I like the framework of five spheres of influence of player development that John Pranjic lays out in his latest podcast, Follow the Leaders.
The influences are:
- Playing on your own
- Pickup game
- Structured club training
- Personal training
In my opinion, it’s tough to reach the top-level of the game without some pretty strong influences from at least one, if not more, of the first three.
In the podcast, he examines Landon Donovan’s and Clint Dempsey’s experience with these influences.
Both had some family influence from older brothers that played. They got in on a Latino pickup culture. I presume that pickup culture inspired some playing on their own to be able to hang with the competition and earn respect.
In this post, I took a similar look at McKennie, Pulisic and Sargent. Let me recast that in Pranjic’s framework:
Household/family/parent — I know Pulisic and Sargent both have parents that played soccer college/pro soccer. They likely had a ball of some sort at their feet from early ages. I don’t know much about McKennie’s family background.
Playing on your own influence — Pulisic’s and Sargent’s Dad’s are both on record stating how their sons worked incredibly hard on their own to become what they are.
I will also say that Pulisic’s father said that they did the typical 2 practices a week and a game on weekend and didn’t get too caught up in the club culture.
Pickup game influence — Pulisic experienced some of this when he was young when his parents spent a year in England. I don’t know about Sargent. McKennie spent 3 years in Germany from ages 6 to 9, where he played for a club and presumably experienced some pickup culture there.
Structured training influence — Pulisic had some training experience with top European clubs as his parents traveled to Europe. McKennie had 3 years at a German club at a young age. I’m unsure if Sargent experienced anything other than his youth club, Scott Gallagher.
I don’t know much about any of their personal training influences, though for Pulisic and Sargent, it doesn’t hurt to have former college players who are well over the hump of understanding what’s important to work on and helping guide that.
This shows that this group of up-and-comers checks most of Pranjic’s boxes.
I can attest as a relative soccer newbie, that it took me 2-3 years, with lots of trial-and-error and lots of observing and researching strong soccer cultures just for me to understand what basics were important and how to effectively work on those — and I was into it.
I see people who aren’t as into it who still haven’t figure it out.
I’m still learning, but had I been able to skip past those 3 years and jump right into it by having people and pickup that could have helped guide me on what to work on, I’d be 3 years better than I am today.