Parent Soccer

Eddie Johnson’s 10 signs your player could be the next Lionel Messi

Does your child have what it takes to be the next soccer prodigy? These 10 signs might just help you find out.

by Griffin Lloyd

Former college athlete and video editor. Current content creator, sports enthusiast and dog dad.

While comparing anyone to arguably the game’s greatest player of all time is a lofty claim, it’s not unfounded to see glimpses of extraordinary talent in your young star. Remember, the path to greatness is not an overnight journey. Messi himself had to nurture his skills, overcome challenges, and face many setbacks before reaching the pinnacle of his success. It takes years of commitment, perseverance, and unwavering belief to make dreams come true. So the question is, could your child pave a path similar to the star from Rosario, Argentina?

Former USMNT, World Cup, EPL, and MLS All-Star, Eddie Johnson, uses Trace to develop and watch progress in the young players who work with him at his EJE7 Academy. He shared with us ten invaluable signs to look for as parents of players that strive to be the next Lionel Messi.

1. Hunger, driven. They ask for challenges.

These youth soccer players possess an insatiable hunger for improvement and are driven to excel in their sport. They eagerly embrace training sessions and don’t shy away from hard work. They understand that players have to put an incredible amount of work in if they want to reach their full potential. And even after they’ve unlocked that potential.

2. They want to train. They don’t take breaks.

These young athletes have an unwavering commitment to training. They actively seek opportunities to refine their skills and constantly strive to push their limits. They are fully aware that consistent practice is the key to success and are relentless in their pursuit of improvement. Here’s one example of a young player who is making waves by training with Eddie and is constantly putting in the work early on in his career.

3. They ask to see themselves play. They can self-assess.

These dedicated soccer players actively seek feedback and are eager to analyze their own performances. They understand the value of self-assessment and are accustomed to watching their own game film at a young age. By doing so, they can identify areas for improvement and work towards refining their skills. 
We use Trace to record our youth soccer games and get individual player highlights delivered to each parent and player on the team. Trace’s PlayerFocus technology identifies and follows each player on the field  to give them the opportunity to watch every detail of themselves. The best players lean into what they can clearly do best and the great players are honest about what they need to work on to get better.

4. Excel in tight spaces. They think and make decisions quickly.

These talented young players possess excellent spatial awareness and are skilled at maneuvering in confined areas on the field. They have the ability to process information rapidly and make quick decisions, which allows them to excel in high-pressure situations.

5. Noticeably high soccer IQ. But what does that really mean?

When people mention high soccer IQ, they are referring to a player’s exceptional understanding of the game. These youth soccer players have a deep knowledge of the sport, including its strategies, tactics, and nuances. They possess the ability to read the game, anticipate movements, and make intelligent decisions on the field by reviewing high-level matches, as well as their own play on a consistent basis.

6. It comes naturally. They understand the game. Their body. The space.

For these gifted youth soccer players, the game appears to come naturally to them. They possess an innate understanding of the sport, as well as a strong connection between their body and the movements required. They are also highly aware of the space around them, allowing them to navigate the field effectively.

7. Relaxed and composed when they play. They show maturity at a young age.

These young athletes display remarkable composure and maturity when they step onto the soccer field. They are able to remain calm under pressure, make wise decisions, and execute their skills with precision. Their ability to maintain a relaxed state of mind contributes to their overall performance and success.

8. Long-term vision. Not focused on winning the game but on personal development first.

These youth soccer players have a broader perspective on their journey. Rather than solely focusing on winning games, they prioritize personal development and growth. They understand that long-term success requires continuous improvement and are committed to honing their skills, regardless of immediate outcomes. Check out this guide to setting goals in sports and continue to focus on development first!

9. Desire to play against competitive, older players.

These ambitious youth soccer players actively seek out opportunities to challenge themselves by competing against older, more experienced opponents. They understand that facing stronger competition will push them to elevate their game and accelerate their development. They embrace the chance to learn from and test themselves against top-level players.

10. Secret sauce.

This might not be what you expect to see on this list but the secret to a great player is failing. A lot. Resilient young athletes view failure as an essential part of their learning process. They understand that setbacks and mistakes are valuable opportunities to grow and improve. Instead of being discouraged by failure, they use it as motivation to work harder, learn from their experiences, and become better players.

It’s clear that aspiring athletes must possess an unwavering passion for the game, an insatiable hunger for improvement, and an ability to adapt to different situations. These signs serve as a blueprint for young talents who dream of emulating Messi’s extraordinary success. And while the road to greatness may be arduous, by embodying these qualities, players can nurture their skills, cultivate their mindset, and increase their chances of fulfilling their potential.

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