At Jobs In Football we tend to stay away from advertising playing opportunities, however despite this we do get a significant number of promising young players approaching us for exactly that and if there's one thing we hate, it's to disappoint! Whilst we won't be Football Agents any time soon, we can certainly help when it comes to giving tips about improving Football Players.
So to avoid turning away any more hopeful young footballers empty handed, we've drawn up a short guide with a few key tips to help you improve your football skills and technique, and to make sure you reach your potential and improve every day.
Possibly the most fundamental technique is your first touch and ball control, it is crucial no matter which position you play. You're ability to receive the ball and distribute in the most effective manner possible (ideally with both feet) is key to your success in the game.
Futsal or 5-a-side games are a great way to work on this initially, as with these small sided football games you'll get plenty touches of the ball and the limited space means you have to make sure that your touch and ball control are on point to avoid losing the ball immediately.
Once you've made you're way up to 11-a-side, depending on the tactics your team play you could be getting 50 yarders pinged at you every 10 minutes, and you'll be expected to bring the ball under control whether it be with you right foot, left foot, chest or any other body part you can control it with (just don't use your hand...).
A technique that is much more difficult to quantify and train, this is a skill that you'll build by playing regular, competitive Football matches with and against quality players.
Again this is a skill you'll need to nurture and develop regardless of which position you play, and yes, if you're a goalkeeper that counts for you too. Manchester City Goalkeeper Ederson, for example, adds enormous value to his team not only through his shot-stopping and ability as a traditional Goalkeeper, but because his ball control and passing skills allow him to effectively act as an 11th outfield player, he can contribute to goals for his team rather than just stop goals for the opposition.
Whilst it sounds like the most simple of skills, the art of passing effectively is something that most people won't appreciate, with a number of components:
Running with the ball at speed will again benefit your game regardless of your position or what type of player you are. Here are 5 simple drills you can do to improve your dribbling skills:
Considering the average time any 1 player has the ball through a 90 minute game is somewhere in the region of 60-90 seconds, it's critical to your success in the game that you understand your responsibilities and what's expected of you when you 're out of possession. Additionally, your positioning is crucial to the overall formation and strategy of the team, so to be a strong team player this is a skill you must develop.
In many modern day footballers, it seems to be getting harder and harder to tell which is their weaker foot, and there's a very good reason for that.
Having full confidence and control of the ball with both feet will significantly expand your overall ability as a footballer, giving you better balance, allowing you to play all over the pitch and generally making you more unpredictable and difficult to play against. How many times have we seen players in a perfect position to score only to cut inside to their preferred foot and ultimately miss the opportunity, all because they didn't have the confidence/ability to shoot with their weaker foot.
There's no getting away from it you will need to practice, practice and then practice some more. You will need to practice and train on things that are out of your comfort zone- working on your weaker foot, building your leg strength, repeating the same drill hundreds of times over until it becomes second nature - this is what separates professional football players from regular people, and this level of application is required almost every day. As much as we'd like to focus entirely on our dribbling skills, this will only bring us so far.
As much and as often as you can, whether on the training field or in your back garden perfecting a trick, try and improve your skills every day. To quantify this into a timescale you can do some reading on Malcolm Gladwells "Outliers: The Story of Success", which suggests that to achieve expertise in a field, subject or skill requires up to 10,000 hours of practice. Talent and ability will no doubt help, but there's no hidden secret or trick - you will need to put in the time and effort if you wish to achieve your potential.
When we look at some of the world's best players there are always some common traits that tie them together. If we take Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane for example, whilst they're obviously enormously talented individuals we always seem to hear them referred to as a "model professional" or that they're the "first one on the training ground and last one to leave". This comes entirely from their burning desire to be the best they possibly can be and make no mistake, without a strong mindset there is no way these players would have found the success in the game that they have.
You'll need to workout and exercise your mind as much as your body, so where to start? Reading is a good place to start, to get you into it try reading Dan Abraham's free Soccer Psychology e-book - as an advisor to some of the top players, coaches and teams you'll not fail to learn something new. Outside of Football, something we often recommend is Carole Dwecks "Mindset", which outlines the growth mindset that typifies so many high performing individuals, and is no doubt a key attribute of an elite footballer.
It may sound obvious, but to improve as a Footballer you must make sure to play regular football matches, and playing at the most competitive level you can is key. Playing and getting game time with high quality teammates, against high quality opponents will make you a better player and add elements to your game that training and practicing alone will not provide.
Competition is what drives us and forces us to improve, without it we can become complacent and risk becoming satisfied with our current position - a disastrous outcome for any footballers or athletes looking to reach their full potential. Once you find yourself a team, you can harness this challenge of competition on a daily basis, and you and your team mates can drive yourselves to the next level.
Make sure to get yourself a good quality pair of football boots that are comfortable, fit your budget and style of play, and are suitable for the surfaces you'll be playing on.
We can't all be Cristiano Ronaldo, but what we can be is the best version of ourselves. With the wonders of modern day technology and the level of access to professional Football players that we now have, we can now see and learn how they train, eat, practice and even sleep!
With leading practitioners from all aspects of player development overviewing their progress - from coaching, nutrition, sports science, strength & conditioning - they represent the apex of the game and generally speaking, conduct themselves as such.
Where do you find this information? Google! Type in "Messi diet" for example and you'll get a huge selection of articles outlining Messi's entire approach to nutrition - in some cases from his own personal nutritionist! Or, if you want to take a deeper look into how the leading professionals train, one of the best books we've read recently is the below, by James Witts.
To be a professional player it goes without saying that your fitness levels and conditioning is of tremendous importance. Gone are the days of celebrating every win with a night out at the pub, or regularly hearing of elite players smoking 40 a day - Croatian legend and former Real Madrid and Barcelona star, Robert Prosenecki, allegedly used his half-time break to light up and smoke a couple of cigarettes...
In today's game, every aspect of each players conditioning and fitness is planned and monitored almost every day, and using player tracking technology like Catapult's "Player Tek" or Exelio SRL's "gpexe" systems they can see precisely what distance each player has ran, how many times they've sprinted, energy used and a whole suite of datasets that up until several years ago were near science-fiction. So any drop in standards will be pinpointed almost immediately.
If we look at some of the worlds best coaches like Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa, whose game relies heavily on intense pressing, rapid counter attack and high energy over the pitch for 90 minutes, nothing other than absolute peak fitness will suffice.
How does Bielsa get his Leeds United players (or previously, Athletic Bilbao) in such shape? Do some reading on his infamous "Murderball" sessions to get an idea of the level of expectation placed on his teams. As mentioned earlier, you will need to come out of your comfort zone if you want to improve your game and reach anywhere near these levels of physical fitness, and Murderball is a perfect example of that. It's no coincidence that Leeds United stormed to Championship success and are now making a name for themselves in the Premier League.
Think you're off the hook because you're a Goalkeeper? Think again! To attain the agility and reflexes of the modern day Goalkeeper your conditioning and fitness has to be every bit as sharp as your outfield teammates. They may train and workout differently but the sessions are every bit as intense.
Also, making sure you get plenty of rest is essential as the more training you do the more recovery time you will need, and to make progress/avoid injury, recovery is crucial to maintaining your body and ongoing success.
So we've covered the need for training, practice and peak physical fitness, but to help us achieve our maximum potential on these 3 fronts we need to optimise our diet and nutrition.
Unlike the professionals, most of us will not have access to a team of sports scientists or dedicated nutritionists to plan and monitor what we eat and when. It is a vast subject that expands and changes on an annual basis, with new fads and diets sweeping the internet almost constantly. However, we don't need a 4 year degree to get the fundamentals right, or to know that eating takeaways on a daily basis is not going to benefit your game regardless of how much training and exercise you do.
This intro to nutrition from FIFA will give you a good foundation, then as you progress you can build on that knowledge and learn what works for you and your body. For further reading, try something like Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That Is Revolutionizing Sports.
Here's a nice easy tip - watch lots of Football! The Premier League, Championship, La Liga, Scottish Premiership, Champions League and Europa League for example are so accessible nowadays that you can literally watch every second of every game if you so wish. Study the players in your position intently, follow their movement and positioning and try to understand their decision making process.
Get to grips with the role of the Football Analyst and try to understand what they look for from a player, from there you can try to fill gaps in your own game. Outlets such as Total Football Analysis will provide you with as much material as you need relating to player and tactical analysis that will help you develop a strong understanding of the game.
On a similar note, learn the role of the Football coach. Speak to your coach and understand the concepts and reasoning behind their strategy. Any good coach will be more than happy to explain their methodologies and approach to you as at the end of the day it's in their best interest that you understand.
Again, there are now a huge selection of resources that will allow you to build up your knowledge and understand the coaches perspective - one way is to check out our list of 6 Great Online Resources for Football Coaches including the likes of CV Academy, which gives you access to some of the leading minds in Football (such as Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, Aitor Karanka etc ) along with the training sessions, skills and techniques that they implement with their teams.
It's easy to set goals, but if you want to achieve these goals the trick is to make them SMART:
Specific -Be well defined and clear
Measurable - Allow you to measure and track your performance against the goal
Attainable - Be realistic and attainable, otherwise you will only damage your motivation
Relevant - Be relevant to your to your overall aim
Timely - set time limits
For example: "I want to improve my 50m sprint by 5% within a 3 month time period".
Notice it is specific in terms of both distance and time. It is measurable as you can time yourself, record progress and easily calculate the improvement. It is attainable - 20% would have been nearly impossible for this distance in such a short time period. It is relevant to your overall goal of improving as player - acceleration and speed will always benefit you. It is also timely as you have specified the 3 month limit.
If you regularly create SMART goals and strive to achieve them - you will improve your entire game over time.
Luckily, there seem to be more and more online resources dedicated to helping player development. Train Effective for one is a fantastic platform that includes a substantial exercise and session database for footballers (with over 150 exercises), a tracker that allows you to build a training schedule and measure your progress, as well as a tactics app to help your decision making skills.
Here are a few other recommendations to help with the skills mentioned through the article:
Best Overall: Train Effective
Best for Mindset: Dan Abrahams has a free Soccer Psychology book that can get you started, then there's the likes of Carole Dweck's Mindset
Best to improve my Coaching Knowledge: CV Academy
All of the skills and qualities listed above! Of course there are many others but to summarise, elite footballers will need: