While platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have played a large role in freestyle’s increasing popularity, has it entirely changed the goals of freestyle? Has it become more about getting followers and likes instead of constantly enhancing and pushing the sport forward? Freestyle veteran Stephen Gray analyzes the complex relationship between freestyle football and social websites.
I’m quickly approaching 10 decades of freestyle this past year — that which started off as a hobby has now become an essential component of my identity in addition to the majority of the way I make a living. I state this so as to reiterate that I really have witnessed the organic evolution of this sport, not only in a technical sense as the tips get larger and crazier, but in the social and commercial aspects as well.
I often begin a whole lot of my posts with some sort of mention of the way softball soccer is growing at a quick rate. While I believe that to be accurate, I rather wish to discuss this underlying feeling that where we are now is very different to the way freestyle was a few years back, in part due to the now omnipresent social media platforms.
These platforms of course have been a complete game changer with various notable advantages coming out of them, but do they also have a negative influence in different sections that cut deep into the values of this sport?
There is no denying social media programs have an addictive quality to them by the sudden influx of likes, followers, along with gratification to the continuous notifications, endless content and personalization. The word “users” could not be more precise as we can be viewed as “slaves” to it at times.
At the surface, the majesty of football without query goes hand-in-hand with social websites. To be creative with a football is a chance to make visually dynamic content that can impress, inspire and even entertain as well occasionally (thank you to everybody that has shared with your excellent bloopers). All of this again I stress is accomplished with a football — simple. It’s no wonder that freestyle material has exploded in popularity. One of the huge internet it’s very shareable and enjoyable to freestylers and non-freestylers alike.
Nonetheless, it’s from that chain reaction that we might begin to raise an eyebrow (or both). We have now reached a period of mega over-saturation.
There is so much out content content there now that it’s at times bred a competitive component driven by the external benefits of social media. The number of followers has become more significant than the freestyle ability, and marketability towers over gift. I am not saying that this is 100 percent necessarily the situation, just a shift in understanding that freestylers are now prepared to consider.
This shift all stems out of a driveway of wanting to stick out from other people. By the definition of the word “freestyle” this should mean you’re free to express yourself however you need with a football and do all of tricks you desire. However, nowadays it seems that if you don’t really excel at a specific niche of a specific area of suggestions or singular trick that you can be more “best known for” (e.g. the best individual at wrapping variations, then a god of high headstall, etc.), then you’re at a greater risk of simply fading in with the rest of the generic freestyle articles on the market. Your odds of getting noticed or shared are thinner.
This is also really influenced by social networking’s thoughts, greedy algorithms. You finally have to shout a lot louder than the noise just to be heard by your followers. It’s a terrible system that has some genuinely talented freestylers dealing with too little recognition because of it. They’re out there though, and I expect they are unearthed and receive the credit that they deserve. However, as above, the popularity of freestyle, and more specifically the number of all freestylers, is on the increase, and societal media has likely played the biggest role.
While the growing number of “freestylers” is good, I can’t compose that sentence with no atmosphere quote marks round the word. I state this because in addition to the previously discussed over-saturation, what’s regarded as the most viewed and shareable content can and is easily skewing the outside understanding of what softball football really is.
I have done well to compose up to this stage without mentioning The F2, however, guys like this and their articles may provide the misconception that bin shots, trick shots, cross pub hits and elaborate flicks are all under the freestyle umbrella. Not helped by the fact that they promote themselves as “The F2 Freestylers”, the fact their material is viral in popularity has led to an enormous following in which they finally have a gigantic influence. Should they state a trick is called the NEYMAR MEGA TWISTER HURRICANE 3000 then unfortunately, individuals will accept this as gospel. Gee, thanks media. People are very fast to hang on the every aspect of someone that has a slew of followers.
But perhaps this shift in attitude is not down to social media alone or at all. Maybe it’s a special thing. To help research this, who better to speak to than a seasoned veteran in Daniel Roseboom. With a purse of expertise within freestyle, having noticed its slow advancement and currently working closely together with the organizational aspect of the sport, Roseboom now feels that there was shift in attitude from the community.
“The greatest change was esteem,” Roseboom said. “When Skora used to walk to a room filled with freestylers it was just like a god had just entered. When Palle stated something people just accepted it as the truth. That is gone now. It’s much more follower-based, in which the more followers means the more respect. I have gotten more esteem from really being a shitty reposter with I AM A FREESTYLER than I have from double reaching the Top 8 in the planet, so for me it’s odd. I think for a few being verified about Instagram is worth more than winning a national tournament. (Laughs)“
At first, YouTube appeared to be the very best place to talk about and discover freestyle football videos, the majority of which were long movies with plenty of clips over a time period that individuals took a while to edit and correct before they were happy with. It was also obviously a means of finding the people behind the tips as well.
Nevertheless, the first real birthplace and feel of the digital freestyle community could be argued to be the Past Soccer Forum. Roseboom clarifies how this is a location where freestyle might be openly discussed in detail, not like today where everything is generic praise (“Sick video!”) .
From the number of hundred freestylers on there, videos would be examined in intense levels of detail, and amongst the constructive criticism there has been the acceptable share of online discussions as well. At this point freestyle definitely maintained that an underground feel to it before everything burst maybe round the 2013-14 markers after the Beyond Football Forum also stopped to exist.
Fast forward to now, in which the new generation has grown up with a significant exposure to social media, and the way it’s shaping their freestyle is an interesting point compared to that of Roseboom or anyone in the pre-social media era.
To illustrate this, in the other end of the scale we’ve 11-year-old Will Colley out of Worcestershire, England. Colley knows not a planet without social websites, and he’s been freestyling for 18 months. While he might not have Beyond Football Forum’s in-depth analysis like many of today’s freestylers failed, he’s a big advocate for the use of Instagram specifically and asserts it’s helped him understand a good deal.
“Social media promotes freestyle well, and I have learned all my suggestions from it,” says Colley. “Without it, I would have pretty much no understanding on any hint names or perhaps how to perform them. It motivates me seeing others enhance. It certainly makes me want to post on Instagram as well.”
This I think can be a bit of a double-edged sword. I have experienced being motivated and inspired by viewing clips of other people, but at times they’ve also have made me feel helpless in my abilities, particularly when moving through a bad spot or injury. I feel like Instagram makes it tough to escape the culture of comparing yourself to other people.
However, it’s not my job to sit and paint societal media in the most sinister light possible. Platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have undoubtedly enabled individuals to pick up plenty of ideas for suggestions, and it is a base of this sport growing and expanding and not being restricted. I always feel like it’s good to share these ideas because they are designed to be constructed upon by someone else. Plus it’s just a nice reminder that there’s an infinite quantity of possibilities with a soccer match. Whether that will last to be true though is another thing, as some might feel as they are just adding to the over-saturation if it is not really distinctive and distinct, and lots of other people also don’t wish to give their suggestions and ideas off, rather saving them for contests as they become more serious.
In general, without social websites, in the competition side particularly, I think freestyle would have an extremely low participation rate. The way the events are promoted and introduced all depends upon a fast-acting world of tweets and posts and sharing of material. Long gone are the days of having to check a site to find out if they’ve published a certain bit of information.
When we consider freestyle’s humble origins, I don’t think where it is today is something anyone would have easily predicted. We have made some serious strides, however now I feel as the addictive qualities of social websites may outweigh the addictive qualities of making good improvement at freestyle or landing a new tip. Would you wish to land a 4-rev in case you’re alone out in the middle of a forest with no camera and no way of sharing it with other people?
To conclude, social websites has swallowed a brand new life to freestyle. Whether the sport would have expired or simply remained underground without it’s another matter. But right now some of these core principles of freestyle have been overshadowed in order to play with the social media game well. This is exemplified by the number of times per freestyler goes outside with the aim of obtaining a clip to get Instagram in favor of the raw joy of just having an enjoyable freestyle session. The “life” and “purity” of freestyle is gradually dying in the hands of this digital world regardless of our appreciation for what these programs are doing for the game’s popularity.