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A reader by the name of Angela sent us an e-mail saying her coach has put her to play on defense against her will.  She told the coach that she wants to play midfield but the coach hasn’t changed his mind.  Angela goes on to ask, “why do coaches put players where they don’t belong?  Is there a reason for this?”

Well Angela, there’s often a method to anyone’s madness, you just have to be open to change.

I have been playing soccer with a group of core guys who have stayed together over the years.  We have had about 7-8 guys which have formed the base of our team.  Our team has traveled to Europe to compete in tournaments, we’ve won local titles, we’ve won many games and so on.  The point is, we’ve come to know each other very well on and off the field.

While we have been together, the same guys have stayed in their same position over the years.  This year, our world’s were turned upside down.

A professional coach by the name of Bento (click and read about him) was hired to lead our team.  Our team consists of players who’s age ranges from 22-30.  For the most part, we are all developed players and at the peak of our careers.   In the first few games he coached us, he allowed us to play in the positions we’ve always been playing.  He analyzed 2-3 games and then he decided some players were in the wrong position.  No one came out and said it, but you could feel it in the air, the entire team was thinking: What?…I’m in the wrong position?  You’re crazy..

Here we were, grown men who have played our positions our entire lives and seemingly perfected it.  In fact, we’ve done so well that we’re considered one of the best teams in our region and in our province.  Why would you want to change that?!

Our centre mid-fielder is co-founder of Goalden Philip.  He has played centre midfield his entire life.  He has done very well in the position, and is easily one of the best players at that position that I know of (…and I know a lot of soccer players).  Coach Bento told him: “Philip, you are very fast and you can beat a player very easily.  I want you to play on the wing as an attacking player.”  Philip, a bit confused by the decision, kept his mouth closed and did what the coach asked.

In another change-up, Coach Bento told one of our natural left-footed wingers “I need you to play left-fullback.  You have very good control and have a good cross.” That player, much like Philip, kept his mouth closed and did what the coach asked of him.  The same was done for many of our players.  We were now a new team.

Although at first everything seemed completely out of control and we couldn’t seem to click, games passed by and players began to notice that their strong points were being accentuated in their new positions.  Coach Bento seemed to have figured out everyone’s skill and where that skill could be used best.   Philip, for example, found that he had the freedom to run at defenders with a lot more pace.  He had room he could never dream of in the center-midfield.  Consequently, he was even more dangerous than before.  Players were now in entirely new positions exploring new opportunities and new skills.  Suddenly, we began to click and players really truly enjoyed their position.

Not everything was rainbows and butterfly’s.  One of the players, who was pushed from midfield into defense, made it clear that he wasn’t happy with where he was playing.  Mentally he was completely out of each game because he was focused on how much he hated his new role.  Instead of committing his mind to being the best he can be at the new position, he found himself complaining and playing half-heartily.  He made mistake after mistake not because he wasn’t good enough to play the position, but because he didn’t want to.  Guess what?  He was put on the bench for the remainder of the season.  Towards the end of the season, this player apologized to Coach Bento and said “I’d be happy to play anywhere Bento.” How times change…

The moral of the story is never assume you know everything.  Never shy away from learning new things and trying new things.  When a coach try’s you in a different position because he see’s something in you other coaches haven’t seen, give it a try…you never know, it might be the position that you should have been in all along.  Similarly, if a coach asks you to play another position just because he/she needs you there, don’t act like a baby and whine or give attitude;  don’t think you’re bigger than the team or bigger than the game.  Players who work hard and buy into the system are players that will flourish.  Players that cry and try to go against the grain will find themselves on the bench…languishing.

So, Angela, give it an honest effort.  You might find out that your skill-set is indeed tailored more to a defender than a midfielder.  Many of the modern day soccer formations (click here and here to read about them) allow defensive players – and especially fullbacks – to assume more attacking roles.  Even if you miss playing the midfield position, worry about that off the field and work as hard as you can on the field; be grateful you have the opportunity to play.

Thank you for your question Angela.  We encourage all readers to send us any questions about anything soccer related.  We will be more than happy to write.

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