Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Approximately 250 million people play organized soccer, dwarfing the number of participants in any other sport. The very best soccer players are the pros, merely a handful compared to the vast number of people who play the game. According to FIFA, the global soccer authority, there are a little over 110,000 men and women who are soccer professionals. So, if you love soccer, you have about a .004% chance of becoming a soccer pro. The question is, what sets the pros apart? What makes them just that much better than everyone who wishes they could be a football champion? Several factors weigh large in setting the pros apart from everyone else.
Nutrition Is Part of the Answer
Have you ever noticed how the professionals just look different? Since being attractive is not a championship qualification, something else must be a play and it is nutrition. The pros look good and play tirelessly because of their diets. You might think that, given how much they train, the pros would be able to get by with eating whatever they chose. In truth, however, most elite athletes have well-balanced nutritional plans that include lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy protein, judicious carbohydrates, whole grains, legumes and lean meats. They also balance their meals with supplements. Many supplements are fairly familiar: vitamins, protein formulas, creatine and coffee. Recently there is a movement toward green superfood as well. One necessary step toward being an elite is championship nutrition.
Unrelenting Determination Is Present in Every Pro
Another characteristic of every professional soccer player is an absolute focus on excellence. The pros as a whole are undistracted by other vocations, relationships and interests. Their sole purpose is soccer. This is not to say that they do not have lives outside of the sport including hobbies, families and even other athletic pursuits. The distinction is that soccer is always first. A recent article in Men’s Journal quoted the results of a research study on what set superior athletes apart, saying, “Elite athletes also have a ‘never satisfied’ attitude; whereas ‘almosts’ have a greater tendency to avoid challenging training.” The focus of the professional soccer player is a consistent determination to excel at the expense of all other considerations.
The Willingness to Train
Speaking of challenging training sessions, how many hours a week do you suppose professional soccer players train? Saying they train 30 hours a week during the season in a way does not sound like a great length of time. After all, the average businessperson’s workweek is 40 hours. Are the pros slacking off? Consider that a match lasts 90 minutes. A 30-hour-a-week practice schedule means that pros practice the equivalent of 20 full games a week. This is not counting the actual games, warmups and locker room training sessions. Compare that, for instance, to professional American football players. They may physically practice half-days, five days a week without full contact to avoid injury. Very little of that time is spent running across a field (that is larger than an American football field). If you want to be a soccer professional, you must be committed to training.
Natural Talent is Required
If good eating, fiery determination and a heart to practice were enough, more people would be qualified to be soccer professionals. You have to know, however, that natural ability is another aspect of being a pro soccer player. Talent, though, is rightly listed last in this list. Every youth league has certain standouts who seem to have an intuitive ability to play “the beautiful game.” From the beginning, they seem to know more about the essentials of the sport than those adults who are trying to teach them. Watching them play is a thing of beauty. Few of those wonderfully talented individuals make it all the way to be a professional, despite their talent. Natural ability is a must. Yet, the professional must possess these other qualities as well.