Dealing With Strengths and Weaknesses (Part One)

By Tony Earp

All players have a strength that they use frequently to give themselves an advantage on the field to have success, and they have weaknesses they try to hide to avoid getting beat. Often the strengths are heavily relied upon while weaknesses go unaddressed. When some players cannot use their strengths, they have no other way to find success. They only have one answer to any problem the game presents them, but unfortunately, that one answer does not always work. When the game challenges their weaknesses, they do not know how to compensate for that weakness and take away the ability of an opponent to take advantage of it. Players who are too one dimensional, who rely heavily on only one main strength and do not know how to deal with their weaknesses on the soccer field, are easily exposed and can be very ineffective against opponents who have a better understanding of how to play the game.

I have never met a “complete” player who did not have an aspect of their game that was not a “liability” on the field when they played. It is a part of the game for an opponent to try to expose a weakness in order to gain an advantage. Better players understand what their weaknesses are, and they understand how to compensate for them on the field. Often with a superior soccer mind, they avoid putting themselves in situations that their weakness can be taken advantage of by an opponent.

I was a short player, not very fast, but had a quick first step, and I was better at dribbling to keep possession versus dribbling to penetrate and get behind defenders. I was not going to win many balls in the air, I would lose a foot race with most players over 20 yards, and I did not have a lot of success getting behind players on the dribble. On top of that, I was a very much a one footed player, and my left foot was used primarily to keep me from falling over. Defensively, I was not strong enough to push or move players off the ball. With those weaknesses, how would I be effective in a game?

Within the game, players are constantly required to solve problems on their own and find ways to be successful. In order to solve those problems effectively, within their current strengths and weaknesses, players cannot be too reliant on strengths and they need to be exceptional at hiding their weaknesses. Players who tend to only do that same thing over and over again are easily negated from having any effect on a game by another player who understands how to take that advantage away. Players who do not understand their limitations will spend the game being exploited by an opponent who does.

I am Fast or I am Slow
A player’s speed or lack of speed can be one example. Players who are really fast tend to rely too heavily on their speed to be effective on the field. They will try to run in behind players to receive balls played forward, or when taking on a player 1v1, just try to run past them with the ball. When the opponent is slower, than this works and it is an advantage that can and should be used. But what happens when your opponent is faster than you? Now what?

This is where many players do not have an answer. A player who is use to having success based purely on speed quickly becomes frustrated by their inability to use that speed effectively. The player must have a way to still be effective in this scenario. They must have another answer to beating a player than just running past them with the ball. An aware player will quickly notice this lack of advantage and find another way to contribute to the game. The game has presented a problem, and they must have another solution outside of their speed. Often, youth players do not have another solution, and you can watch them try over and over again to run by a player, and consistently fail. They rely too much on their speed and have an underdeveloped soccer mind making it hard for them to impact the game.

On the flip side, if a player is slower than most players, how does the player avoid getting their lack of speed exploited on the field. One way great players deal with this is positioning themselves where they need to be to avoid making any situation in the game a foot race, or being better at anticipating the game and being a step ahead of their opponent mentally which takes reduces the advantage of the other player’s speed. If the player does not position themselves well and cannot be a step ahead mentally, a faster player who anticipates the game and positions themselves better will have a lot of success against a player who does neither. (Part two in our August issue)

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