Identifying Talent - How and When?

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by UglyParent, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. UglyParent

    UglyParent New Member

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    New York Red Bulls
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    United States
    I am curious - if you have a child who is "good" at soccer - you have to define "good" for yourself - how and when was it determined that s/he was good? How old was s/he? What was it that made is apparent? Did anyone else comment on it? And where does s/he play now - travel, rec, club, academy, etc. Thanks in advance.


  2. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    Surprised no one has responded to this.

    It's almost always a comparative: Child X is better than most of his/her peers by virtue of being able to move faster, dribble around them, and shoot harder/further. This can happen as early as 6-9 years old. Even earlier.

    As a coach, I've had players who were average (not standing out from the pack) at 7/8/9 and by age 11 they've caught up with the early front runners.

    Around here nearly all the good young players at 8 or 9 are scooped up by the Clubs/Academies (same thing here). The not-so precocious muddle about in travel program and rarely elevate their game so they can go onto the club/academy. That's an issue of coaching, IMO. I've found a couple of kids in each age group with the "raw material" in the rec program but it's really not challenging enough so they are not pushed to improve.
  3. UofIneedssoccer

    UofIneedssoccer Member

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    He was picked at 11 when he played with a rec club and was asked to play with one of the bigger clubs in the area . He is now plays academy and has started every games since joining. He has always been on the smaller side so he has been very lucky with the coaches that have coached him along the way.
  4. SheHateMe

    SheHateMe Member

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    There's always someone better, so it all depends what you or the player wants to get out of the sport. If you see a player dominate against lesser competition and compete well against top notch competition, then you've got a good player there that can hopefully improve over time. I've also seen many kids who were stars at 10 or 11 who by the time they got through puberty had no technical or tactical ability any more, whether from growth, knee problems, playing other sports in the off season or what ever. The truly creative player who can still handle the physical aspect of the game after puberty seems few and far between, even on the DA teams that I've seen.


  5. Counterattack23

    Counterattack23 Member

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    Interesting...I had assumed that technical/tactical ability are the things that puberty does not impact much unlike physical characteristics (size, quickness, strength, etc.). I have seen quotes from a number of coaches that say technical ability really needs to be solidified in the 6-13 age range. Are you saying that there are a number of technically strong 10-11 year olds who are no longer technically strong by the time they get through puberty? As far as tactics are concerned, how does puberty impact tactical ability?
  6. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    You're not really allowed to have a talented child on this board or at least speak of it. However, my 12 year old son is labeled exceptional for his age by his MLS club and if he continues on his current trajectory they see him as one of their homegrown talent (he has greater ambitions than that). He plays on the U13 first team as their starting central midfielder and is their playmaker. He has been with the club since he was 10, and has always been selected for their free 'elite' player training center. He has attended a regional USSF Training Center and is about to try his luck with ODP this weekend. He is probably the most technically proficient player of his age in our state. Next year he will likely be on his club's first U13/14 Developmental Academy team. He got this way through putting in the hours of technical training as a U6 onwards with highly competent qualified coaches and trainers, so by the time he reached U11 competitive try-outs he was way ahead of other kids in terms of technical skills. He is not a special athlete, though he is an athletic kid of above average height, but he was well trained during the important skill acquiring years and has a high soccer IQ. It is up to him to continue to put in the work, and to have the emotional fortitude and the drive to succeed in a highly competitive sport.
  7. UglyParent

    UglyParent New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies.
    Mirzam - what was your son like when he was 4, 5 and 6? Did he simply have the drive and hard work or was there a special spark about him even at that age? And if so, what was it?
  8. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    As a two year old he was noticeably more coordinated than his playgroup peers. As a five year old, he attended a sports camp and one of the coaches told me she expected to see him on the US MNT one day. He started soccer training in an academy type program at 5.5 and it was obvious he was 'better' than the other kids of the same age, so yes, there was a "spark" but he was also driven with a love of the game. By six years old he was training three times a week with the academy because he wanted to.
  9. ChapacoSoccer

    ChapacoSoccer Member

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    Los Angeles Galaxy
    Mirzam's kid is really perfect story of the feedback loops that lead to excellence. A kid is somewhat better than his peers and gets lots of positive feedback from parent's and coaches. Then that positive feedback leads to confidence and desire to practice more, which leads to achievement and more positive feedback, and so on. Pretty soon that kid looks miles better than a kid who might not have been much inferior in pure talent.
    I think it illustrates the neccesity of a spark and some inborn talent- but also getting your kid into a place where they will get positive feedback when they do achieve.
    CplDaniel repped this.
  10. rhrh

    rhrh Member

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    Mirzam's kid is not my kid LOL, my kid was comfortable kicking around a soccer ball at age one, granted, but even by age 8 he showed fair to middling interest in actually playing soccer, picking grass or those black turf pieces off the ground while players moved around him. Inborn talent was definitely there though, we were surprised that when he started playing club soccer a year later at 9, even at a low level, he suddenly started to do well versus all opponents and wanted to work on things like his weak foot.

    I would say one turning point in our minds was when his U12 team was misflighted into a high group, and he scored against the No. 3 team in the country on a volley. Regarding ups and downs, despite playing a significant role in getting his team to beat the previous year's state cup champ that fall as well as scoring key goals as a sub, he was mostly sat during his U13 season and cut right before U14. Interestingly, the coaches talked to him and me when he was cut (way after tryout season, mind you, so we had to scramble to find a team), they were telling him how good a player he was but they had "no room for him".

    As a sophomore on JV, he scores 50% of his goals with each foot (when not using his head) and leads in goals by a smidge and in points by a lot because he gets most of the assists. His club coach says that it doesn't matter if you play JV or varsity, as long as you play. HS recognition is nice but not necessary according to the recruiting seminars we've attended. We see the JV/varsity dynamic as the classic A team/B team dynamic, where the B team coach doesn't want his best players to go to varsity.

    When did he start getting recognition? Probably around 11, but it was up and down until this year. He got picked for ODP at 11, 13, and 14, but didn't make the final cut earlier this year at 15. He is ranked by Topdrawersoccer, and there are ten players ranked above him in our state - most are academy and he is not. His goal is to get an extra "star" in his Topdrawersoccer ranking, but we are waiting to hear which tournaments his club team will be targeting.

    If the club team doesn't target tournaments with enough "four and five star" players (there is only one five-star player in our state in the 2015 graduation year, and that player is academy "of course"), he will attend a lot of college combines and camps as his club does not allow its players to guest.

    So the much shorter answer to "How" is either by your child being recognized and promoted by a coach (only possible at academies or ECNL clubs realistically) or you get your child to ODP when they are youngish and college camps when they are older. The "When" can vary, but a kid who has not been seen and recognized by anyone outside the club by HS (14, 15) will have a more difficult time. If that latter description fits your child, I suggest you start taking your child to college combines and camps as soon as possible, to get a better gauge on where they are compared to other players interested in college.

    I don't feel that ability or interest at the youngest ages is any kind of indicator of future ability and interest. "Little Messi"s sometimes get frustrated, and cases like Mirzam's son get much more publicity than cases like my son.

    Another note - as a parent, look for not only goals scored and assists, but 1 v. 1. How many times is it your child who comes out of the pack with the ball? How many times does your child have one opponent on them and gets the ball stripped? How do those ratios compare to his or her teammates? How do those abilities compare to the best in the state?

    PS on Mirzam's kid - I know the exact same story for a 2015 in my state, and unfortunately the outcome was not the same - this boy quit soccer at 13 after "making it" to the best club in our state (top five club in the US). At age 10, you could not peel a soccer ball away from his feet, his father complained that his son was ruining the house and the back wall outside practicing. His father spent a lot of time shopping the boy around. We felt that for that boy, the fact that somehow, in the coach's mind, he "wasn't ready" was too much for his psyche, and he flat out quit soccer.

    (As for "not being allowed to have a talented child" - I find it funny that certain clubs have decided that they have a monopoly on marketing players. I have not mentioned his name, if someone knows him they might recognize his story. We have tried our best to get him to play in front of college and academy scouts. I just want the boy to be happy, and currently he is happy and proud of getting some recognition after a bumpy road; or perhaps, a bumpy bench....
  11. mdc00

    mdc00 Member

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    New England Revolution
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    My son started playing soccer in a rec program when he was in kindergarten, simply for something to do. He entered his first game for the first time after the other team had scored. He took the kick-off, went straight down the field and scored within about five seconds. In the next game, his team won 5-4, and he had all five goals. By the end of the season, he had scored 35 of the 38 goals for his team. (I stopped counting after that.)

    So it wasn't hard to tell that something was going on here. It was obvious to everyone. We enrolled him in some programs in a small club nearby, and after we became dissatisfied with the hit-or-miss quality of those programs, we signed him up to play for one of the largest clubs in our area, beginning with his U8 year.

    I'd say the thing that set him apart back when he was a kindergartener, more than anything else, was that he saw what he wanted to do and did things to make it happen. I remember him slide tackling a kid while he was in kindergarten. I didn't teach him to do that (which, BTW, as the league rules stated in boldface, was illegal). He came up with that on his own. Similarly, when the kids in one of his games would get into one of those bunches kicking away at the ball, he would stand on the periphery, waiting for the ball to come out. Then he would take it and do what he wanted with it. I didn't tell him to do that--he figured it out for himself.

    He's playing at a new club this year, as the club where he spent the last four years developed some issues over time. He's a playmaking CM, like Mirzam's kid (although he's a year younger), who wants to become Xavi, and when I think about how he played when he was tiny, that makes sense.
  12. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    I wanted to pop back and tell you about some advice we were given concerning our son when he was a U10 and was being courted by several clubs in the area. The DOC of his then club told us not to sweat this stuff too much. If a kid is really good he will stand out regardless of where he is; he could play in the Amazon jungle for a couple of years and it wouldn't make a difference. I was reminded of this while watching ODP try-outs this weekend. Ugh!
  13. UglyParent

    UglyParent New Member

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    New York Red Bulls
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    Thanks for all the replies - I really appreciate it and wish all the best of luck to you and your children.

    My kids are young - embarrassingly young to be honest. My daughter is 7 and has played in rec and/or clinics offered by a local academy team since she was 4. She went to a week long camp this summer and the trainer commented on her foot skills as did the new trainer at the academy team facility. But during the games she backs off and is timid. She has moments of brilliance leading us to think she is turning a corner but then she regresses a bit. My dd is good as gold and unaggressive in all areas of life, a true sweet heart. And she is very interested in dance which she does up to 10 hours a week. We're not quite ready to give up on soccer though and wonder if it will ever click for her.

    And then there is my son who is nearly 5. He is not at all timid but not as aggressive as many of the other boys who seem to relish pushing other players. He loves soccer and laughs his ass off during training and games and he already understands the basic games rules. You'll never see him picking up the ball, stealing from a team mate or playing outside the bounds. His strengths are that he dribbles really well, keeping the ball close to him and is really good at turning the ball and will go in circles and backward to evade other players. My ds is in a clinic with dd with kids aged 5 to 12 and he has a far better touch on the ball than 80% of the kids there even though he is the youngest. This includes trapping the ball, dribbling and passing the ball accurately.

    So I call our screen name Ugly Parent because it feels rather douchey to be talking about our very young children this way. Heaven knows I know so much can change. My dd can decide to fully devote herself to dance and never kick a ball again. My ds can decide that baseball is more interesting and pursue that. And that is (I guess) ok with us.
  14. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    My point that seems to have been missed is that while you have kids like Mirzams that lead the pack throughout, it's hard to predict if what we see is "the real thing" and that it will be sustained into the teen years or adulthood. It goes both ways for the kids that "have it" and the kids that don't.
  15. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    It is the same here too and I would it is generally think it is the case everywhere. This was exactly what I saw at ODP try-outs this past weekend. The kids really had not progressed in their knowledge of the game from nine year olds, some were better ball handlers and they were obviously bigger, faster and stronger, and they obviously had been taught tactics, but they still didn't have any grasp of the nuances of the game. It was depressing!


    Again, I agree with you. Many kids that were good when DS was younger, haven't amounted to much, they just have not progressed in all aspects of the game. Then there is a few boys that started late or slow who is really beginning to come on.

    This was an important point, and I am sorry I missed it the first time around. And I agree with you, it is coaching. After the first ODP try-out session one of the coaches asked DS who his coach was, which was a silly question really, because he has only been training DS's team for half a season, he should have asked who all his coaches were throughout the years to understand how it got to the point he has in his soccer education.
  16. Counterattack23

    Counterattack23 Member

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    Mirzam...How do you think your kid developed his high soccer IQ? At what age did you start to see he had a better understanding of the game then his peers?
  17. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    As an 8 year old he started training with a couple of coaches that offered free* pick-up soccer small sided game only practices (one of the coaches was in his late sixties and played professionally in Eastern Europe). They played with the kids and emphasized possession above all, he learnt how to make runs, how to assess the field and make good decisions and he learned how to pace and control the game from these guys. He didn't even realize he was learning this because it was so much fun. The interesting thing is not all boys who took part in these sessions were able to learn in the way my DS did. By the time he was a U10 and several clubs were taking an interest in him it was self-evident he had a superior understanding of the game than the other boys his age. Also starting at eight or nine, he attended some camps with a coach from Argentina who spent some of the time with the kids analyzing the play of top players, Messi etc. I think because my son loves the game so much, he is a sponge for all this information and just soaks it all up.

    ETA: * We did pay $10 as session when they went inside during the winter. They used an indoor fustal place.
  18. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    Mirzam, outside of soccer, what did your kid do? Was he athletic? Did he play other sports (basketball, football) even if soccer was his primary?
  19. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    He is an athletic kid. I think he could have excelled at any sport, but soccer was always his "love". He plays other sports only at recess. Once he discovered soccer, that was it for him. He also has a hard time allowing himself to 'suck' at anything which is why he won't play rec basketball or baseball in the off season - I doubt he would suck, but he has to excel. He tried his hand at cricket in England last year, and even though he had never played the game before, he was able to pick up how to bowl, and bat within one session. He could also throw and catch the ball better than the other boys. But that is probably down to the hours of catching and throwing balls in the playground. He did sport climbing for a while when it didn't conflict with soccer practice, which he loved and did well at.
  20. ChapacoSoccer

    ChapacoSoccer Member

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    Fascinating on the SSG practice that developed his soccer IQ, I think that's really rare. Most of the time the extra training I have been able to find is all repetitive drills sessions-which don't convince me at all besides being super boring for young-uns. I guess we need more coaches who are willing to run around and actually play in the games with the kids.
  21. Mirzam

    Mirzam Member

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    I am beginning to realize that we had a great deal of luck wrt DS's development. It wasn't that we knew a heck of a lot about how to develop a young kid and had a plan for him. We happened to live in an town that had soccer facilities and coaches that knew what they were doing and a kid that wanted to do it.
  22. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    I like hearing stories like this. Doesn't happen often enough in my opinion and I wish it wasn't so serendipitous.
  23. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    In my next incarnation I want to try my hand at U5-U6. I'm curious about the effectiveness of repetitive drills with really young kids. I know 7s and 8s can handle it but it also can't be the majority of their training.

    From what I've discovered though is that there isn't one right way to teach all kids, obviously. A segment responds really well to repetitive drills and others work much better with a SSG format and others a mixture of both. Maybe the "trick" is for clubs to offer one of each learning style instead of dividing teams by "ability".
  24. soccermom79

    soccermom79 Member

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    My question for those of you with older kids is, if you're kid is "good"(as defined in all the ways described in this thread), what, if anything, do you do as a parent? My kid is 7. And I won't go into all the boring details, but everyone who watches him play(coaches, refs, other parents, etc) comment on his abilities. He plays club, plays at recess everyday, and wakes me up in the morning kicking the ball against the wall. If you had a kid like that, that is now older, is there anything you did that you think worked out well? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently? I'm not naive, and completely understand that chances are he won't be the next Messi. But, he loves the game, and I want to give him the best I can. So would love to hear the advice of people who have gone before me. Thanks!
  25. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    what is "older"?

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