Last month, we talked with US soccer great Alex Morgan about her work with the Fivestar Soccer Training app. The iPhone app provides instructional videos, games, and interactive simulations guided by Morgan and another international football superstar, Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney.
Rooney made his professional debut in 2002 as a 16-year-old, and since then has become one of the top stars in soccer. Sports Illustrated Kids interviewed Rooney via email about working with the Fivestar Soccer Training app, what skills he thinks kids should focus on, and advice for kids who want to be the next Wayne Rooney.
Why did you want to be a part of the Fivestar Soccer Training app?
I wanted to be part of the Fivestar training app because I wanted give something back and help the kids out there. To be able to use what I know and what I’ve learned throughout the years to help anyone improve is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction.
How much involvement did you have in the programs and videos in the app and the skills that they highlight?
I had a lot of involvement in helping design the drills and skills programs, as well as the one-on-one challenges. The programs are based on what I’ve learned over the years, and we included necessary key skills that a player must have for developing their games. I feel that if a user can master the skills on the app, they will have a good foundation to be a footballer.
What are the core skills young players should focus on when they're just starting out?
The main core skills that I’ve involved in the app are touch, passing, dribbling and shooting. If a player can control the ball and pass it, they can play football. Some of the best players in the world play the simple game and have a great touch and pass accurately — these are the fundamental skills that make a good footballer. Keeping possession is a big part of winning games, so I’ve also including tips for dribbling because it’s important that a player can run with the ball and keep in under control. Shooting is another big part of my game as I’m a striker, but also every player should be able to shoot no matter what position. This is how you score goals, and it’s good if you can take the opportunity when it comes.
What was the best piece of advice you got as a kid learning to play the game?
The piece of advice I got from coaches and managers when I was young and still get told today is to never to give up. To succeed takes a lot of dedication and there will be failures along the way, but you have to keep going. Some of the young players won’t master the drills in this app straight away, but if they are determined, in the end, all the hard work will pay off. This advice still applies to me to today. Anything can happen in a game and no matter what the situation is, you must always try your best and keep going.
What advice would you give kids about dealing with pressure and expectation?
The best way to deal with pressure and expectation is to simply try your best and just enjoy playing your football. If you try your best, than that’s all anyone can ask for. Then you can be happy with yourself.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
My uncle runs a boxing gym, so I used to go there as a kid quite a lot and do the training. My dad also used to box, so it runs in the family.
How did boxing help you with your soccer skills?
I think the main thing I got from boxing training was the importance of fitness. It’s a tough sport and it involves a lot of fitness training, something that is also a big part of football. A good footballer must be very fit, and I still do stuff I learned from boxing training now, such as circuit training skipping.
When did you realize that you could maybe make a career playing football?
When I was younger, I knew that I had good ability and I always stood out in the teams I played for. Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a footballer. It was probably when I got picked up by Everton that I realized that I could have the opportunity to have a career in football. So I made sure from that point that I would give it my all and worked as hard as I could.
What part of this app do you wish you had as a kid learning the game?
I would have liked the app on the whole when I was a kid. It covers all the core skills needed to be a good footballer. I would have loved having something like this to do in my spare time and practice with. Practice is everything, and you can never practice too much. I still practice constantly today. The app is a great platform to practice with and is very straightforward with good guidelines. It means there’s no excuse — it’s just down to you and hard work.
The Fivestar Soccer Training app is free to download in the Apple App Store, and comes loaded with a batch of free workouts, challenges, and tips. Additional workouts can be purchased for $5.99, or the full program is available for $19.99.