How hard can it be to be a professional soccer player?

by Ivan Bobanovic | Last updated

While I was getting the oil changed on my car today, a younger man (19 years of age) took care of the duties.  I got to talking with him and we slowly maneuvered our way into a conversation about soccer.  After a few minutes of getting a feel for each other, the conversation got a little more intimate. He shared with me his goals and what he’s doing to put them into action.

His dream is to play soccer in Europe.  He began to explain that one of the local coaches landed him a tryout in England for a weekend.  He began to excitedly explain how he is going to England for one weekend to try impress a handful of scouts that are going to be on hand. “I’m just working here for now to make some cash to help me out on my trip.”  Good man, I thought, do what you have to go in order to get where you want to go.

Before I go any further, this type of drive to succeed that he was showing is very commendable.  Here is a 19 year old who is taking it upon himself to go and get a tryout in Europe.

I let him know that I was impressed.  Before I fed him with any more words of encouragement, I wanted to see where he was with his preparation both mentally and physically.  I asked him what teams he has recently been playing for.  He explained that he had jumped from one team to another over the past few years due to an abundance of reasons, but never really played at a high level.  I refused to make any assumptions, although I must admit a red flag did go off in the back of my mind.

I asked “what is your specialization on the field?”  He explained: “I’m really fast.  I play forward or on the wing and chase balls down.”  I thought to myself, well that’s nice, but you’re going to have to do better than that.

I continued to ask him about his preparation.  Have you been practicing?  How often? Where? With who?  Although I didn’t bombard him with these questions, I could tell he was getting overwhelmed.

The conclusion I quickly – and rather obviously – came to was that he had no idea what he was in for.

Before I went any further with dissecting this situation, I took my foot off the pedal and eased the situation by talking to him about my experience in Europe.

Europe is a completely different brand of soccer.  Much of the North American game – and especially the American college game – is tailored to speed and strength.   These two qualities are important in all realms of soccer, there’s no questions about it, however they will not turn heads in Europe.

European players are very technically skilled.  You will notice, maybe not so much in England but the rest of Europe for sure, that the game is very technical and skill oriented.  The players there might not be as quick and as big, but they will pick you apart within seconds with intelligent moves, passes and plays.

The coaches/managers in Europe know this and have known this for a long time so they create a game plan that is centered around passing and movement.  Speed is not enough.  There are an abundance of players out there who are very fast.  The question ultimately becomes, do you have the technique to cut it?

I shared these thoughts with him and told him to absolutely pursue his dreams and not let anyone hold him back.  With that said, however, I told him he needs to be very well prepared for a system that will chew you up and spit you out flat on your behind if you’re not good enough or well enough prepared.

The reality is that there are good soccer players all over the world, but only a few make it as professionals.  The few that do make it as professionals are either very skilled, or have worked hard at creating the right set of skills.  You need to mold your game to make it become that of a professional athlete.

You need a proven plan in order to succeed.  Once you have that you will need a mentor.  This person should give you an honest opinion and should know what they’re talking about.  When all this is in place, understand what it is you need to improve on and etc.  Work like a horse until you feel your game is on par with that of a professional soccer player.

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