciplined, making sure your available for each game will help you achieve it.
That way your staying disciplined to the cause.
With an easy to achieve weekly action.
But at the same time your moving closer to your goal by becoming a better footballer.
Its also important that along with this, that you adopt a positive mindset.
So even if you are dropped for a game.
You don’t let it discourage you.
Keep surrounding yourself with positive people.
Coaches, friends, teammates, family and you keep moving upwards.
Conclusion: Believe in Yourself
To conclude and being someone who was once not too long ago playing youth football and embarking on the journey.
I just want to reemphasize the point of believing in yourself.
With all the bits of advice I have given today.
None of them will help you.
Unless you believe in yourself.
It all starts with yourself.
Once you do that, you will be able to master your mindset.
Take those skills to the next level.
And expand your understanding of the game.
You got this.
Frequently Asked Questions
How important is having the right attitude in football?
The right attitude is crucial in football as it helps in being a good teammate and giving maximum effort. To succeed, it is important to have a positive mindset and be supportive of your teammates.
What role does discipline play in the success of a young footballer?
Discipline is necessary for success in football. It requires making sacrifices and avoiding distractions. This helps in staying focused on training, improvement, and achieving goals.
How important is taking care of the body and mind for peak performance?
Taking care of the body and mind is essential for elite performance. It involves eating right, exercising regularly, and allowing for mental rest. These practices contribute to physical fitness and mental sharpness.
How can a young footballer continue learning and improving their skills?
Continual learning and seeking advice are important for improvement. Watching football games, learning from experienced players, and seeking guidance from coaches can enhance skills and knowledge.
What should a young footballer do in the face of setbacks?
It is important for a young footballer to never give up, even in the face of setbacks. Staying focused, being patient, and continuing to work hard are key to overcoming challenges and achieving success.
What are some tips to improve skills in competitive football?
IHM Football Academy provides valuable tips for improving skills in competitive football. These include having a good first touch, practicing with both feet, controlled dribbling in restricted space, and seeking guidance from coaches for tailored drills.