I grew up playing basketball. That’s my childhood sport (c’mon, Philippines, of course lol). I love basketball up until now and I’ll play it when I can, but if I had the chance, I’d play The Beautiful Game instead right now. Nothing against basketball but I’m still learning and improving with football so I have to rack in those 10,000 hours! After a while, I decided to learn a new sport and then I gave football a shot (ha).
This article talks about how I did/managed and how everything worked physically and mentally for me. I’m writing this too to help people who would like to try sports for the very first time or if you’re considering trying out another sport even if you’ve excelled in another.
Learning a New Sport
So let’s start with this. Let’s say you’re contemplating on trying out a new sport. Maybe you’re a kid being exposed to your first few games, or maybe you’re an adult already with a revived interest with sports and physical fitness. Here are my tips for you:
It Really is “Just Do It”
Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate. So let’s say you’ve picked the next sport you want to try (let’s say football). Don’t overthink everything by fast forwarding on things like: “omg what if I get injured”, “what if I can’t bend it like Beckham”, “what if I am in a sucky team?”.
First you’ll just be running around aimlessly, second you don’t need to bend it like Beckham in day 1 (it’s not necessary), and why are you judging teams already when you suck yourself?
See what I’m doing here? It’s pointless to think forward (and set expectations) when you haven’t done step 1 yet.
What would be my step 1’s? Well for me at first I really wanted to make sure if I really liked it the same way I knew I’d love snowboarding. I then just started just simply…running outside, sprinting too. I would even also just kick footballs when I can. Also, I didn’t even own a ball but you know when you pass by a park and a ball randomly rolls on you? Yea, just those experience!!!
Further to that, the biggest decision I had for my “step 1” was to finally sign up for a coed recreational league (leagues I’m still a part of up until today). So my decision wasn’t even football-related, it was very logistical. “Do I have money for this league?”, “Do I have time for this?”, etc. Joining a rec league was/is important for me for many reasons.
First you’ll never really learn until you play it, so where else can you play but organized games right? It helps that I join leagues that are under the “recreational” category, so you’re not overwhelmed with hardcore players when you’re just learning.
Set Expectations for Both Parties
I think this is something underrated yet really important. I’ve personally done this and while it doesn’t make you “better”, it does make your learning experience better which in turn gives you a more fluid path to “getting better”.
This part you probably know already but it’s worth reminding you. You just started. You know nothing. So don’t go expecting making goals, teammates passing to you, etc. Not to press you down but it’s also a way for you to not set expectations of yourself. Just have fun, enjoy the game, learn through the process! That’s the best thing you can do for yourself!
In reality, they will probably make you goalkeeper the first few games. Yes, this happened to me and while for most footballers this is a shitty job, I actually enjoyed it. How? First it was an advantage because I’m good with my hands since I’m coming from basketball. Second, you get to engage and be part of the game, without actually being “part of the game” (e.g.: you carrying the ball, you getting attacked, etc). It’s a good, mild entrance to the game dynamics. Third you learn the importance of goal keeping and overall defence.
How I Did It
So during my first few games, I would tell everyone EXPLICITLY AND LOUDLY that hey, this is my first game, I’ve never played football before! This isn’t belittling yourself but really just stating a fact and setting expectations not just for yourself, but also for your teammates. How is this awesome? Well for starters when you lose the ball (and YOU WILL), the expectation is set and they’re not going to grill you at all loool. In addition, some people (and I hope you would be subjected to a constructive environment like I did) will actually recognize that you’re new and they would teach you. Of course it’s in their and the team’s best interest if they teach you a thing or two. They will also correct you when you make a mistake (and you will make a lot).
I would just add to just leave the ego at the door and have a bit of a thicker skin to receive these sorts of instructions. Note also not while everyone is giving you tips and advice, keep in mind that not all tips are right/correct/effective/etc. You’re going to have to keep a critical mind and then later on you can check these statements against your friends who already play the sport or even watch Youtube (see Watch a Lot of YouTube section)!
Learn All Aspects of the Game. Get Everything They Give.
When I started–and this is most likely what your experience will be–your experienced teammates will shove you to play defence at best, most likely goalie/goal keeper.
These are not something to scoff at and defence play a big role (in all sports). This is how learned. I started from goal keeping, defence, then slowly midfield, then attacking every now and then (not forward level though). I like midfield position.
Starting from the back is very beneficial. You learn how to defend and control the ball, also later on, control the game. Also it’s a good learning position because if you’re defending and the opponent passes or beats you, everyone can easily see that “s/he was just better than you”.
On the other hand if you’re attacking and you lose possession, it’s read more like: “oh you fucked up” ahhahaha!
I know you probably watched a lot of game highlights and you want to be the guy making those sweet goals, but calm down young padawan; baby steps. You’ll get there. For now it’s important to learn defence because of the things mentioned above, at the same time when it’s your turn to attack, if you know how to defend, you would in turn know how the opponent in front of you will defend thus you’ll know how to circumvent and beat your opponent.
Practice, No Matter How Stupid it Looks
So I’ve signed up for a rec league and I played a few games. After those, I knew that I was going to like it. But like snowboarding (and most things), it becomes more enjoyable and fun when you get better at it. You get better by practicing. This is not a life secret.
Wanna know how I practiced? There’s this pitch near our old house but it’s one of those not-used, not-maintained pitches so it’s run-down. I would practice there then I would do the simplest things like running with a ball or even doing keep-ups (juggling and bounce the ball with your feet). I looked so noob at it and I felt like the houses nearby were probably just laughing at me LOL. IDGAF.
At the same time, I would see kids play there, literally like 10-14 years old. And I would play with them hahahaha! Why? Because literally their skill level is my skill level. They’re probably better 😂 It’s a low-risk game and low intensity but as usual you want to do baby steps; this being a little bit too literal. I swear there were probably parents that thought I was a predator 😂 .
This was also due to lack of camps/workshops
The other reason why I play with them was because when I was playing basketball, what really helped and boosted my confidence and skill level were basketball camps and sessions. When I tried football, there were no such thing. Well there is, but there are age restrictions and it doesn’t work for adults around late 20s onwards. I eventually found one maybe after 1-2 years but I had to drive to the other side of Toronto and I always, ALWAYS go for those experience. I think they’re extremely useful. These are not just playing games for x mins, but they set up exercises, drills, challenges, and individual or group-level practices. So it really is a learning experience, albeit a fast-tracked one.
Watch a lot of YouTube
You’d probably laugh at this but I did this a lot too. I watched so much vids even before I had my first games, and I would watch videos even after a game. When I say videos I’m not talking about game highlights, replays, or past professional games but rather videos of “how to X”; basically tutorials, tips, practice sessions, etc.
This gives you the theory side of things and it gives you an idea or what to do when you’re actually on the field next time. I would make mental notes during games, (e.g.: I’m defending and my opponent did a body feint, so how can I know how to read attackers?) and then I’d youtube those after….usually while I eat ehehhe.
On top of individual progression, I also watch a lot of tactical analysis, or team play styles, etc so you learn the mechanics on a group setting (yea, this is how deep I go and how much I really love the beautiful game 😉 )
On top of that, in football your success relies heavily a lot on team dynamics. In basketball, if you have a Lebron or a Kobe or Jordan in your team, your probability of winning spikes a lot. In football, there are a lot of case studies to this. You have Messi and Ronaldo as the gods (for now) and they will always beat you in any game, especially 1 on 1. But every time you watch World Cup or Olympics or something, they Argentina and Portugal don’t usually go that far. Conversely, there’s the German National Team where they have a handful of star players but they’re mostly known for coordinated attacks, team plays, and overall team cohesion.
I always commend people who try new things. I think that’s the only way to live. You can’t say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it. There are exceptions to this of course. I don’t like getting stabbed, I don’t need a life experiment to confirm that lol.
Trying out a (new) sport is also a good decision. I think in life you’d want to dabble a in Music, Arts, and Physical Activities (one of each) to make you a more full human being. It might be scary or bothersome to try at first, but that’s the concept of trying and “taste testing”, you’re investing just a little bit of yourself to see if you like it or not. I wish you the best of luck and hey, if you end up not liking it, there’s no shame in just walking away after a try or too. The big thing is you tried.