We are often asked by parents about pro academies and what their player needs to do to get selected by a pro club. There are three things we explain:
The first answer is always the same - PRACTICE. Football is a skill that needs to be developed if you are to reach pro-level. Just as a budding guitarist will spend hours with a guitar; a budding footballer must spend hours with a football.
The practice, of course, needs to be purposeful i.e. 3 hours of 'hoofing' a ball 30 yards isn't going to be as effective as 3 hours of practicing close control skills and kick-ups (see our Videos and YouTube page for some ideas).
The second thing is time. As amazing as it may seem for a young player to be selected for an Academy at 5, 6, 7 years olds it doesn't always mean that hope is lost for players who are older.
This is a very important point. Many elite footballers of today didn't get into an academy until their early teens.
Their rise to pro status is often put down to the fact they simply were allowed to enjoy their football, experience new sports and were of an age where they could deal with the pressures of academy level football, trials etc.
One HUGE example of this is Bastian Schweinsteiger. He has won pretty much everything there is to win in the game, including the World Cup. He is now Germany's Captain and has just signed for Manchester United. He was picked up by Bayern Munich at......THIRTEEN YEARS OLD!
So, what we are saying is, there is no rush. Let them play and practice.
Lastly; above anything else - the players must be allowed to enjoy it. The second they lose interest or don't have the desire for football anymore they must be allowed to chose what they would like to do instead - whether that be other sports or a less formal version of football (just play with friends instead of teams for example).
Enjoyment is what makes practice fun. No enjoyment means less practice. Less practice means less chance of making it.
Let them play and don't worry about age - you may have a little Schweinsteiger of the future!
As always we are on hand to offer any advice or guidance on training, practice techniques and ideas.