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Ever heard of a colleague or friend getting a job because they already knew somebody in the company?  How about making the high school soccer team because the coach had a class favorite?  Or even getting cut from a team for personality reasons?  Silly as these possibilities may be, they exist on both ends of the spectrum for receiving a “lucky” or unlucky break.  Networking in soccer is just as big as in other parts of life and business.  Below I’ve listed some do’s and don’ts about networking.  These are tips that were shared with me at an early stage.  Furthermore, they were steps I watched other people use and become successful with them. 

In a perfect world the coach should be the one calling the shots and select a team or line-up based on quality at his disposal  Be aware that this is often NOT the case no matter the age or level of competition.  There are other factors at work influencing the coachs’ decision.

Being smart on and off the field can go a long way.  You must be prepared for all possibilities.

Rule #1) Do not get involved in team politics.  Your job as a player is to contribute to the team on the field.  You are a piece of the puzzle to help the team achieve great things.  If you are a leader on the team then lead by example.  Be a positive voice and presence on the field and in the change room.  Any other team politics will become a distraction to you and your teammates.  Simply don’t get involved in team politics.     

Rule #2) Start making contacts early.  If you made a list of all the soccer people you had in your network how long would it be?  Chances are if you’ve played on a few teams you’ll know quite a few people.  If your friend did the same thing he/she would have many other contacts and potentially others you do not.  You may wonder “will my friend help me out?” There is no doubt that there is competition to take your game to the next level but peoples situations change over time and it is best to not burn bridges and create as many contacts for yourself as possible.  A friend once told me “don’t burn bridges unless you’re a good swimmer.”

Rule #3) Don’t think sucking up to the coach will get you that much further.  In fact if you do have any success with this, it will only buy you temporary field time and even then you have to let your skills do the talking.  Others will weed you out and sooner or later if you’re trying to play on a better team in a better league you’ll have to make a change.  It’s just not worth getting involved in that ugly business.  You will come across players that take this approach so be aware that it exists and don’t get caught up in it.  

Rule #4) Build a contact list.  The most effective form of networking is building your contact list, also called your golden Rolex.  Starting early will give you a head start on the competition.  Get to know as many soccer players and coaches in your city and elsewhere.  You will be in a better position to network with more contacts.  One day you might need to call on them and they will know who you are what you have to offer.  It only takes one contact to open a door but it’s better to have several to potentially create more opportunities.  Remember, it may not be your contact that can open an opportunity but he/she may have other contacts of their own who might be able to help you.   

At the end of the day you have to look out for yourself so it is important to be professional about your behavior and work hard for the name on the front of your jersey.  Letting you skills do the work on the field will take you a lot further than getting involved in team politics.  Each year you want to be improving all parts of your game.  You want to be moving forward in your career, not backwards.  With effective networking you will greatly improve your chances of creating new opportunities.

What networking tips have you been successful with?

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