I was busy tearing it up trying to beat my juggling record or completing some crazy made-up dribbling circuit through cones until I was called in for dinner or the sun went down. Most of the time, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had my foot on a ball so I was happy. My club team held practice twice a week, but I always craved more so my front yard became my personal Wembley Stadium.
Snowy winters in the northeast presented a different challenge, forcing me to be creative with my development. I used to create makeshift speed ladders by laying belts down on my bedroom floor, tack pieces of paper to my bedroom wall, and track how many repetitions of various foot-skills I could complete in a minute. The single step leading into the sunroom at the front of my parents’ house served as the perfect passing partner, and two full flights of stairs made for a great cardio option. Thank you mom and dad for never enforcing a “no balls in the house” rule.
I quickly learned I didn’t need much besides a ball at my feet to feed my passion and take my game to a new level. College soccer, however, added a whole new dimension to my development. All of a sudden, resources were endless. Ice baths, nutritionists, team doctors, academic advisors, sports psychologists, game-film and statistics, upper-classmen mentors, tutors, pristine fields, recovery tights, and massive weight rooms were all readily available. While my youth soccer career was defined by finding creative ways to better myself outside of my team environment, my college soccer days were spent trying to find ways to take advantage of the seemingly limitless tools available to me.
Whether we are at home on a snowy day, or at a huge university, opportunities to improve our game and ourselves are all around us. Sometimes we have to be creative and turn a step into a passing buddy, but other times a multi-million dollar turf facility might be right around the corner. Neither of these things will do us any good if we don’t use them to maximize our potential. Exhaust all your resources, no matter how uncommon they might seem, and take your development as a player into your own hands!
Some reflection for current players:
1) Club teams might only train a couple of times a week.
Ask yourself: What am I doing to better myself outside of my team training environment?
2) College coaches often provide ten or fifteen minutes at the end of training sessions to work on something of your choice (Ex: passing, shooting, crossing, fitness).
Ask yourself: What part of my game can I work on to use that time wisely?
Maddy Evans, from Glenside Pennsylvania, is a midfielder for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League. Evans was a seven-year member of the FC Bucks Vipers and helped lead the team to its first ever National Championship in 2009. She continued her playing career at Penn State University and was drafted to the Boston Breakers in 2013. She will contribute columns on a regular basis to TopDrawerSoccer.com providing tips, insights on club, college soccer and beyond. Follow her on twitter @Mevans018.