Mastery is the never-ending quest to be better than what you are today.
For the young athlete mastery is born from a desire to learn and improve. Hunger for progression is what inspires an individual to put in the hours needed to grow a base of technical capability.
There is no one pathway to achieve mastery, but to become exceptional that technical foundation has to be built. From a football perspective that means a player has to spend time with a ball.
While football is a sport that requires several attributes to be successful there is no getting away from the fact that to be good at the game a player needs to be comfortable on the ball and use it effectively.
Tactics, game intelligence, athleticism, mental toughness are key factors but at the core of the game is a player’s relationship with the ball.
There is no doubt that many athletes have enjoyed successful professional careers while not necessarily being the most skillful players. But, in the modern day, these players seem to be less common, certainly at the top level.
Top Flight Football Academy focuses on developing a player’s connection with the ball. Because without that technical backbone a player is facing a long road to maximise their potential.
It is important young players, and their parents, recognise that there is more than one way to learn technical skills. Perhaps what matters most is the desire to constantly improve.
A great example of mindset is Kane Williamson, the new Blackcaps captain and quite possibly this country’s best ever batsmen.
Williamson was a talented point guard for the senior basketball team at Tauranga Boys High School, enjoyed football growing up and also played one season of rugby as a first-five eighth who could kick off both feet. A concussion at the end of his first season of rugby ended his rugby days.
For each of those sports Kane would practice hard in a quest to get as close to technical perfection as he could.
“Kane was always very, very focused,” according to his mother. “He always wanted to perfect whatever he was doing no matter what sport he was playing.”
Be it 10 baskets in a row, 10 penalty kicks or practicing in the family garage hitting a cricket ball from all angles into a stocking for hours on end, Williamson was laying the foundation for technical excellence.
This immersion has propelled Williamson to be a cricketing sensation. However it is possible that his training approach would have made him exceptional regardless of the activity that he chose. New Zealand Cricket is lucky that he chose cricket.
Entrepreneurial Approach to Training
The example of hitting a cricket ball into a stocking is a wonderful example of unstructured play.
Young athletes need to come up with their own ways of getting better. Academy and club trainings are, by their nature, somewhat directive given athletes are only exposed to coaches for a relatively short period of time.
By taking general direction from the coach and being innovative in regards to play an individual can come up with their own way of learning.
Thinking up mini-games, targets or challenges help to game-ify training and makes practice fun.
Coming up with solutions to improve is a very powerful way to remain engaged in an activity. This is gold for the athlete that wants to widen the technical base because coming up with your own answers also builds confidence.
Building this confidence starts with a focus on working with the ball at Top Flight Football Academy training sessions. The athlete who demonstrates the Kane Williamson mindset – set targets and works at his or her game -accelerates confidence growth.
We urge all our young players to learn from Kane Williamson and be the best that they can be.
www.stuff.co.nz – How Black Caps master blaster Kane Williamson finds the right balance, Peter Thornton 22/11/15
Finding Mastery: Conversations with Michael Gervais podcast (Kai Kight interview)
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