Play it safe or boldly go where you have not been before?
A ship is safe in harbor,
but that's not what ships are for.
This is one of my favorite motivational quotes. For some reason it seems to be one many young players need help understanding. A similar quote states, "The game begins at the end of your comfort zone." To me, both quotes are challenges to explore the entirety of the game.
One of the great unfortunates of the youth game is the pigeon holing of players in positions and narrowly defined roles. Soccer is considered the beautiful game because it is robust and full of life, constantly changing and evolving. A soccer match is a breathing living thing with a heartbeat all its own. It must be nurtured and fed so it can grow and blossom in full maturity.
There was the Division I athlete who only knew the forward position and so spent 3 years playing JV soccer. Or the player who was absolutely convinced he was a forward and resisted moving to center midfield before eventually embracing the move. One was able to break down the boundaries of his imagination while the other remained in his safe harbor.
Players: get out there and explore the game! Do not be afraid of mistakes for mistakes are the seeds of growth and learning.
Coaches: Do not be afraid to allow players to explore the game simply because this process might cost you a good result. Look long term. Grow the knowledge base of your players. Encourage players to be fearless in pursuing the entire game. Embrace mistakes as opportunities for player development and team growth!