In your pursuit to becoming a better footballer, you naturally look for the fastest way to achieve your goal. Sure, training with your team is important, but how can you get better at soccer or make yourself different from other players if you keep doing the same thing as them?

I once had this same problem, so I thought “I need to work harder than them”. After reading about the 10,000 hour rule, I decided to start training 20 hours a week.

In the first 6-months of my new training plan, I saw dramatic improvement. I was getting lots of praise from my football coaches and players around me. It was a rapid rise from being an average player in the team, to rising to one of the best players in the team.

But then my results started to decline…

I got frustrated and wondered how I could continue improving as quickly as I did before. Then I learnt this one amazing rule which changed everything.

Understand that I was still improving, but it felt like I was reaching a limit in my abilities – and that lessened my motivation to train.

What could I do to improve? How could I switch things up to see better results? How to get better at soccer?

There were two ways I could go:

Option 1) I could go harder and train even more

Option 2) Pareto’s Law

Pareto’s Law?? What’s that?!?!?

The Pareto principle also known as the 80/20 rule, is a theory maintaining that:

80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input

Simply put, 20% of your training gives you 80% of the results.

The 80/20 Rule is a ‘guesstimate’. So it may be 70/30 or 85/15, whatever. But the concept is all about a small quantity of X resulting in a large quantity of Y.

Remember, this is only a general rule, so you can apply it to many areas. Here are a few examples of the Pareto principle in action:

    • 20 percent of soccer players produce 80 percent of a teams results.
    • 20 percent of a players skill contributes to 80 percent of the players performance.
  • 20 percent of a teams transfers produce 80 percent of a teams success

So what 20% of those hours I was training was providing me with 80% of the results? What did I feel was making the most difference on the pitch?

I looked at my training, and at the time I had:

    • 3x Team Training’s
    • 3-4x Individual Training
    • 1x Game Analysis Sessions
  • 1x Match

After thinking deeply about what was giving me the best results, I felt that there was one activity in particular that was making me a more confident, smarter player. That activity was analysing games. Sitting down and watching matches. I don’t mean just staring at the screen and playing with my phone while the game is on, I mean writing notes on specific players, looking at off-the-ball movements, pausing and rewinding to see those small details and runs that gave players that extra bit of space to pull off an action (to see what I mean click here). 

So I changed my routine so I had more time analysing games. Sometimes I would download and watch 5 or 6 matches a week.

In the months that followed, my improvement went up again and I felt like a smarter player!

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying NOT to do weights, go to your team trainings or do yoga – in fact most of the other activities you do will help bring everything you learn together. But you can adjust the volume of your training and what you do in it.

After a few months of watching more matches, my game intelligence improved and I felt I had reached a peak, so the process of identifying what was giving me the best results repeated itself. The next area I focused on was improving my left foot. That’s why as a player you have to know yourself, keep evaluating yourself and reflecting.

So what can you do now?

Find out where your best results are coming from and focus on that.

Focus on need to do, minimize the nice to do
Example: #1 Doing lots of weight training may make you look more muscular, but is it really making you a better soccer player?
Example #2: Random shooting on goal is fun, but is it really giving you maximum results as a defender?

Everyone is DIFFERENT and the effectiveness of an activity will change over time. Reflect every week on your performance and what’s contributing to it, then adjust. 

Nick Humphries, 25, is a footballer who played in England (Wimbledon), Scotland (Montrose), Holland (Volendam), Hungary (Vasas) as well as with the Australian U20 national team. At 16 years of age, he was just an average amateur player with limited skills. Only one year later he was offered $120k+ in scholarships. Two years later he received a contract to play professionally in Europe. How did he get better? He trained in his own way! Learn more about the training program he’s creating to help players improve on their own terms.