Teamwork & Leadership

What does it mean to be a good teammate? Why is it important to truly be a team in competitive club soccer? How can everyone be a leader, when a team has so many different personalities? 

Teamwork (noun): cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.

The old saying of “There Is No I In Team” has been overused and does not help educate players on how they can develop as a leader. What separates the good teams, from the great ones, is the bond players have on and off the field. If there is genuine trust, friendship, and connection within the team the overall effort and connection on the field shows. Soccer is a team sport, at the end of the day, your individual success has just as much to do with the team’s success. At the club level, as much as it is competitive individually if you lose sight of the importance of being a team/family, your own success will always be limited.  

This article will explore three different topics: What makes a good teammate? How can a player figure out their role on the team? When facing adversity, how do great teams overcome it?


What Makes a Good Teammate? 

Remember, that at the end of the day you are NOT the coach of the team. Players are there to learn, listen, and help each other get better. Everyone knows when they make mistakes on the field. Players know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Pointing them out as a teammate, laughing when mistakes are made, or not including them in the flow of the game does not make the team better. Every single player makes mistakes during training and pointing out those mistakes or putting down your teammates is poisonous to the overall effect on the team. 

Although, holding your teammates accountable for their effort, encouraging them to keep playing hard, and lifting them up not only makes them better but the collective group. This is where the power of “WE” and “YET” comes into play. Change your vocabulary to focus on the collective group.

“Hey, WE have to be better” “Guys, our effort needs to be better at practice today” “WE can win the next one” “Keep it up, you just haven’t gotten it YET” “Your left foot isn’t there YET, but keep working” “WE have to hold ourselves accountable” 

A good teammate knows how to get the best out of everyone, leads by example, gives everything during training/games, creates trust, and is always vocally bringing the team together with collaborative vocabulary. The practice of using certain vocabulary, (WE) becomes natural and second nature over time. When the group focuses on collective goals the individuals are all better from it.


How can a player figure out their role on the team?

Not everyone has to be an extrovert and very vocal to be a leader/good teammate. The importance of teamwork and leadership starts with being true to yourself and knowing your leadership style. The best teams have everyone hold each other accountable, not just “Captains”. 

Are you someone who is loud and talks a lot on the field? Are you someone who focuses on the game and limits your talking to keywords (ball, man on, time)? Are you a non-starter who encourages from the bench and plays hard when in the game?

Leadership comes through in the effort, focus, and drive you to play with at all times. Listening to the coach, focusing on drills, and giving maximum effort. Doing this allows a player to call on others to step up their game. If you are someone who is comfortable addressing the whole team and pumping up others during games, then do that. Although, if you are someone who likes to talk to teammates one on one, and pushes them to be better, then do that. Some of the BEST leaders in sports are ones who just lead by example, and some of the best leaders are sometimes NOT the best players. 

As you grow up and develop, and figure out how you can best support your teammates. Your leadership style only is effective if it is genuinely part of your personality. The basis of all leadership though is effort


When facing adversity, how do great teams overcome it?

It is easy to be a good teammate and leader when you are winning. A true team and leadership are shown during the hard times and when the team is facing adversity. Think about how you interact with your teammates when mistakes are made or goals are scored on the team. 

Again, the power of “WE” is so important and powerful during these times. You will never win every game. If you play sports at a high level long enough you are going to lose and have hard times. How the team reacts, holds each other accountable, and moves forward will determine how long these hard times will last. 

“Hey WE got this” “It’s ok, let’s pick it up now” “Do not worry about that WE have your back” “WE are good, let’s just keep playing” “WE need to focus more in practice this week”

When a team comes back from being down and is able to overcome a deficit, that is the sign of a real team. Teams come together when facing hard times and lift each other up. Individuals make it about others and tear each other apart. In soccer the best individual does not win, the best team does. 

As a leader, be the person who is always uplifting the team, keeping everyone positive and together. The fake leaders show their true colors during adversity and lose their teammates’ respect. In the end, you will lose games. Focus on the WE and how you can be better together. 

In the end, you should take three things away from this topic of leadership and teamwork: 

1) Be true to yourself and find your leadership role on the team. Every player has a role.

2) Change your vocabulary to include “WE” and “YET” when discussing the team and calling out teammates. 

3) During hard times and adversity stick together and be a team that grows from losses instead of falling apart.


Mike Edwards
Bethesda Soccer Coach U13/U18