More pie? Inherent and learned traits of elite players

Something @JoeRReid said on Twitter made me think that it would be interesting to perhaps first define what traits most of us would see an elite level player as needing or having. And by the way, when I say elite level, I mean being at least on the cusp of national team consideration.

It’s one thing, as the earlier pie chart did, to look at what’s necessary from a development point of view to build a 14 year old into an 18 year old elite player but this looks at things a bit differently. If you look at that 18 year old elite player, what traits do you think, inherent and learned, that player now has. Could you create a blueprint for what traits elite players need to possess?

Here’s my crack at it:

Most important traits of elite players

Coachability 15
Intelligence (ie. “football brain”) 13
Exceptional technical ability 12
Mental toughness (ie. Competitive, focused, determined) 11
Quickness over shorter distances 9
Physical strength 8
Speed over longer distances 7
Physical toughness 7
Good teammate 7
Adaptability 6
Leader 5


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3 Responses to More pie? Inherent and learned traits of elite players

  1. Great stuff. This posting, the related one, and all the comments are very interesting. There could be a best selling book here!!
    These ingredients and traits reminded me of what David Moyes, the manager of that great team Everton, said when it came coaching a 16 year Wayne Rooney. He argued that there was nothing they could teach him in terms of enhancing his technical ability, physical toughness, speed, playing mentality, etc. In these areas he was a super high performing natural. The only help they could provide him with was in developing his football brain so that he did not get booked/sent off as much, while not diluting his competitive determination. Everton and Man Utd also tried to help him be a responsible and professional adult, who would not self-destruct on and off the pitch. So even with natural elite outliers, there can be major consequences of not being coachable.

  2. Gregor says:

    Two pie charts and the academics start popping up! 😉

  3. Coachrich says:

    1. Perceptual ability/vision. Some say this can be taught other say the best athletes are born with it.
    2. Ability to separate themselves from everyday normal life and live their sport daily instead. Sadly, they grow up as athletes 1st and kids 2nd.
    3. Maturity

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