The Importance of Self–Motivation in Becoming a Top Player

This article is an excerpt from “Play the 1 v 1 Way: Soccer Tips From and Emerging Talent Centre.” This book is aimed at parents, coaches and players, and details both McClurg’s philosophy on development, as well as practical tips for building young male and female players looking to take their game to the next level.


By Ian McClurg, Founder of 1 v 1 Soccer, UEFA “A” licensed coach and former Toronto FC Academy staff coach. Find out more about 1 v 1 Soccer at playthe1v1way.com.

A recent interview with Arsène Wenger, manager of the topflight English club Arsenal, outlined the importance of young players learning to be “consistently motivated” in order to play at the highest levels of the game.

In his typically thoughtful style, Wenger defined a motivated person as “someone who has the capacity to recruit the resources to complete a goal.” He then gave an example of how he got lost jogging in Japan. He explained how he was motivated to come back to the hotel but could not find his way back. He could have hailed a taxi but as a sportsman he was determined to find a solution himself and find his own way back. In summary, Wenger believes that when you look at people who are successful they are the ones who are consistently motivated and always willing to made sacrifices to achieve their goals.

This mirrors what I see at our academy at 1v1 Soccer. We have had players join our program at various ages and abilities. The ones I focus I most on and believe will go on to play at higher levels are the ones who are determined to truly make themselves players. During training, they simply get on with it. They train like it will be their last session and are constantly on the edge during our technical warm-ups, trying new things and not being content with their current level of skill.

When we play small-sided games and constantly change conditions, they are the players quickly working out how to succeed within the changing environment. They are the players who are capable of playing at a high level themselves but also inspiring and helping other players around them. In football (soccer) your teammates are the best judge of your performance. Despite what parents and even coaches see on the sidelines, teammates are the ones who truly know if you’re making yourself available for passes, making runs off the ball into open space, changing the point of attack based on what the opposition is doing, making tracking runs back to assist the defense and able to produce something a little different when the pressure is on.

Players and their parents do not often realize how much coaches learn about players when you observe them off the field. Are they mixing well socially, do they carry their own boots and training bag, do they tie their own laces? These behaviors can all be indicators of how self-motivated players are and can give a very good idea of whether or not take responsibility for preparation themselves. Do players ask questions during training to the coaching staff as they try to understand instructions? Can they work things out for themselves, solve problems, and are they determined to overcome obstacles?

Continued....Get the rest of this article in "Play the 1 v 1 Way: Soccer Tips From and Emerging Talent Centre".