The heat of summer gives players two options: 1) stay in cooler places or 2) face the outside heat. A dilemma all players face, but few relish. At first glance, the benefits of staying cool outweigh the heat. But in the long run, the benefits of facing the heat far outweigh the cool. This decision separates the good from the great.
Summer is a time for individual improvement. I have seen this improvement in college teammates such as: John Stertzer, London Woodberry and Jordan Cyrus. Now, Sterter and Woodberry are professionals and Cyrus is a fixture in our starting XI at Maryland. They put their potential into performance through hard work during this college off-season.
Players spend this time sharpening their game. One particular area of focus is technique. This like any other improvement requires time. The time required can become challenging for players. Technique only improves through repetition. In other words, performing the same drills over and over again until we can do them in our sleep.
Some players lose interest and give up. Others have such a love for the game that they savor the repetition. Clearly, as a player you must embrace the grind in becoming the best player you can be. However, we can make technical training more dynamic and spontaneous by practicing not just the simple skills but the extravagant skills as well.
I have spent countless extra hours on the field by myself to improve my technique. I have spent the beginning of this summer training back home. Many days the New Orleans humidity has soaked my shirt full of sweat. But, my passion ignores anything from holding me back. I have been training basic techniques such as: shooting, passing and touch.
My favorite technique is shooting by far. As a goal-thirsty forward, I am drawn to practice shooting and volleying from impossible angles. I love the feeling of finishing from a difficult angle. I spend time shooting from positions other players would never even think about. I spend time training these shots to not be afraid to take the same shots in a game.
In particular, I constantly work on shooting from tight angles on my left foot. Low and hard far post, high and hard near post or through the goalie’s legs are all different shooting techniques I practice. I even work on flicking the ball up to myself to set up a volley. Being creative with out-of-the-box drills excites me during training sessions that can at times be repetitive. Creativity in training translates to magic in games. In particular as a forward, I must improvise quickly to score goals anywhere and anyway possible.
Two forwards exemplify the ability to think quickly on their feet. Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie are two of the most dynamic finishers in the game today. Their highlight reels are full of goals that make fans across the world wonder ‘how the heck did he do that’. They are two of the most innovative minds of the current soccer era. Their highlight videos below demonstrate this:
(Video courtesy of Adam Todes)
Van Persie scored 30 goals in his first season with Manchester United.
(Video courtesy of Javier Nathaniel)
Soccer is a simple game but difficult to master. The skills necessary take time to master. Players must sacrifice their time. But, this sacrifice should not be a chore. We should be excited to put in the work to improve as players. The work is not always fun, but we also must make time to work on the skills that make training exciting.
This strengthens our passion for the game. Along with, self-confidence to show our creativity in games when it matters most. I can’t say for certain how Henry or van Persie gained their fearless creativity. But, it stems from a belief that they can perform the unthinkable. A belief that we instill in ourselves through confidence gained from practice.
Don’t just go through the motions of the same drills session after session. Be bold. Be fearless and try the unthinkable. This attitude puts our potential into performance. One shot, one training session at a time.