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Tackling Self-Focused Players
Players with "me" and "I" syndromes can be turned into "we" players
by Lawrence Fine
Many people are familiar with the "me" syndrome, which is characterized by players whose focus is on individual achievement and glory in lieu of the success of the team. Given the choice between doing what will give them individual glory or what will help the team succeed, the players afflicted with the "me" syndrome will choose the former over the latter.
Not as well-known, but perhaps more insidious, is the "I" syndrome. Players afflicted by it believe the only path to his or her team's success lies in his or her taking control of the game and winning through individual effort. A classic example of the "I" syndrome is seen in the player who tries to dribble through everyone to score the winning goal at the end of the game.
Both types of player engage in selfish play. However, while a player with the "me" syndrome plays for personal glory, the player with the "I" syndrome believes his or her actions ultimately are for the good of the team. Unfortunately, neither really works. If a team has five "I" syndrome players on the field, it will have five players at the end of the game trying to do what each believes is best for the team. Often the result is a
chaotic finish with players running (sometimes quite literally) in five different directions, and the uncoordinated efforts often don't work. The player with the "I" syndrome believes he or she is doing what is in the team's best interests, but in reality it is counterproductive.
Players with the "we" syndrome do what is in the best interest of the team, even if it means subordinating personal glory. While "we" players and "I" players have the same interests at heart, "we" players understand that the best interests of the team require more than their personal effort. In the last few minutes of the game, the "we" player is trying to find any way to succeed, whether or not it stems from his
or her direct effort. In the long run, "we" players end up being more successful, even though "me" and "I" players sometimes achieve short-term glory.
Players can change from a "me" to an "I" to a "we" player, but only if they understand the concept. Without understanding that being a "me" or "I" player is counterproductive, they never will know they must change and become a "we" player. Players should ask themselves frankly and honestly which type of player they are. Through open, constructive discussion, coaches can help their players understand
their type and, if necessary, help them evolve from a "me" to a "we."
Lawrence Fine produces FineSoccer.com, an online resource for a variety of tips, ideas and newsletters related to soccer coaching. A member of the NSCAA Website Development Committee, Fine also serves as volunteer assistant coach for an NCAA Division I men's team.
Reprinted from NSCAA.com's Coaching Tips section.