5 concepts for creating leaders on the pitch

How do we develop leaders on the pitch in our teams?

With traditional ‘autocratic’ football coaching styles, we see the coach as dominant, instructing the players where to stand and where to pass the ball at any given moment.

This, coupled with a repetitive drill-based training methodology, is a surefire way to produce players that are predominantly looking to others – usually the coach – for instruction on what to do next.

However, my ideology is that it is my players that play the game. Therefore, they must be able to make the best decisions at the right time and be able to perform accordingly in whatever situation arises during the game for the best outcome for the team.

To do this, we need leaders on the pitch. Here are five key concepts to help develop those leaders:



To be empowered, your players must feel appreciated and have an understanding of what is required of them. It is up to the coach to connect with their players on a human level and make them feel valued.

Also, communicating the style of play, gameplans and position-specific requirements of the team is vital for players to know what they need to do and lead others on the field.



Sessions and exercises must be provided to allow players to negotiate the above-mentioned gameplans and position-specific requirements.

As your players train, they gain valuable practice and improve on performing the requirements the coach has set out. The coach’s job here is to provide guidance and certain instructions that will help the players to stay on track.

For example, in an exercise of defence vs. attack, I will stop to allow the players to get into groups and discuss how they can better improve. I may or may not make one or two suggestions, I may or may not listen in, depending on how the session is going. This aids them to better think about what they are doing and to try to find the answers for themselves.



When specific challenges are set for the players, and the coach can just observe the play, it is up to the players to discover the solutions. This is when leaders can step up and help their teammates.

It could be that a challenge is to score from a one-touch finish and you see a player directing the ball to be played out wide for crosses.



Can we develop and implement our own effective coaching sessions, as opposed to just copying the drills that are abundantly out there?

It is fine to search for and use exercises that already exist. However, it is up to the coach to know their players and their gameplan.

Therefore, creating sessions that will specifically improve the players and their performances to enhance the game plan will go a long way in gaining a competitive edge on the field.



I believe in individual, group and team meetings or chats. For me, these are a two-way process where I can give out advice and also receive feedback.

By creating dialogue, we can gauge the players’ understanding, get an idea of how they are feeling and see if they have any thoughts that will improve the team and training.

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