Creating a Team Captain vs. Finding a Born Leader
Over my career as a player I was, a majority of the time, a team captain. Even with my father as coach warning me that my chances of being named captain were slim to none I was chosen by my team to help lead them. It wasn’t that I cared if I was a captain or not but it always seemed comfortable to me. I have never minded leading and even today I see how that experience benefited me as I lead in my area of employment. Personally I am not an outspoken sort but when situations come, particularly chaotic ones, I seem to be blessed with the ability to remain calm, use my brain and lead others through it. I was by no means the best leader or the best soccer player but I used what I had and had some success in doing so.
Now that my playing career is over and I am coaching I find that locating a captain is difficult. With my U6 and U8 teams I have always just named different captains every game but now that we have pushed into the U11 and beyond realm I want to place a bigger emphasis on my team leaders. While we all have kids with good attitudes and kids with athletic ability it is difficult to find one that possesses both of those and has leadership qualities at this age group. I have made my desire to name captains known to my team and it was well received. At the first two practices attitudes were good and game play was high. As time has progressed I have noticed that players have slipped back into what they are comfortable with. Some follow, some hide, and some attempt to lead but many times lead in negative ways that bring the entire team down. I have begun to question my decision to name a captain. Maybe U11 is too young to name a captain and maybe these kids are just not ready? I have three kids I feel are clearly closer to what I am looking for as a leader. They are good kids with good attitudes and good soccer players. They just don’t lead consistently so that leads me to a totally different question.
Why are our children not leading? Why do they tend to either fall in with the negative players or just stay off by themselves? I think a lot of what I see is a reflection of parents in a very dumbed down sense. Maybe if we as parents would give our children more responsibility, hold them to it, and then reinforce the differences each child has instead of just forcing our kids down the broad and oh so gray boredom of what the world says is cool or acceptable. Maybe we have squashed the leaders in our children from so early on that they are struggling to find it once called to it. They have become so consumed with fitting in they have forgotten who God made them to be. I have great players but not great leaders on my team. I work hard to create good players but no matter how great a team we have we will fail without a field leader. You never fight a battle without a plan and you never win a war without successful, independent and trustworthy leadership.
Maybe the truth is we hold hands too much. We give our kids everything they could ever want and most kids never have to work for anything. We need our kids to fail, we need them to carry responsibility and we need them to learn to enjoy the challenge of putting themselves out there in an attempt to lead. After years of playing and coaching I would say that leaders are not born, they are grown. Like a plant they need nurturing in the beginning but there comes a time when we have to plant them and let them do it alone some. I, as the coach, need to prune the fruitless and negative branches while they continue to grow and learn from what they experience and see. With this in the forefront of my mind maybe, just maybe we can create an entire team of leaders.