I am playing for my high school team, and my coach said he wants me to “take a leadership role”. Even though I’m one of the best players on my team, I don’t know if I can produce enough to really help my team win. The teams we face are really hard to beat, so I am going to practice A LOT over the next month to get things right. Can you give me some tips on scoring and on passing to players who are not as good as me?
I can see why your coach picked you for a leadership role. You seem very dedicated. The fact that you are asking for advice shows that you have the right attitude, and your enthusiasm and desire to succeed is evident. It’s also fantastic that you realize that a large part of winning is making your teammates better.
As a coach, I believe it’s best when a player leads by example. If you are a top player – and I believe you are – and they are wise players, they will see what you do and “model” what you do so that they can be better themselves.
That means not just telling your teammates to practice hard or play hard, but doing it yourself. That means not just being skilled, but having a good attitude, showing up to practice on time and ready to play, and never “dogging” it.
That being said, another quality of a good leader is remaining calm and not “over-thinking”. I suspect this one may be a challenge for you. Remember, if you are the leader and you are nervous or panicked, your teammates will see that and probably get that way themselves. Remain calm, in control, and focused no matter what the situation on the field.
Massimo Ambrosini is an example of a standout team leader
To answer your question about passing to players who are not as good as you, try to make crisp (but not overly-crisp) and accurate passes. Making better passes means making smarter and more accurate passes, not necessarily faster passes. Remember, it might take them a split second longer to react than better players, so accommodate for that and try to get them that extra split-second to adjust. Knowing what your teammates can and cannot do goes a long way here, so try to take “mental notes” during practice.
Your team is only as strong as your weakest link. While your teammates may not be as good as you, it’s important to have confidence in them. Chances are if you don’t trust them, they will not trust themselves. Remember, the only way for them to get better is to have touches on the ball.
There is a balance though, and making good decisions under pressure is also another attribute of good leadership. It’s great that you want to get your teammates involved, but if you are down a goal with 1 minute to play, and you have the best shot on goal, you should take it. Knowing when to shoot, when to pass, etc. is an important skill.
So just to sum it up, team leaders and top players should:
Lead by example
Remain calm and focused
Know what your teammates can and cannot do
Have confidence in your teammates
Learn when to use teammates and when to do it yourself
If you can do those 5 things effectively, you’ll be a great leader.