Bang for your improvement buck: soccer and cycling

In my bicycle racing days, we giggled at newbies who showed up to a time trial with their shiny new top-end bikes that cost 5 times our entry level racing bikes.

Why? Because they didn’t yet know that 90% of your performance was determined by your training and 10% by your equipment. The best investment you could make was getting your butt in shape. That was worth minutes in a 10 mile trial, while the best equipment was worth seconds.

I see the same mistake made in youth soccer when parents want their kids in the best clubs but don’t think about the thing that’s about 10x more valuable: developing a love for the ball.

The best team will make a player 10% better. Developing a love for the ball will make them 100% better or more.

Bicycle racers are known snobs, but at least we let the newbies in on the secret after their dismal showing. Many responded by training their tails off and closing the gap.

It might help if more soccer folks were like snobby cyclists. Thinking back, I’m amazed that when I was a newbie soccer player in adult leagues and couldn’t trap, dribble or pass worth a hoot, not one soccer snob suggested that I go spend copious amounts of time with the ball.

Key message: Parents, if your kid doesn’t spend much time outside of team stuff working with the ball, don’t expect much. It’s not the club’s fault when they don’t become rock stars. Help your kids focus on the activity that has 10 times the return than just showing up to practice. Put that first, club second.


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