How Does a Good Player Become Great?

We all know a soccer player that has lightning-fast feet and can do 100 stepovers in a drill. But when it comes to the game, that player is invisible on the field. 

If you want to advance to higher levels, don’t be that player.

How does your fast feet translate into game play? Do you know when a stepover is a good decision? How are you using your technical skills to help your team?

I mean, let’s face it – soccer is a business. It’s just how the athletic world goes ‘round.

Your soccer club makes money from your team’s success. Your college makes money from your team’s success. Your professional team makes money from your team’s success. 

What you offer on the field must be important to the team’s success

Good players will offer their technical skills, like ball control, dribbling, passing, shooting. But great players do something more.

So, what differentiates a good player from a great player?


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They Consistently Impact the Game

Great players make an impact.

The standard of play improves when a great player steps on the field. They apply their individual skill set to influence the flow and result of the game. 

Top-level coaches want players who make a positive impact on the game so they can improve the club’s standings and, honestly, keep their jobs. 

Start thinking about how you impact the game, your team, and your club.

How Do I Measure My Impact?

If your coach subbed you off the pitch, does it change the flow of the game?

If the answer is yes, then you are an impactful player in the game. If nothing changes, then your presence or absence on the field isn’t impactful.

To have a positive impact in soccer, your actions on the field will change the course of the game to your advantage.

Impact is More than Technical Ability

The average player keeps the ball in their possession for 3 seconds. One player will have possession of the ball between 60 and 90 seconds throughout an ENTIRE 90-minute game

Technical ability is important, but your impact needs to be short and sweet. It’s how you deliver your technical ability that matters. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Outside of your 60-90 seconds of active play, what are you doing to impact the game off the ball?

Think about what you can offer in your position, both on and off the ball:

Goalkeepers, can you impact the game by:

  • organizing your defense with your voice?
  • commanding your penalty area and instilling confidence in your team?
  • reliably saving shots?

Centerbacks, can you impact the game by:

  • organizing your team with your voice?
  • reliably finding a teammate with your passes and starting attacks?
  • dominating your individual battle and disrupting the opposition’s attacks?

Fullbacks, can you impact the game by:

  • stopping their winger getting to goal?
  • constantly being an out-ball when your team is in possession?
  • organizing your defense when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch?

Centermids, can you impact the game by:

  • finding forward passes that break the defensive line?
  • winning every 50-50 and disrupting the opposition’s flow?
  • organizing your team’s defensive press with your voice?

Wingers, can you impact the game by:

  • being direct to goal when on the ball?
  • making sharp movements that shift the opposition’s defense?
  • stopping the opposition’s attack and tracking the fullback?

Strikers, can you impact the game by:

  • scoring a goal?
  • connecting the attack and making supportive runs?
  • pressuring the defensive players when they’re on the ball?

What’s the Impact of Your Actions?

You touch the ball often in the game, but do you do anything productive with your opportunities? What’s the impact of your actions?

Let’s consider:

  • Alex is a ball-playing central midfielder. In his game today, he completed 100% of his 50 passes. 
  • Tom is also a ball-playing central midfielder who played for the opposition. He completed 80% of his 20 passes.

Whose actions had the biggest impact on the game?

You might say Alex, since the quantity of passes and completion rate was significantly higher. 

But, action doesn’t always equal impact.

Now, consider this:

  • Alex is a ball playing central midfielder. In his game today, he completed 100% of his 50 passes. His team lost 1-0 and he didn’t contribute any significant touches that started attacks.
  • Tom is also a ball playing central midfielder who played for the opposition. He completed 80% of his 20 passes and played the decisive pass that started the attack which led to his team’s winning goal.

Even though Alex’s had significantly more activity on the ball, Tom’s impact was greater. 

Your impact is defined by meaningful actions – the actions that changed the game. It’s not about the stats alone.

Are Strikers the Most Impactful Players?

Does scoring count as impact? Yes.

Scoring a goal has an immediate impact on the game. This is why most “great” players are famous strikers. 

Their actions impact the game more obviously than other positions, but that doesn’t mean that other positions aren’t as impactful. It simply looks different for each position.

Here’s Your Challenge

Next time you walk onto the pitch to compete, ask yourself, “How can I impact the game today?” 

Assess if you made an impact after your game. 

If you did, what skills helped you be impactful? If you didn’t, what can you change?

Written by Coach Ian Rees, edited by Coach Nicole Hernandez

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