If you didn't read part 1 of this piece the other day, catch up by clicking here. 

I left you with a clip of a young Lionel Messi running past hoards of taller children like they're not really there.

Seeing such young people do such impressive things easily leads to the assumption that they must have been born with some innate talent. It must be in their DNA.

But it isn't.

There are no definitive genetic markers for success in any field, especially such a skill based one.

Neither has a baby ever been born who dribbled a ball at great speed straight out of the womb.

Babies are born with certain reflex responses and nearly everything they grow to be able to do, they learn to be able to do.

There is not a single case of a baby being brought up in a society that speaks and has access to only one language that starts speaking another.

Similarly, without a ball and people playing football, Leo would never have shown us what he could do in football.

But he had a ball. Like many children do.

So how come he turned out to be better than all the others?


I want you to imagine a corridor with doors in either direction as far as the eye can see.

Behind each door is a strategy for the sport you want to excel at. Some of those strategies are crummy, some average, some excellent. 

You have no way of knowing which door to go through. Your choice is completely random.

Each door leads to another corridor. Some of the corridors overlap and some don't.

Within the space of going through a few doors, two people with identical potential could end up going in very different directions.

Add to this equation that as adults we may have an idea, even for a sport that we are new at, what would constitute an unhelpful direction. 

We start going through these doors from the moment we are born without any knowledge that we are even doing so.

We learn to focus our attention in different ways and on different things pretty randomly.


Going back to the example of Little Leo, we can see that he sees the game completely differently to his counterparts.

His sense of timing, distance, speed, knowing how the players around him are moving, his relationship to the ball at his feet and how all of these things fit together ultimately set him apart.

And yet these are the unteachable things...

at the moment anyway.


My friend and colleague Jay Cochrane of IFDA and multiple Premier League football academies and I have talked many times about coaching unique, game-changing players. Players can be taught techniques and formulaic decision-making skills but only to an extent. Teaching people how to know when to make decisions and how to improvise and create is still very much a work in progress even at the highest levels.


What I'm saying is that sometimes those early prodigious talents have randomly learned better ways of learning than lesser able peers.

They are not inherently more talented, they have just randomly learned better strategies.


What do you think?

How else can seemingly 'natural' talent be accounted for and how can those of us without it get it?

I have lots more to say on the topic over the coming days.



Arton "Many doors" Baleci