Developing Champions.

Headings from -The making of Champions – roots of the sporting mind by Gary Lewis, Macmillan Publishers

“You have to get out on the training pitch and practice your skills over and over again, that’s what gives you confidence”.

Even though Jimmy was only twelve years old he had practiced the turns, feints and dribble’s which he had learned at the Skills Centre.   He had practiced them many times and felt very confident that he could use them when he received the ball in a match.

“I get confidence by practicing the skills which the Skills Centre Coaches show me.   I try them over and over again until I can perform them without thinking.”


Elite sporting perceptual and decision-making skills: abilities to process and analyse the visual sporting array needed to make tactically sound play.   Beckham picking out the correct time to strike his incisive crosses.

Gregg played lots of football with his mates; sometimes he played as an attacker, other times in defence or midfield and occasionally goalkeeper.

“I play football whenever I get the chance, whether it’s at my school, club or with my mates at the recreation ground.   All these games help me to make the right decisions; when to pass, when to dribble and when to shoot.”

Mental toughness: the ability to manage levels of stress and anxiety, not to ‘blow it’ when things go wrong.

Jenny has played in various age group teams; some of her teams were very good and won most of their games.   Other times her teams were not so good and lost or drew most of their matches.

“I have learned that I cannot always be on the winning team and that I must sometimes accept defeat.   This has helped to strengthen my mind and made me realise that winning and losing are all part of being a good footballer.”

girls dribble


The perceptual and decision making skills as the real difference between elite and amateur sporting abilities.   It’s not what you know; it’s how you use it.

Billy has spent a lot of time practicing turns, feints, dribbling, passing, heading, and shooting.   However, most of the time he has practiced in drills with no opponents, therefore, he knows most of these techniques, but is unsure when to use them effectively in a match.

“I am good at dribbling, turning and passing the ball but I often don’t know how and when to ‘do it’ in a game.”



The need for instinct and experience is needed when guiding the development of a young player.   A good coach knows the right time to influence a player, sometimes the subtle approach is needed other times a direct approach.

Rex enjoys going to the Skills Centre because his Coach makes the sessions enjoyable.   His Coach seems to know when to show him what to do, when to tell him what to do, but also to ask him what he thinks he should do.

“I learn things when my coach shows me how to do things; sometimes he shouts instructions telling me where to run.   I also learn things when he asks me questions about my game; it makes me think before answering him.”



Human abilities do not emerge from the influence of nature or nurture alone.   These factors are interdependent.   The factors both innate and environmental are needed to sculpture the mind of the elite athlete.

Fred is able to excel at football because he is faster and stronger than most of the other kids, however, he will need to realize that his natural physical abilities are not enough to carry him through.   He will have practice his techniques and skills if he is to become a top-class player.

“I am stronger than my teammates and opponents and I can run faster than them, but if I want to be really good at football I need to put in hours of practice.”


It is claimed that rather than family socializing the child and defining their personality it is the peer group that is the most pivotal influence (recent considerations).   The suggestion that one’s peers are more important in influencing one’s personality means that the elite athletes peer group is a crucial component of the elite athlete’s development.

Jane spends a lot of time with her friends from her football team.   They like to practice together and also to socialize and ‘hang out’ together.

“I enjoy training, playing matches and ‘hanging out’ with my friends; they also want to be really good footballers so we have a lot in common.”



Elite sporting vision and decision-making skills is not simply the domain of the chosen few.   They are, at least in part, skills that are learned and refined over a lengthy period of time until they appear in an effortless form.  

David joins in games of football at every opportunity that comes his way.   On practice days his Coach trains the team in many small sided games; sometimes it’s 3 v 3, other times 4 v 4 and when there are enough players; 7 v 7.

“Playing a lot of games gives me many touches of the ball and helps my skills.   I get to know, without thinking, where my teammates are positioned and I can pass to them easily and quickly.”



The young athlete, who deeply believes they are physically gifted, yet is only too aware the importance of hard work in cultivating their gifts, the sky is perhaps the limit.