Deciding which team you should play for is a big decision for your soccer career. The ideas mentioned in this blog are universal for all levels of play and age groups. If you are so fortunate to have several options to teams to chose from then all the better. On the other side you may have fewer options. Either way there are a number of areas to consider and questions you should ask yourself prior to selecting a club.
Experience vs youth: soccer used to be called “a man’s game” implying that grown-ups would play. Sir Bobby Charlton started playing for Manchester United at the age of seventeen. However, he went on to make over 600 appearances for the club and to play well into his forties. Today, in the pros the majority of the team is made up of younger players in their early twenties.
Like a puzzle, the team is built by many different pieces and each piece has a specific role. All players cannot be true forwards or true defenders. It is good to have versatile players but look to teams where they are weaker in a certain position. In the early stage of your career look to teams where you can learn as much as possible while contributing to the team.
Titles can be won by an all young team as Ajax demonstrated by winning the 1996 Champions League and title can be won by a more senior team as AC Milan demonstrated in 2003 by winning the Champions League.
Do not depend on a few great players to carry the team: World powerhouse Brazil depended largely on their superstar Ronaldo to carry the team and produce the goals. Ronaldo was successful in making Brazil to the 2002 World Cup champions, however, no matter how good one player may be there comes a time when the team must re-build and look to produce a team threat rather than just an individual threat.
The strongest teams are the most balanced. They will often have star players, however, each player can be a threat at any time. Manchester United is a club that is balanced in all positions. Real Madrid is viewed as one of the best clubs in all of European soccer. However, the relying on superstars to carry the team has not worked for them as would have expected.
Managers’ time in charge: in the pros just like in the amateur leagues find out how long the manager has been in charge. How many managers have there been the past five years? Find out the future goals of the club. Look at how stable the club is. When you find the answers to these questions you’ll be able to make a better decision as to which team you should play for.
In the early stages of your career, look to the above points as guidelines to chose a team. Just like in the pros you want to be a part of a balanced team where you can fit in, contribute and enjoy your soccer. The happier you are in this team the better you’ll play. Therefore, it is important chose your team wisely.
In the local premier league I recently played in there was a club that for that past five years consistently been the most dominate team. They were strong in all position and were a well balanced team. As such, they were able to challenge for the title in all cup competitions and league. For some reason though, this club would get ten new players each year who were hoping to crack the line-up. Little did they know the core of that team was fixed and was not changing. In the early stages of your career you want and more importantly need to play. You are developing all aspects of your game. You can only learn so much while sitting on the bench. In the pros when you are making a lot of money then perhaps you can sit on the bench and keep quiet but let’s be honest, at all levels of play we want to play the game. After a season or two, players in that local premier league would realize after sitting on the bench and making only brief appearances that it was more important to be on a team where they could contribute and be happier.
When choosing a team look to see where and what kind of opportunities exist prior to joining. Do you homework in learning about the players, coach, club, previous seasons and future goals. Clubs go through good and bad cycles. We all want to be part of those good cycles. Do your homework and look for those well balanced teams where you can shine. You’ll be better off in the long run.
What does a balanced team mean to you?