The Player-Manager’s dilemma

Sunday League (image: The18)

Each weekend thousands of teams play on pitches like this.

There are many different reasons to play, but some common ground too: a sense of camaraderie; the opportunity to escape the stresses and strains of every day life.

Whilst abilities and commitment levels vary, the core of the park football team setup is simple.

The players go out and play, each taking up their position.

The substitutes wait their turn, eager to show what they’ve got.

The manager is on the sidelines: overseeing, directing, strategising, motivating.

The referee takes on their inevitably thankless task.

Everyone knows what they are there for. Roles are clear.

But the player-manager is different.

The player-manager has to work through a different set of questions and decisions, and with extra layers of complexity.

During the week they are cajoling, encouraging, planning, chasing, accounting (sometimes getting 11 people into one place for a game of football is surprisingly tough).

They’re also selecting – who plays, who doesn’t, and for what reasons.

And they’re part of the team: training, warming up, warming down, sharing in the highs and lows, the laughs and the grimaces.

For a manager there’s a degree of separation but the player-manager doesn’t have that luxury. They do get the benefit of being in both camps but with that come challenges.

Does the player-manager put themselves on the pitch?

How do they talk to a player who’s not performing?

What message does it send if they select themselves in the starting 11?

What if they make mistakes and can’t lead by example on the pitch?

When’s right for them to sit out, or sit back?

Eventually the player-manager will become just one of these two roles (more likely the latter, especially as even the most robust players decelerate eventually).

Trying to do both is is a heavy load to bear, as is navigating the inevitable conflicts that come with that.

But just like in our careers and ventures, it’s an excellent way to grow: hands-on, still in the game, using different lenses, understanding people and situations from multiple vantage points.

And like they used to say at the CAA talent agency – ‘no conflict, no interest.’

 

 

thanks to my good friend (and player-manager) Chris for the inspiration for this article

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