Millions of young soccer players watching the World Cup dream that they can play on the game’s biggest stage themselves someday. Before they commit to playing soccer year round, and before their parents commit thousands of
dollars each year to elite clubs and private coaching, they should listen to the message of soccer star John Wilson on the joy of soccer.

Wilson grew up in Seneca, South Carolina and wandered into soccer almost by chance. He played college soccer at Clemson University and was fortunate to make it to the professional levels. A former star for D.C. United, Wilson now plays for the Charleston Battery in what he claims will be his final season.

Kids showing the joy of soccer

Wilson delivered a speech at TEDxCharleston recently called “That’s why they call it play – the joy of sports.” I’ve seen it several times now, and I would encourage all young soccer players and their parents to watch it. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Wilson after the talk, where we discussed his introduction to soccer, the injury that threatened to end his professional career, and how the development of soccer players has changed since he boarded that bus in Seneca.

Click the audio below to hear our discussion, and make sure to watch the TED talk embedded below.

0:38 – How old was John Wilson when he started playing soccer?
0:45 – Why did he decide to play soccer and what got him started playing?
1:23 – How did John know soccer was for him?
2:39 – What opportunities allowed John to get to play professional soccer?
4:33 – When did John realized he’d “made it” in soccer?
6:07 – Did John still find soccer fun at the professional level?
8:20 – John discusses his knee injury and resulting surgery.
10:53 – John talks about how attitude and enjoyment of the game can get you through rehab and back to an active life.
13:30 – John discusses his participation in soccer, and what he sees happening in soccer across the country.
17:27 – John talks about single-sport specialization in youth sports.
20:50 – John discusses how sports can be used to teach life lessons.
21:49 – John talks about his future in soccer and more.