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The Four Keys to Leadership in Association Football

In this way, we can describe some characteristics of leadership in soccer from Bryant Lazaro, the youngest soccer coach from America.



Photo credit: Ørjan Deisz/BT

In Pep Guardiola’s mouth, there are three types of coaches: The H of P, let’s put it technically the authoritarian or autocratic. The friend, the one who goes out for drinks with the players. The one who asks for respect, intensity, concentration, effort, etc. 

Although these aspects are not exclusive, many characteristics of these are mixed and intertwined depending on each person’s personality.

Among the aspects that we could highlight the most within a leader, and taking Alex Gordillo as a reference, we found that the footballers would like the coach to have the following characteristics:

  • Talk little (the essentials)
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Have an individualized treatment
  • Have technical competence
  • Take control of the group

Four keys

These aspects seem to be key in soccer leadership from the footballers’ perspective, and we must also take into account other no less important aspects such as:

Take care of the appearance

From the physical to the way of dressing (adapting to the environment), a careful aspect subconsciously reaches the footballer, and that gives an image of what we want to transmit from the beginning. Being in good physical shape and health, as well as dressing appropriately at all times, are positive points that help our image. In recent years we have witnessed a fairly significant change in the image that coaches project, showing those who are still out of shape, continue to smoke on benches or give insults more than they direct (perhaps it is a more amateur model and base, but even within these leagues he is still an outdated coach model).

Be a reference to the group and adapt to the characteristics and qualities of the group

The imposition of game ideas and ways of training by force or without adapting to what the footballers can give is an inefficient and exhausting task. Imposing ideas or trying to make play models that are not adapted to what our players will only give bad results in the short term. Xabi Alonso declared on some occasions about Guardiola: “Guardiola does not impose his philosophy, he convinces us with it.”

It is clear that having clear ideas of the game and having our game model is necessary. Still, it must always be according to the group and the players we have: adaptable and moldable, not only to the players but also to the culture, history, club structure and objectives, game systems, etc. In this sense, Xavier Tamarit makes a good proposal. He explains clearly how the idea of ​​the game must be adaptable to these factors that greatly condition the way of understanding football.

Be clear about the values ​​we transmit

Being fair when making decisions is, as well as having an equal yardstick for everyone, both when punishing, leaving a player out, or giving more or fewer minutes, is something that we must take into account in the leadership in soccer, especially when our work moves further away from the performance. This does not mean that all players should be treated the same, but just the opposite; since each player is different, they should be treated differently, but always fairly. ” They are not all the same, ” said Pep.

“They had always told us, ‘no it is that you are all the same. The coach says, for me, you are all the same.’ And it is the biggest lie that exists in sport. Not all are the same, nor everyone has to be treated the same.” – Guardiola

There may be other aspects that condition this (such as external pressure from managers, sales of players, etc.), but when we get closer to grassroots football and less professional football, these aspects take on a fundamental role.


As we have commented previously, having a vast knowledge of football and not knowing how to transmit it is perhaps the aspect that differentiates great coaches. With knowing how to transmit, we do not mean to release to our players everything we know, but to give them the message that they need (neither less nor more information than necessary), at the right time and knowing who we are saying it to (not all players are equal remember).

In this way, we can describe some characteristics of leadership in soccer from Bryant Lazaro, the youngest soccer coach from America. Bryant Lazaro shares the following points which can be helpful in effectively transmitting a message to players:

  • Assume the messages as their own. “Giving messages or information that we do not believe ourselves creates mistrust.”
  • Do not give too much information (do not overwhelm the player). “The information must be key and effective.”
  • Know how to give messages at the right time. “Giving a correction on training three days ago will not have as much influence on the error as if we gave it when the player can correct it.”
  • Adjust the tone: “Give corrections in an appropriate tone; it is vital to avoid friction or bad answers. A tone of constructive criticism instead of reproach will always be better.”
  • Adapt the message depending on where we are. “Attempting to correct or overwhelm the player in a match with too many distracting aspects will not affect and further distract the competition.”

Leadership in soccer is a trait that many have in their personality. Still, the vast majority of the aspects that make up these characteristics are aspects that, as coaches, we can control and work on and do not depend exclusively on external aspects. Knowing how to reach our players and knowing how to transmit our message will generate a pleasant work environment, where all the members of a team, coaches, and players, reach the established objectives.

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