Loved by football fans the world over Dennis Bergkamp was a gifted footballer in his day. Everybody talks about the need to practice to be great, but rarely is the focus of practice highlighted. How you practice is just as important as how often you practice. We came across this wonderful story recently.
One day while he was playing for Arsenal Robin Van Persie was sat in the gym Jacuzzi after training for Arsenal first team. There was loads of windows around the gym in the club to see out onto the training ground from where Van Persie was sat. Dennis Bergkamp was on the training ground at the time about to begin a training session, he was just on his way back from injury and was practicing alongside two youth team players and the fitness coach.
Bergkamp and the two youth team players are involved in a complicated practice that involves passing, receiving and finishing as Van Persie looks on from the Jacuzzi. Robin Van Persie decides that he will get out of the jacuzzi the minute Dennis Bergkamp makes a mistake. The following is Van Persie's own words as he recalls the day in question.
"It was a 45-minute session and there wasn't one pass that Dennis gave that wasn't perfect. He did everything 100%, to the max, shooting as hard as possible, controlling, playing, direct passing...That was so beautiful!. To me it was plainly art. My hands got all wrinkled in the bath, but I just sat there watching. I sat and watched and I waited, looking for one single mistake. The mistake never came, and that was the answer for me. Watching that training session answered so many questions I had. I can pass the ball well also, I'm a good player too, but this man did it so well and with such drive. He had such a total focus. I found myself thinking, OK wait a minute, I can play football well enough, but I've still got an enormous step to take to reach that level. That's when I realised that if I wanted to become really good I had to be able to do that too. From that moment on I started to do every exercise with total commitment. Every simple pass or kicking practice, I done everything at 100% just so I wouldn't make mistakes. When I made mistakes I was angry because I wanted to be like Bergkamp".
So there you have it, a brilliant message for all footballers taking their training for granted or not quite putting in the effort that they could be putting in. The best footballers practice like the best!
QUOTE CREDIT: Robin Van Persie interview for Arsenal TV