Great Tips that Competitive Football Youths can use
Whether an aspiring top flight footballer or an enthusiastic weekend player, every young footballer is keen to improve their skills. With the UK International Cup 2020 featuring 100 teams vying for victory, the youth game has never been more competitive. Here are some tips for both off and on the pitch to help sharpen up your performance.
Train Hard – but don’t overdo It
If you’re serious about getting better then basic physical conditioning is a key area to work on. This is broadly in two areas: cardiovascular endurance, and strength. Although your average football match is 90 minutes, they can be longer due to injury and extra time. But there’s more to it than that.
Strength training is a bit different, as this is about not getting muscled off the ball. It’s useful less often than aerobic fitness, but still important. Even going back to Roman legions, men trained with heavier weapons than their actual swords, so that they’d be better prepared for prolonged battles. And if they knew that two thousand years ago, there’s no excuse for not knowing the advantages of training hard today.
There is one major caveat I’d urge you to take seriously: don’t train too much. If you do this, you risk injuring yourself. When you’re injured, you can’t play and even your training will be severely curtailed, so you’ll go backwards instead of forwards. Don’t let macho nonsense drive you too hard, because it’ll just set you back.
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It’s sometimes said, the strongest muscle in the human body is the heart. Football results can sometimes go a surprising way, and mental strength, whether that’s dealing with a match that’s turning out to be more difficult than expected or with a result that was against you, is important. A great man once wrote: how much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes?
If you’re dwelling on a dodgy refereeing decision, or when you feel you let the team down (or vice versa) your head isn’t where it should be. Focus on the things that are within your power to change, and work hard on improving them. Whether that means letting go of a past result, whilst still learning the lessons from it, or being patient getting back from injury and not rushing things (and making matters worse), a cool head will help you a lot, both on and off the pitch.
You can’t play if you’ve got a red card, or if you keep injuring yourself.
Be Age Aware
From small children to young adults, the youth game covers a wide range. Be aware of what’s appropriate for your age group so you don’t end up overdoing things, or aiming so high you’re going to fail and end up frustrated. The Scottish FA has put together a youth player pathway, which is a fancy way of saying it’s provided some advice for the various age groups, for both boys and girls.
For a sport whose greats include Cristiano Ronaldo, this might seem a counter-intuitive point. But as pro Neill Collins advises (specifically when going for a trial, but it applies more broadly), humility is a good thing.
Forget football for a moment and think about a normal job. You’re hiring a secretary. Two candidates come in. Same experience and skill level, nothing to differentiate them. Except that one’s arrogant, and one’s respectful and humble. Who’s going to annoy the office more? Who’s going to create more of a workload, smoothing ruffled feathers? A harmonious office, like a happy dressing room, is a lot less work than one full of egos and bust ups.
You’re going to have setbacks, sooner or later. Nobody goes through football without making the odd mistake, or suffering injury. What matters is that you learn from errors, and keep going. Grit and determination can carry you a long way. It can be the difference between chasing down a late equaliser or just feeling too tired to put in enough effort. Just remember that results last a lot longer than the effort required to get them. A match is 90 minutes. But that winning feeling will stick around for a lot longer.
Be there for your team mates, and if they make a small mistake, don’t go ballistic. You’ll make mistakes too sooner or later, and having someone scream at you isn’t going to make you feel any better.
You should show respect to the officials (even if you don’t feel it). If a decision’s 50/50 and you’ve rubbed the ref up the wrong way, that could alter the way the decision goes.
When you lose the ball, chase it back straight away. Even if you don’t win it back, you’ll keep the pressure on your opponent and stop him having time to think.
There’s plenty of competition in youth football, and a lot of emerging talent in Scotland. Great for spectators, and a stern test for younger players aiming to rise through the ranks. Just remember to try and have fun at the same time. Everything’s easier when you’re enjoying it.