I would like to kick off this weeks blog by acknowledging lots of great feedback I have had from people. This has generally been via e-mail. The common theme of this has been the enjoyment of the real-life stories and experiences. So this blog continues along that path.
During my playing days I bumped into some real characters. I played alongside and against some guys who were tough, talented, deadly, courageous, skillful and other great traits. However, three players stick out that go beyond all these great characteristics. Mark Barclay (Ashfield), John Harper (Neilston) and Willie Stewart (East Kilbride YC) were all team mates of mine during my junior days. On reflection, all these guys had very similair qualities on the park. They were old-fashioned box to box midfielders. Incredibly high work rate with no lack of skill. They played in the middle of the park where they were strong in defence and also got forward to grab their fair share of goals. However, it was not their on-field attributes that set them apart. It was what they did off the park that was the difference. True leaders in everything they did. Whether that was being at the front at training to organising the players nights out (sometimes too many of these!!) to being at the centre and leading activities in the dressing room. Each and every one of them lit up the place and created a certain culture which was just a pleasure to be part of. I owe a great deal to each of them as they made football not only great fun to play but, welcomed everyone who came into contact with them. Consequently we were all very comfortable in each other’s company.
Culture is formed and sustained by the behaviour of the people involved. The culture in the teams mentioned was very strong due to the impact of the characters above. Coaches are sometimes given credit or blamed for the culture in a team. My experience is that these type of characters in a team are more important and have a bigger impact on the culture of the club. Thankfully, they all impacted the culture in a positive way. In my own team, I look for this type of leader and I think we have a way to go. There are a couple who I think could blossom into this type and become the leader of the pack. Time will tell but what I know is that it is their inner strength and drive, working within a supportive environment which will help them get to that place.
It is the old story of leaders are made and not born and they are the products of their environment. Can we create that environment that produces these leader type characters? I am sure we can but are we prepared build these characteristics within players? Just think how strong your culture will be by just having one such character in a team. Believe me, it only works!