What position do you play?

I often think about "Greg" who came to us as a varsity ready athlete as a freshman. It just so happened the varsity had an opening for a wing defender that year. Greg was physically gifted enough to man that spot. Through summer workouts and team camps Greg was worked with to prepare him for the role. He played as our left back during scrimmages and acquitted himself well.  If I recall correctly it was after our first regular season match that Greg came to the coaching staff and proclaimed "I'm a forward. That's all I have ever played and that's where I want to play in high school." Greg spent the next 3 seasons toiling away as a forward on the JV squad. As a senior he played forward for the varsity.I guess he was happy with his decision even as his coaching staff and teammates were not.

One might think "Greg" is an exception, but that really isn't the case.  I see this attitude on a regular basis.  In recent years I have had a goalkeeper who believed she was a center midfielder until it became clear to her that she was the teams 4th or 5th best option as a center midfielder.  I have had a defensive midfielder who insisted he was a forward. I have had a center defender who insisted he was a attacking midfielder. The commonality between all these players and others like them is a "me first" attitude.

Other players are more than happy to fill any role asked of them. Perhaps they have a different type of "me-first" attitude, one that serves the team. These are the kids that sacrifice the position they want in order to play and help their team by doing so.  In exchange they have almost always expanded their game and become better all round players. If one looks at the youth playing expeience of our national team players you will discover almost all have changed positions as they advanced through the ranks. I have to wonder about those who refused to change positions or stubbornly proclaimed they were "a forward" as Greg did all those years ago.

To paraphrase John F Kennedy, "Ask not what your team can do for you, ask what you can do for your team." 

It's such a great quote.  It speaks to sacrificing for the greater good. I think it is an indicator of the quality of "team chemistry" that is present in the individual and by extension the collective team. I believe it speaks to embracing opportunities instead of blaming obstacles. It speaks to an open mindedness instead of a closed mind. 

As a coach, give me the kid that wants to play. Period.  One of my favorite players of all time was a starting defender / center midfielder who when the need arose to train an emergency goalkeeper volunteered without hesitation to fill that role too. "Kevin" worked with the goalkeepers every day in addition to working as a center defender and center midfielder. His goalkeeping abilities improved to a degree that he would have sufficed in a pinch. Thankfully the need never arose, but I love, love, love the attitude and spirit!

My advice to players is this, if a coach asks what position you play, your response should be "I prefer _____, but am more than willing to play wherever you and the team need me to play"  and mean what you say.

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