Soccer Players: Take Responsibility!

Posted by Team Chicago Soccer Club on Dec 09 2015 at 02:06AM PST in 2015-2016

Fri, 07/03/2015 – 10:23 Dan Abrahams,

You Are Responsible For Your Soccer Improvement. Don’t Blame Anyone Else.

I tell all my players one specific thing when I start working with me. And it doesn’t matter if this player is engaged in a Champions League campaign or is just trying to make his or her way up the College ladder. The truth is the same, no matter the level a player competes at.

The message I give them is one of the most important you can ever hear. You must take it to heart. You must tattoo it on your brain. You must wear it on your sleeve. It’s this:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.

Maybe when you read this it sounds obvious. Maybe it sounds difficult. Maybe you disagree (if you do then go take up another hobby or profession – you won’t get far!) Maybe you’re underwhelmed. You don’t see the big deal. But there is a big deal.

In my 15 years working in British and European soccer I have come across countless ‘talented’ young players who don’t adhere to the principle of taking responsibility. These young players play the blame game. It’s their teammates fault. It’s the coach. It’s mom and dad. They become excuse laden.

I’ve worked with top players who, at first, have shied away from challenges. They haven’t taken responsibility. When they’ve been dropped they’ve said to me that the coach doesn’t understand. That they should be on the team. That it’s not fair. These players tend to demand that their agent find them a new club. What they don’t get is that they’ll find the same problem at another club – it’s inevitable.

When you don’t face your problems full on – when you don’t turn them into positive challenges – when you don’t take responsibility, they never ever go away. They stay stuck to you like a bad smell. They travel with you from club to club. They cause you to underachieve. They cause you to give the game up. My message stays the same:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.

When a top player doesn’t take responsibility, they face an ultimatum from me. Sure we’ll talk about it. Sure, I’ll empathise a little. But ultimately we have to agree that the player will take responsibility or I won’t work with him or her — and trust me, I’ve said this to some pretty big names in professional soccer.

Now, let me tell you something you need to know. It’s always you. You get to choose how to react and respond to 99% of challenging situations that happen in soccer.

If you feel your coach is being unfair, then deal with it. And deal with it quick. Here is a recommendation – Listen to what he or she has to say and strive to look at the world through his or her eyes. Coaches try to help. Sure, there may be some misguided coaches out there (I’m sure none are reading this article) but that’s life. Get the most out of their advice by striving to understand where they’re coming from.

If a coach wants you to play in an unfamiliar position and every part of your body wants to scream “But I don’t know how” and “I should be playing in my favoured position” then STOP. Use the coaches decision as an opportunity to learn. The unfamiliar task will give you the opportunity to sharpen your skills.

For example, if you’re a striker and you’ve been asked to play as a centre midfielder, a helpful suggested reaction would be to say “Fantastic, I get a chance to improve my game. I get a chance to see what a midfielder sees. I get to learn more about being a striker by looking at the position from a midfielder’s point of view. I also get to challenge my tackling ability, my positional awareness, my fitness and my passing.”

In my first soccer book, Soccer Tough, I wrote about the Messi Mindset. It introduced the reader to the incredible mindset of Lionel Messi. Sure, we all know the diminutive Argentinian has some serious skill in his feet. But he’s also mentally very tough. And he takes responsibility. As a kid, growing up at the Barcelona Academy he wasn’t always top dog. With his height and stature he had to be patient. He would be dropped and played down a year. At fourteen he wasn’t the best in his age group. But he took responsibility. He accepted playing on the B team. He accepted playing for a different year group.

If you come across a particular problem like being dropped, or having a series of bad games, or missing out on an important trial… then relax. Take the emotion out of the situation and strive to see things logically. Being dropped is merely feedback for you to get better. So go get better. Missing out on a trial means that you have to improve something with your game – so go find out what and go improve that thing.

Champions are champions because they take responsibility. They yearn for success but understand that it is down to them to find that success. They know there will be roadblocks and speedbumps on their journey – but they find ways to work around them and work over them. That’s why they are champions.

So my message to you as a soccer player is simple and succinct:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.*


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