Game-Day Leadership

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If you accept a leadership position, whether as coach, captain or just in a more informal capacity, your role and responsibilities on match day can be allocated into three segments: pre-game; in-game; and post-game.

Game-Day Leadership

Pre-game leadership

Good leaders respect individual difference, understanding that everyone has their own unique method for getting into an optimum state of mind for consistently producing a high level of performance. 

For example, in the changing rooms before the game, some players may be conversational yet others prefer to be quieter. Alternatively, you may have a player who wants to perform a few visualisation techniques, whilst another prefers to warm-up individually before the team starts preparing collectively. The key is to create a pre-game environment which considers the individual requirements of each player, whilst also bringing the team together as a whole. 

As a leader, it’s your job to channel the focus of the players towards their individual roles, and the shared objectives of the team. And remember, it’s much more effective to concentrate their minds on the skills you want them to execute, rather than the mistakes you don’t want them to make.

In-game leadership

Competition produces a wide spectrum of emotions, ranging from frustration and anxiety through to elation and relief. It’s therefore important for you to encourage your players to maintain, or quickly regain, emotional control, and you can do this by…

  • Reminding them to stay focused on the task at hand, and what they have control over
  • Encouraging them after making a mistake
  • Modelling a calm and controlled disposition yourself

Regardless of the score, effective leaders galvanise their teams to keep giving their best for the whole duration of the match, recognising the value of self-respect, perseverance, and continuous improvement.

Post-game leadership

Whether your team has won, lost, or drawn, it’s vital that, as a leader, you use the experience as a learning opportunity, encouraging the players to explore and identify anything they can extract for helping them to improve for next time.

However, as with most things, timing is important, so use your judgement for deciding when these discussions should take place. Usually, the best time to have these meetings is as soon after the match as possible – however, if you find that you are struggling to control your emotions, wait until you’re in the right frame of mind before delivering your message.

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