Joseph Ramos Providence, R.I. What does it take to become a professional soccer player? Mike Woitalla:Your question reminds me of the old joke: A tourist is walking down a New York street and stops a man to ask, ôExcuse me. Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?ö ôSure,ö says the man. ôPractice, practice, practice.ö Seriously, Joseph, any player who wants to reach the highest level will require a lot of dedication, talent and a bit of luck. IÆm not sure how old you are, but in general I would always advise players to work hard on their individual skills. If youÆre right-footed, work extra hours to hone your left foot. Even some of the worldÆs best national teams have a difficult time finding players who can send a good cross into the penalty area with their left foot. If youÆre playing under a coach who spends most his time making sure his players can run hard, spend your own time making sure you can trap perfectly and send accurate passes across all distances. Why is 39-year-old Lothar Matthaeus still a crucial member of the German national team? One reason is because heÆs the only defender in his country who can hit a 50-yard pass that lands on a teammatesÆ foot. Instead of watching TV, find a wall to kick against. Aim for a spot on the wall and see how often you can hit it. Juggle in your backyard. When you do watch TV, watch soccer games. Pick a player you admire. One you know is good, and watch what he does. See how he dribbles past players. Look for a trick that player uses to fake out his opponent and try it by yourself. Attempt the move at practice or in a pickup game. Become adept at all skills, but become extraordinarily good at a few particular ones. Be a good teammate. Maintain your individuality but be a player other players enjoy playing with. Play different positions. If youÆre an attacking midfielder, try other spots every once in a while. When you reach higher levels youÆll find coaches who may only want one playmaker, so be prepared to step in to other positions. If youÆre a center forward, put yourself in goal a few times. You may learn something that will help youÆre scoring ability. Be a defender who can dribble. Be a forward who can play in the midfield if heÆs needed there. Drive yourself hard to be an excellent soccer player, but donÆt let soccer dominate your life. Even if you make it big, there will be a life off the field. If youÆre well-educated and an exceptional soccer player, youÆll find yourself with a healthy range of opportunities. (If you have a question for a Soccer America Magazine editor, click "Q&A with SA Editors" in the left column of the home page under "Interactive.")
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