Dear Young footballer,
(Ignore the praise and the criticism, focus on FUN): Football is fun, almost everyone begins playing for a team because they love playing this game. That love is the one consistent you have to have and keep, always, if it ever feels like something you have to do as apposed to something you want to do then you are most likely in the wrong place. Don't be pressured by parents, you're just a kid and this is just a game. After matches when you sit in the car for the long journey home, go walking home with your parents/family or whatever means you have to travel, those are the times to try and ignore the match reviews, whether it's praise or criticism, none of this matters and none of it will make a difference. In twenty years time you won't remember one single kick from almost all of your games as a kid so don't dwell on mistakes and never find comfort in success. It's about enjoying yourself, learning and moving forwards to the next one. (Continued below)
(PRACTICE is Key): Most people realise how much they would have loved make a career from this game when it's too late to do the things that align with that ambition. If you ask most footballers or coaches who didn't fulfil their ambitions to speak about the things they regret most, almost all of them will tell you about their focus, time and commitment. Time is everything, focus and commitment are what use it best, the hours you spend now on street corners, playing computer games, messing around with phone's, iPads.....it's the time things like these take up that you will regret the most. Practice is key, most people realise this when it's too late. Kids who say they want to become a footballer and make a career from this game should reflect that ambition in their own time (continued below)
(Play the game not the name): Reputations hold so many kids back, don't be the kid who hears about how good this or that player is and then freezes come match-day as you face up to them, afraid to express yourself against these so called better players. Some kids they speak about as superstars now will end up working in normal jobs in the future and playing at levels that suit their desire to socialise with drinks and nights out, the real talent is in consistency!. Don't be the kid who goes into his shell because you hear the team you are playing next are excellent and beating teams for fun. The so called superstars are just kids like you and the so called super star teams are just made up of kids like you and your teammates. Doubt is natural, doubt comes when you start hearing about reputations and stories that cause you to be fearful, doubt comes through intimidation. Doubt is a choice though, and doubt most important of all is something you can eliminate. Train hard, practice often and belief will come, train harder, practice more often and doubt will fade. Doubt only exists where people leave room for it to exist. Your preparation and work will keep doubt at bay! (Continued below).
(Believe in the process): As you grow older you'll witness people getting things you dream of, trials at clubs, contracts at clubs, international caps. Don't lose faith, never allow your commitment to waver, if you want this badly enough then health and injury permitting, eventually opportunity will knock. No matter how wrong it may seem or how right it is take in all information around you, you decide what's good or what's bad. The things that stick in your head, things you have put to use and proven to work, add them and remember them. The things that don't stick in your head and seem silly, things you have put to use and can't find a use for, note why they didn't work and remember always the reasons why. In later years this understanding of the game you are developing by doing these things will help to mould the player you become or the player you become capable of being.
Above all else try to learn from the mistakes and regrets of others as early as you can, that knowledge and information is golden, it's priceless. The next time you pass by a coach and you hear him or her say things like "if only I could turn back time and know what I know now things would have turned out different for me".....EVERY SINGLE TIME you hear something along those lines take a moment to STOP and ask why, sit and listen carefully. It's the advice and information those people/coaches have to offer that can help shape your future before time gives you no choice and shapes it for you.