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One question that always pops up during an offseason takes the shape of ‘how do I get the captain’s armband this season?’ Especially for goalkeepers competing at the highest levels, there is undeniably an amount of pressure associated with attaining the role of team captain. Lending itself largely to the fact that goalkeeper is the most unique position in the sport, pressures surrounding the armband are unavoidable. It also has much to do with the reality that the goalkeeper position can only have one occupant at a time. In that isolated environment, it almost seems natural that the goalkeeper ought to be the team captain. 

The first observation to make is that we must disassociate the terms ‘leader’ and ‘captain’. These two terms are not the same, especially in a soccer context. Though it may be the case that a team’s captain is a great leader, it is not always the case. Many coaches, for example, enjoy the idea that the team captain should be the team’s best overall player, best scorer, strongest defender, etc. The truth of the matter is that a team’s best player is not necessarily a great leader at all, never mind the team’s best leader.  

The question that ought to precede motivations about becoming a team captain, is ‘how can I become a great leader?’ If the answer to that question was simple, then we would have an overpopulation of great leaders at the moment. Since this is clearly not the case, there must be something difficult to attaining that status. Embracing that it will be a difficult journey is the first step in this process. Great leaders are not born overnight, and it requires commitment and a positive attitude to get there.  

Materially, the first move you can make is to look inward. Can you lead yourself? Can you make the necessary changes to enhance your own self-improvement? Soccer is a team sport, but every team is populated with individuals. If you cannot lead yourself, then it will be nearly impossible to lead others. Another way of asking that question is, ‘can you set a good example for your teammates?’ If you are a leader on your team, then your teammates will look to you for guidance in more ways than one. Without a good example to lean on, they will find it difficult to trust you. 

Leadership is a balancing act, but if you have the proper mindset, then you’ll discover that displaying leadership qualities will improve not only yourself as a goalkeeper, but yourself as a person. Over the course of the coming weeks, we will discuss more about leadership and how roles can change within different team contexts.

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