Everyone began in the little leagues with half time oranges and coaching dads. Shirts were baggy, shin pads reached knees and playing positions were an unknown concept.

So how does a player go from Saturday mornings following wherever the ball went to being a paid professional athlete?

The Football Sack has some tips for the dreamers, complete with quotes from Lionel Messi, who was coached by his father when he played for his local club Grandoli aged five.

Love for the game

A desire for hefty pay checks, sponsorship deals and the glory of wearing your name on your back isn’t enough. Raw and enduring passion for the game is the only thing that’ll get you through brutal training sessions, injuries and a less than perfect season.

“Money is not a motivating factor. I’m just happy with a ball at my feet. My motivation comes from playing the game I love. If I wasn’t paid to be a professional footballer I would willingly play for nothing.”

Work work work

Snaps to you if you’ve got talent but have a solid high five if you’ve got motivation. Think of it as a kindling fire that sits between your ribs and which burns ever more fiercely the closer you get to your goal. Failure isn’t an option for you. You’ve got posters of your idols, sticky notes with quotes of persistence and your alarm is set permanently at 6am for extra shot practice and sprint training.

“In football as in watchmaking, talent and elegance mean nothing without rigor and precision.”

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Bounce back

There’ll be coaches who’ll say you’re not good enough, selectors who won’t pick you and time spent sitting on the bench, but often the worst critic is yourself. A little self-reproach isn’t a bad thing, but too much will affect your game and take away from your love and passion. Take yourself seriously, but learn not to beat yourself up.

“Sometimes you have to accept you can’t win all the time.”

Find your own opportunities

A playing jersey won’t be handed to you on a silver platter, so go out and snatch it for yourself. Send a talent scout a video of your talents, attend skills clinic, trial for local youth academies, call and email as many clubs as possible – anything to get on the radar. Most of all, always expect to improve; the learning never stops.

“The day you think there is no improvement to be made is a sad one for any player.”

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A 20 year old Media and Law student trying to tame those stream-of-consciousness writing habits with an ickle bit of fun at the Central Coast Mariners.