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Alternate Ways for Players Development

One of the many reasons behind soccer’s popularity is the high level of excitement found in televised games from Europe and South America where the attainment of victory promotes continual development in the sport. If we in the US would like to partake in these loud successes, then we too need to learn the process of how to turn a talented player into a professional player. It is known in the countries belonging to the elite of soccer that it is not enough to be born a talented player in order to become a professional in the sport. There are a number of developmental prerequisites that must be met. Meeting these developmental needs requires financial backing, extended periods of training, and a high level of qualification and knowledge.

Slowly, the development of soccer players is becoming an “intellectual industry” since it requires that a high degree of knowledge be transferred not only into the feet, body, and mind of the players, but “hearts” as well. Due to these necessities, we must pay a greater degree of attention to the learning process as well as work to improve the results and efficiency of this learning.

Highly trained professionals must play a large role in training beginning with the youngest age groups. Players need to learn not only the “who, what, when, and where,” but also how—a critical and oft-forgotten part of soccer development.

We can be sure that the development of soccer will not come to a halt since winning gives every professional player and their club increasing social and monetary compensation. To attain these end results, there is a need for specific skills which can only be acquired under quality supervision and over a long period of time.

There are a number of very talented players born in the USA every year who have the capacity to transform the US into a dominant soccer playing nation, and to allow us to evenly compete with the elite of the sport. If we are in fact serious and determined to create professional players out of the talent at hand, it is imperative that from the very earliest stage these players are placed in a protected environment and all of their needs are constantly provided under a program of intensive development. These needs, and our increased expectations, are only possible under the aegis of a soccer school–in our case the Laurenao Ruiz Soccer Academy.

This academy, however, cannot be an academy in name only, but in practice as well. It must provide the highest possible level of professionalism through a professional staff that would differentiate it from all other such entities. Our academy will function on two tiers: creating soccer players out of all those who love the game; and helping players created by the academy graduate into the elite level. Once at the elite level there will be another two steps: identifying players of the highest quality; and cultivating their development under meticulously prepared, professionally qualified, and pedagogically well versed coaches under cultivated superb conditions.

The operation of this type of Academy will entail a significantly higher financial investment than the ones operating in our area. These other Academies, working with a limited or non-existent capital flow, are unsuccessful in the long run because they are incapable of providing all the conditions necessary to the attainment of their stated goals. Because of this they are forced to reverse the process: they align their goals to their existing means. It is evident that their methodology does not produce high quality players. Furthermore, the lack of results turns off parents who have paid significant fees and pushes blame on real or imagined faults found in the players.

Financial constraints are one of the largest obstacles to professional player development. Lack of funding has prolonged the underdog status of American soccer academies and unintentionally impedes the development of talent in future generations. In my opinion, tomorrow’s top performer can not be brought up in the same way today’s professional was prepared yesterday. The coach-player relationship needs greater commitment, professionalism, and dynamism; goals which will require significantly greater expenditures. The profitability of soccer relies upon investment in, and creation of, quality players. The academy will profit handsomely from the development of players who are capable of reaching the elite level that has been coveted for so long in the United States.

It has to be clear that along with money there are several other factors that are needed for the creation of quality. Work based on invalid knowledge will only produce failure. But in order for our players to become well versed in every necessary department, we must shed the mentality and infrastructure shown in youth soccer today, since the task at hand is greater and more cumbersome, and the avenues of approach have changed significantly. It is these new methods that must be implemented in the hunt for newfound success. There needs to be a program in place and staff available to implement these methods and guide the youth on their road to professionalism. This staff must be comprised of enthusiastic, effective, and efficient professionals and should include: field coaches, goalkeeper coaches, a psychiatrist, a dietician, a physical-therapist, and public relations personnel.

We cannot be satisfied carrying on the status quo and facing the opponents of tomorrow with outdated methods of preparation. Such a situation will lead inevitably to failure. We must establish our own path with the new methods whose success I have demonstrated many times over.

It must be very clear from the get go that; our talented players will only become professionals if in the time allotted to us for their training they receive more, better, and deeper knowledge than their competitors. This might be a foregone conclusion, but many Academies lose sight of this tenet and focus instead on earning a profit from the tutelage of the player.

Studying is the basis for all attained knowledge, and this is as true about the game of soccer as anything else. In our Academy, great focus will be placed on improving the effectiveness of studying which in turn will propel our pupils to develop their talents and create excellence on and off the field. These successes will require a depth of knowledge that takes a long time to attain and master.

In order to achieve these high standards we must branch out with our aspects and use all possible means. Compared to other countries with elite soccer programs, it is clear that our current practices are out-of-date and failing to achieve the goals we all have. It is no longer enough to only teach and concentrate on the physical, physiological, and technical aspects. In addition, we need to develop the minds of our players.

Think about the confidence, emotional stability, inner motivation, concentration, and ability to cooperate required of athletes that perform at the highest levels. Player development that fails to include these factors as well will always fall short of its intended goals. It is only the simultaneous development and tutelage of these factors in addition to the physical which, in the end, allow for the talented player to develop into a professional.


The most important factor in achieving our desired level of development in our players is to develop their maturity levels and personalities to the fullest extent possible. Once these faculties are achieved they can greatly aid in the attainment of other means. Maturity, above all, means that the player respects and loves himself, has self-confidence, is reliable, can conquer his fears, accepts his mistakes, stays calm and confident under stressful situations, stays emotionally balanced, enjoys his duties, is a loving and understanding individual, and is happy.

The energy levels of a mature child cannot be sapped by anything which greatly enhances their capacity to learn. They can process and see more of the world in front of them as well as concentrate on the things at hand for longer periods of time. When they are motivated they are easy to work with. Mature children are also better able to overcome difficulties they may encounter as they have the internal drive to recognize their failures and will work to overcome them. It is much easier to teach and mold children with mature personalities because they can handle increased stress levels, are better able to integrate new ideas into their existing knowledge, and they also understand themselves and their emotions better than their less mature peers.

In order to develop the maturity of our players, we, their staff, must ensure that all our actions work to achieving this goal. This is not an easy task because it requires a different attitude and pedagogical approach than that which we, and our players, are used to.

These distances cannot simply be bridged by determination, instruction, nor learning as there are less tangible human qualities involved as well. There are many professionals instructing children who are in their own right thought to be excellent coaches, but who deep down cannot renounce their style of teaching based on authority. These same coaches will never be able to learn the language of cooperative communication and will remain incapable of developing professional players.

In order to develop players with mature personalities mature adults are needed. A mature coaching staff must be able to more deeply analyze the behavior of the players, to be able to react quickly to situation as they arise, and they must be able to provide a loving and secure environment for their players.

In order to become a great professional player it is not merely enough to be technically and tactically superior. We must identify a players’ most important identity assets, those qualities that make players great, and during the developmental stages help our players make these assets part of themselves. In the long run, this inner homogenization will give them added means to succeed.

This homogenization (convergence) will help them reach their stated goals. These types of children, from a very young age, consider soccer to be their preferred vocation, believe that they have all ability necessary to become one of the greats, and believe they are ready to do achieve their goals. This inner belief is performance oriented, active, and passionate, making it easier for them to recognize their own actions in molding their fate. With this type of student, there is little need for disciplinarian action because they are largely self-motivated and capable of resolving on their own many difficulties.

From this it is evident that the emotional state of our players greatly influences their perceptions and self image. Their learning capacity is strongly and directly affected by the impact of their emotional influences. Because of this fact we must help them to carry out their duties with joy and teach them to be able to be masters of their present emotional state, rather than becoming a slave to it.

We can effectively teach them how to handle painful and unjust situations, how to consciously channel their emotions, and how to place themselves in the most optimal emotional state and maintain it. Through this development we can guarantee that during soccer games they can stay in this “self-chosen” emotional state and in turn contribute maximal attention and concentration to their roles within the team.

The players in today’s game are required to make ever more decisions without having the time to consciously make them. It is in these instances that they are left to intuition and an unconscious state of decision making. If in these instances our players are not in the right emotional state, perhaps because they are afraid of the opponent, or are just upset, than these extraneous emotions will have a negative effect on the ability to make quality unconscious and intuitive decisions. The player must be in a state of total and secure presence in order to bring out the best available decisions within him. Without these introspective qualities and emotion control it is impossible to produce a professional performance, and at the developmental stage, to produce effective learning. Those players who do not learn how to consciously manipulate and control their inner emotions will continually fall behind those that do.

It is also important to keep in mind that fear leads to loss of self-confidence. Those performing out of fear, anger, or any other weakened emotional state will never be able to put forth their best performance and will always perform slower and more sluggishly than their counterparts.

The key then is recognizing that one must be able to identify one’s own emotions before learning to control them. It is only through conscious ‘work’ that we can teach our players how to do this, and thus control their emotions and open the door to elite performance.

The performance of our students will increase in direct relation to how they experience and how they process their role in the development of their emotional means. With gradual and positive results during practices and games they can further cement their presence and the players can gradually validate their sense of self-confidence which will result in a fortified ‘winning type’ personality.


Through the complexities of the developmental work in soccer there are a number of secondary aspects which must be kept in mind because of their affect on the players. One such aspect is attention span. As the attention span increases the player is better able to use their focus to increase their knowledge within a shorter time-frame. With this deeper knowledge they will be more able to apply it under pressure both on and off the field.

As the ability to make decisions quickly and intuitively increases, those decisions become more efficient and will allow the player to expend his energies elsewhere on the field. The pinnacle of the game, perhaps, is the point at which most decisions made on the field are less conscious decision and more intuitive response. This allows the restricted attention span mentioned earlier to be most efficiently used. In this fashion they will be able to mold and turn the outcome of the game according to the plan of the coach and their own design.

Learning and teaching in our country is widespread, but its efficiency needs to be reworked in such a way that both become based a cooperation and confidence and ultimately a partnership. Nearly every soccer academy today fails to establish a cooperative learning process. Instead, players associated learning as a directive from a top-down power structure, often leading to the desire to act out against it. To these unfortunate players, success is but a means to avoid punishment. Such an environment inevitably leads them to only put forth minimum effort. There is no more significant destroyer of motivation. Motivation and discipline are constant problems in such a relationship and it must be clear that knowledge attained only through the execution of orders will only produce limited knowledge and, ultimately, produce only dependent and timid players. The achievement of peak performance is simply not possible in such circumstances.

If we want to transfer the love of this game into our pupils and want them to be active and creative part of our practices than we are compelled to make the learning process enjoyable for all the players. We must draw our players into the learning process, maintain high expectations for them, and pay attention to their thoughts, views, and problems. In this process and at this stage it is very important what they think, where they stand in their own development, what kind of conclusions they can draw on their own, what they deem important to learn, etc. If, throughout their learning we encourage them to take an active role in being responsible, than after a certain time they will not only be able to define their own learning material, but they will also be capable to define the best way to learn this material. The greatest tool we can provide them with is the ability to process the actions of the game independently.

By using my method of teaching and learning through communication based on fairness and trust knowledge gathered by passively and following orders can be slowly replaced by a flexible and self-confident knowledge. The importance of this cannot be overstated because it is the exact mentality that is missing on our soccer fields today.

We must focus on the identification of the base values of real superior players which are unfortunately too often neglected in today’s developmental process. A truly great coach can always be spotted by his ability to be able to release the individual talent of his players to a maximal level and make these players subordinate themselves to the interest and service of the team by providing constant cooperation.

The purpose of this writing is not simply to expound upon unused teaching methods, but instead to channel attention towards these methods and ultimately to create an environment that embraces them and acknowledges their capacity for success. This challenge can begin, by understanding that a soccer player is made and not born. These methods have been proven by me over the past eight years at three different clubs, and I believe that the creation of the Laureano Ruiz Soccer Academy is not only a good idea, but a necessary step in the right direction in order to nurture, develop, and later profit from the hard work of all the professionals involved. It will be in this academy that professionals ascribing to the same mentality and teaching methods will find harmony and will be able to transfer all this knowledge to the children of the Hudson Valley and the surrounding localities. To this end, all the adults involved will have to work very hard for the attainment of great results, but I know from experience that this can be a passionate and enjoyable experience for all those involved. We adults are not much different from our students in this regard; once we experience success ourselves we become capable of continually raising the bar. I can think of no better goal in my life than to create and provide the best environment possible for the development of truly great soccer players.

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