I recently attended an event honoring some of my former collegiate players. One of those former players has made his career in teaching and coaching, and has been very successful. He was also a very successful soccer player.

During our conversation he mentioned that his son, a high school senior, was looking at a particular college for next year. I asked if his son played soccer. He responded that his son does play, and that he will pursue soccer in college. Interestingly, he indicated that his son was peaking at just the right time, and that he was very committed and enthusiastic about his development as an athlete.

Here’s where the conversation began to truly resonate with me. He said he never pushed “club” soccer with his son when he was young, and he allowed his son to just enjoy the game. The boy typically played on the 3rd and 4th team, and slowly worked his way up to the top team over several years of play.

He has found that his seventeen year old now has a true passion for the game versus many of his peers who are playing without much desire because they have been pushed too hard from too early an age. In fact, he sees many of those boys leaving the game, with little desire to move on to the next level.

This validates much of the thinking that I have regarding the development of young athletes. If we allow children to adopt an activity as their own, they have a much better chance of falling in love and developing their own passion for something. Thereby putting them in a likelier place to achieve overall success.

I love when coaches of young children realize how this process really works!

- Steve Locker