Coaches talk about it all the time: Leadership and team leaders.
It typically comes from seniors, although a strong-willed junior may sometimes take the reins and guide a team. How important is leadership to a team? Do coaches rely on it? Is it overrated? We asked our six Chenango County football head coaches their opinions on senior leadership. Coaches and teams are listed alphabetically:
Tim Mattingly, B-G: “We have a couple seniors this year, Justin Pepper and Ethan Mazzarella, who have led the way and set the tone by example. They play at a high level, and other kids see that. I think leadership is vital for a team to be successful. You need seniors passionate about the game. Players will hear coaches say the same things over and over. When they hear those same things from seniors, it has a greater impact. Those are kids the rest of the team look up to. Seniors like Justin and Ethan, they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.”
Tim Paske, Greene: “In general good senior leadership can dictate how your season goes. If there are guys the team can rally around and trust, you can go a lot further in the season. I’m a strong believer that the stronger the leadership you have, the more success your team will have. I’ve also seen things go the other way (bad leadership), and it can be a big distraction to the team.”
John Martinson, Norwich: “As coaches, we expect kids to be leaders, but we do not put them in position to be leaders. That is something we have learned. This year, we’ve had seniors that have taken ownership and put it on their own shoulders. You need leadership out there, otherwise your team will be an empty shell – especially on defense. Andrew (Austin), Paddy (Law), and Alex (Williams) are leaders out there and in the huddle. They bring a lot of confidence to the rest of the team.”
Mike Chrystie, Oxford: “Coaches will say a lot of things, but when it comes down to it, players will listen to other players. If it’s the right player who is considered a leader, it will steer the team in the right direction. Good leaders can be extensions of the coaching staff. The players are with their teammates all the time, and they can police themselves. This is my third year here, and this is by far the best team leadership I’ve seen.”