A few months ago, I talked to Shawn Beyer about US Soccer Talent Identification Scouts. CLICK HERE to read about what scouts do at games.
6 KEY QUALITIES OF GREAT SOCCER PLAYERS, according to US Soccer
A very important part of our interview was when Shawn listed the six key qualities that US Soccer looks for in players. Cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and speed are all necessary, of course. For soccer specifically, however, there are six key areas that any player can and should emphasize in his or her training. Keep reading to learn these qualities. If you want to become a better soccer player, these are the areas where you should concentrate your efforts. When you work on these six aspects of your game, your coaches will notice.
#1: GAME AWARENESS AND DECISION MAKING
Beyer explained, “The main thing we look at is game awareness and decision making. Are their eyes up when they receive the ball? Do they analyze the field for positions of players and spaces to exploit? Are they looking around before they get the ball? If they trap the ball and then they’re looking around, it’s too late. I pay attention to players that draw my attention in a good way. I’ll start looking at them when they have the ball and when they don’t have the ball. What they do during transition moments is also very important. The game is so fast at the international level. You have to be able to transition from defending to attacking in a split second, or the game has passed you.”
Beyer continued, “The next quality is initiative. Does the player show initiative? Are they trying to be the player that makes a difference in the game? When they make a mistake, do they fight to get the ball back?”
Beyer described the third quality: “A player with great focus plays to win, is composed in behavior, enhances the team by executing his tasks. This player listens to the coach, doesn’t get distracted by the sideline or nearby games, and keeps focus on the game and the field. This is important during games and training sessions.”
#4: TECHNICAL SKILL
Beyer explained the fourth quality: “Another key quality is technical skill. This must be at a high level.”
I asked, “How do you define ‘technical skill?’ Players and parents may not know these terms and may not understand what you mean when you say ‘technical skill.'”
Beyer answered, “That’s a good point. When we say ‘technical skill,’ we mean ability to be effective in all situations and to be creative under pressure. ‘Ball skills’ is rather vague. How are they with the ball at their feet? Dribbling. Speed. Changing direction with the ball. Finishing ability. Receiving the ball. Being able to weight the first touch, second touch, and passes in the right way for that specific situation.“
#5: PHYSICAL ABILITY
Beyer described, “Physical strength, or physical ability, is another key quality. We know that kids mature and hit puberty at different ages. This is why keeping reports over the years is so important. We can track these players as they move through their physical growth and how they handle it.”
Beyer listed the final quality: “Responsibility. Do they contribute to their own development? Does a player take it upon himself for their own growth?”
I asked, “How do you see that as a scout watching a player during a game?”
He answered, “It’s difficult, but there are clues. Let’s say the game stops for an injury and play stops. The coach may say, ‘OK guys, bring it in. Come closer so I can talk to you.’ One kid is stretching or not paying attention at all. Another player is, like, all ears & eyes on the coach. He’s obviously thinking, ‘The coach is giving us information right now that we can use to help us with our game and can help me be a better player.’ A lot more of this happens at Talent ID centers. These players train all day with coaches and scouts. When the day is over, I bring in each kid in for a meeting at the end of the day. Were they paying attention? Or were they not? Do they care enough about their own improvement to really listen to me? We also talk to coaches and find out which players take responsibility for their own development. Are they going out and getting extra touches on their own every day? Are they seeking out extra training sessions? Extra cardio work to improve fitness? A lot of that has to be self-motivated. That’s where responsibility comes in. Put in the effort to find or create the best training environment for yourself.“