John Napier on What Has Happened To Our Soccer World?
At least the world I knew as a young soccer player growing up in another country.
John Napier is a former professional soccer player who represented his country of birth Northern Ireland at every International level. He had a distinguished seventeen year professional playing career, starting with Bolton Wanderers in 1961-67. Napier also played for Brighton & Hove Albion and Bradford City in England as well as the NASL in America for the Baltimore Comets and the San Diego Jaws. Napier has coached at the professional level in England, and since the 70’s, the multiple time MVP Napier has shared his expertise developing youth players. A highly respected youth soccer coach, Napier coaches with the San Diego Soccer Club and also identifies players, and coaches for Cal South ODP and has had numerous National Championship winning teams. Napier is a regular columnist sharing his insights on player development and the joys of soccer.
Today’s sports world is all about Facebook, Twitter, we also have Instagram, and I am not sure what else, as I personally not into any of it.
BAD SOCIAL MEDIA:
We have professional players criticizing their team mates on social media, players using obscene gestures, players degrading our great game, managers and coaches learning their employment fate! Owners mouthing off at their fan base. Professional players being caught in all the wrong places. Now we see pictures, everyone has a “camera”, no one is safe, especially if you happen to play the great game at a higher level, or even if you are just an ordinary coach trying to make a living on the sidelines, nobody is safe.
Having grown up without the likes of TV, “we did have a radio” no telephone, not even a car! But the bus ride to the soccer fields was fun. Yes we did have fun and played for hours on any patch of dirt we could find, we did find some grass occasionally until we were kicked off! NO coaching, NO rules, JUST play until you were tired, and then you go home. Good times. Most of us didn’t go home to a TV or a video game, we just made sure we got our homework done and then maybe, there might have been an old soccer magazine lying around we could read again for the twentieth time!
Maybe I am old fashioned! But I liked my soccer error, it was different that’s for sure, there was usually only one ball, and it lasted a long time, pretty much nothing left of it after we had thumped it into the bushes so many times. At school in my village we had 30 kids yes “30” total, and we all seemed to be playing at break time, it was good, everyone wanted to play, mostly the boys, the girls were not really into the soccer part. School bell went, and then back to class, as always after class we would meet somewhere to continue our “soccer game”.
Must admit today I am a soccer freak! ‘just ask my wife” I watch soccer 24/7 on TV, I have probably no more than four channels that I tune into, all are soccer. I might as well delete the other one thousand and twenty five that I bye pass. I sometimes talk to my brother in England, and I am watching a game, “he will tell me we don’t even get that much soccer”.
Takes me back to 1979 when I first came to settle in the US, I opened a soccer store, and it was so hard to find soccer gadgets to put into a display cabinet, we had the soccer shoes and uniforms, plus a small choice on soccer balls, but not many gadgets, and not much else. Off course, no internet, no cell phones, the biggest soccer companies that I remember back then that we dealt with were Umbro, Adidas, Mitre, Admiral, and sometimes Puma, I can’t remember too much about Nike being into soccer, now almost every shoe is a “Nike” but off course we only had (1) color shoe back then that was black/white.
Look what has happened in the last 35 years, soccer is everywhere, the fastest growing sport in the Unites States, more youth playing soccer than any other sport. We have been instrumental in making soccer for women worldwide both recreational and professional. But we are still a very “young” soccer nation compared to the rest of the world.
PAST TO PRESENT:
As I reflect back on those decades of soccer and look to the future, there are still so many questions to be answered.
I still attend courses when I can that will help me, I read all the best soccer articles, I confer with the best qualified coaches on the development of our kids. I am not sure how much more I can learn. I have been a youth player, I have been a professional player, I have been a youth coach, I have been a professional coach, I have been a person that wants always to learn and get better. “But is that enough” I am really not sure.
I always want the best environment for the kids that I coach whether at the youth level or my ODP kids, I want for them to really push to be the best that their body can provide, “is it that enough I am not really sure”.
WHAT IS ENOUGH? How are we the biggest nation in the world going to become the BEST soccer nation in the world, CAN that really happen, please help me out here? I read, I give my opinion, I answer questions, WHERE are we going, will it happen, can we provide the world with the next generation of young American players that will lead us into history. How do we do it, IS it possible?
Thirty Five years I have been waiting, how much longer will it be before we are the best?
I read every day that MSL will build a new stadium in “whatever city,” IS that like the old saying build it and they will come. “Come from where”
The soccer talent in this great country has not even reached the surface, you can’t tell me right now that we have the best players playing this great sport at the younger level, we don’t and we all know it.
DO WE WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH:
We are a pay-to-play country at the youth level and we may never get the truly natural young urban kids, who will never get a chance to perform, and be seen.
Where do we think Pele, Messi, Ronaldinho, Rooney, Best, Drogba, Ronaldo, just to name a very few, came from? The inner city streets of so many countries with the hunger and passion to succeed, knowing that will probably be their only way out.
I talked to many parents in the last few week of my own team’s soccer evaluations, and some of those very parents said our kids don’t know what it is like to have nothing! That says it all period.
Yes we try to give them everything, and that’s ok, we give them the best soccer environment, best coaches, best shoes, “but is it really enough”? It really comes down to WHO wants it the MOST, the parents, or the players?
In ANY young athlete no matter what sport, the Passion, Desire, and the drive to succeed and make it happen has to be burning inside that individual. THAT HAS TO BE THERE. It can’t be turned on like a water tap, it has to be running HOT always.
I always remember a saying by “Bill Shankly, long time Liverpool Manager one of the best ever from way back” I always loved his quotes, the passion of the man was incredible.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very
disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
important than that.”