Adjusting to a New Position in Soccer
Nigel French/EMPICS Sport
When I was a young player I would get offended sometimes when I was moved from the central midfield to the outside. I used to think I was being demoted, as if I done something wrong.
I’d play then player harder to win back my central midfield position - show the coach that he shouldn’t have moved me. I viewed the wide midfielder position as rather unimportant, when compared to the central midfielder role – the central player always saw the ball and more or less runs the show.
The truth is, it’s more about what you make of the position and how productive you can be in that position. It doesn’t really matter where you play on the field. Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi often float out wide or move into spaces where they can receive the soccer ball. The position they play isn't as fixed - they find the ball. They always want and ask for the ball.
The ability to adjust and play different roles or positions on the soccer field becomes even more important as you get older and play at a higher level. It’s advantageous to you as a player able to be play multiple positions. You're less likely to be left out of the starting eleven if you can play one or two different positions. Moreover, you might find more success in that new position.
Quick tips if you’re moved to a new position:
- Talk to your coach if you really don’t feel comfortable in the new position
- Take it as a challenge
- Use it to work on different parts of your game
- It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be moved to a new position
- Talk to other players who've played this position (model your play after theirs)
- Watch pros who play this new position
Many times you see players who were once the star central midfielder for their college team even converted into defenders when they move into the pros. So many times you hear about players who were once forwards becoming defenders or vice versa. Rio Ferdinand comes to mind for Manchester United, or Chris Albright of the New England Revolution, both former forwards who are now solid defenders.
Players have to adjust, even some of the best players in the world are moved into positions they don’t necessarily love. Look at Thierry Henry at Barcelona, who prefers to play in the center has had to adjust and play out wide. Wayne Rooney over at Manchester United is often moved around from playing out wide to center forward - sometimes depending upon who they're playing or if someone is injured on their team.
The key is to make yourself indispensable by being able to fit in and play nearly anywhere on the park. John O’Shea is a key figure at Manchester United because he can play in the midfield or in the back – I think I’ve even seen him play upfront and score. He’s their Swiss army knife – a tool that works in a number of different situations. He’s not the most talent or skillful player on earth, but he’s able to play effectively and help Manchester win titles. O'Shea has even filled in at goalkeeper in an emercency situation.
I'm not saying you want be a jack of all trades, you do want to specialize, but just be open to trying a new position or new role.
In addition, as players get older they’re often moved to new positions as younger, faster players come on board. Take Ryan Giggs, one of the greatest wide midfielders ever, the classic winger, has now moved into a central midfield role and plays upfront for Manchester United. Although Giggs' speed hasn’t diminished that much, he’s unable to log 90 minutes out on the wing chasing youngsters up and down the line. And, his experience actually makes him more useful in the center of the park and upfront, especially late in the games when other players are tired. In the game that clinched the EPL title for Manchester United Giggs came on late to score the decisive goal.
In international football many players have a hard time adjusting since they often have to play a different role or a slightly different position. Take England’s Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the two are stars for their club teams but have had trouble playing together for England. They both play a very similar role and haven’t seemed to play well together. Or Landon Donovan for instance, who’s played well as the second forward behind Brian Ching of late, but didn’t seem to fit in as well with Claudio Reyna in the World Cup in Germany.
In the end it can be difficult to move from one position to another, but instead of getting upset or frustrated, use it as a way to improve upon aspects of your game that need work and make it your goal to prove everyone else wrong – become the best player you can be at that position. If you really feel uncomfortable in the new position, talk to the coach, see what he thinks, tell him you’re going to do your best but you don’t feel as comfortable in your new role.
The main thing though is don't down on yourself, look at it like the glass is half full. Who knows, you might actually have found your best position and be on your way to a long career in that position.