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Balancing your team: playmakers vs. goal-scorers

Seeing the field for what it is, trying to be a playmaker. Circa 2002

Seeing the field for what it is, trying to be a playmaker. Circa 2002

I played soccer from the age of about eight right through till college. I think it is a great sport – it’s fast moving, requires very little investment in terms of gear, requires skill you can work to improve, and here on the beautiful West Coast where we live, the season is really long – from October to May.

Soccer fields a team of eleven, comprised of a goalie, defenders, midfielders, and  forwards. The exact numbers and configurations of the positions depends largely on the coach’s philosophy, the strategy the team follows, and the skills available in the roster. When I played, I was a defender, and I think I could count on two hands the number of goals I have scored in all my years of playing.

What soccer taught me is that no matter what position you are assigned to, there are goal-scorers, and there are playmakers.

Goal-scorers get the glory – their names are entered in the record books as the person who scored a point during the game and they’re usually the ones you’ll see listed in the newspaper article about the game. It is their foot that puts that ball in the net. Goal scorers have obvious measures of success – they scored 78 goals that season, for example.

Playmakers are different. Playmakers set up the play that gives the goal scorers the opportunity. They see the goal five passes before it is in the net, visualize and plan the goal, adapting to changes as they come up on the field. Playmaker are not to be confused with the person who got an assist – while similar, the playmaker may not have passed the ball to the goal scorer, but they still influenced and controlled the play through a shouted word, a throw-in, or a especially good tackle. Playmakers see the goal long before the goal-scorer does and makes minute adaptations to the play on the field to set up the ideal conditions for that goal to count. It is harder to measure the successes of a playmaker; in fact, team members are often unaware of who originated that goal. Playmakers have a mind for seeing the field and calculating actions to succeed. Their work often goes unnoticed.

When building your team for any project, it’s critical that you find talent from both spectrums. While every project needs its star player to come up with the brilliant Big Idea or to create and execute on an amazing campaign, every project also needs the people who can see the big picture, adapt to the changing needs, and visualize the goal well before it’s even on the horizon. You should work hard to identify the players on your team that are the playmakers and give them the tools to do that really well.

While you may be tempted to stack your team with goal scorers – resist! A team full of goal scorers means there is no one  left to set up the goals when they count.

About Jen Arbo

Jen has more than a decade of experience managing projects and coordinating teams to stay on-task and on-budget. She is an experienced event coordinator, an adept copywriter and social media community manager. You can find her on Twitter at @jenarbo