(I asked this question on IPS.SE however I have altered the question to get a different insight from more sport minded people)

Recently, a new friend of mine started up a 5-a-side soccer session in which a group of his friends (that I had never met) would meet up and play a game for an hour twice a week. He invited me to come along as they were short one evening about a month ago and it has been a brilliant, enjoyable few weeks playing with them. (I am the youngest player at 21, and ages range up to 40 years old)

When he asked me to play initially, I mentioned to him:

I take playing soccer very seriously and change into a different person playing, nothing I say while playing should be taken to heart and if you're okay with that I'd love to play

While I am generally easy-going although stubborn in day-to-day life, when playing football I have an innate need to win. Because of this, when playing on with or against someone that doesn't seem to be interested I will vocally (and probably borderline aggressively) tell them to come on and put some effort in while playing.

Generally this is taken quite well as just me being passionate while playing, however when a new person (approx. 34/35) joined the last session and I shouted to put some effort in he seemed to be quite stunned and taken aback that I had confronted him on it.

After each session we usually have a few drinks and chat about games etc that are on and I have made some great friends because of this, but this new guy flat out refused to speak to me after the game because he didn't want to be friends with a younger person who thinks he can boss people older than him around.

I tried to explain that:

I had no intention of bossing him around and I'm sorry he thought that

but he did not listen and has ignored me since.

I am not worried about making up with this person as I only see him for an hour or two at soccer a week.

The general consensus of the group is for a serious game but with lighthearted fun in between. Is there a way of changing a person's understanding of what I say in an interpersonal way? The rest of the group understood what I was going to be like before I played as my friend told them what I said. Is the best way to just outright say it to a new member or is there an easier/more conventional way?

My question is: is it okay to be overly passionate/borderline aggressive when on the pitch playing a team sport without it carrying over to off the pitch interactions?

  • Are you the only one in the game who acts this way?
    – Pieter B
    Jul 24, 2018 at 14:43
  • @PieterB Nowhere close, I'm just by far the youngest
    – Fitzy
    Jul 24, 2018 at 18:35
  • I would be worried that, if you continue, the group might slowly dissolve if the other players stop enjoying playing the game and decide to leave (even they say "I'm okay with your attitiude"). Jul 25, 2018 at 14:48

3 Answers 3


My question is: is it okay to be overly passionate/borderline aggressive when on the pitch playing a team sport without it carrying over to off the pitch interactions?


Simple answer: Unless everybody on the team thinks that's okay (or they are paid to accept it), that's simply not okay.

Being on the pitch reveals the worst of a person's character. In your case that's apparently "borderline aggressive" behavior. Clearly there is somebody on the team who isn't simply accepting/ignoring that behavior, so now it's up to you how you want to handle this.

Sportsmanship and abusive behavior

Sportsmanship - named after sports itself - is all about one upping normal daily behavior. During normal interactions shouting abusively isn't accepted, so on the pitch you should one-up that. Yes, you will be under stress and it can be hard, but sports is typically about a whole lot more than just winning.

Honestly, there are a lot of bad role models in sports. We often see professional coaches losing their cool on TV. We have all heard about abusive high school coaches. So in that sense it's not surprising that such behavior will feel acceptable, especially if you had such a coach at some point. The simple reality however, is that outside of very 'serious' contexts this behavior is simply considered abusive. If it's not okay in the office, nor in the bar, why would it be acceptable on the pitch?

Do you even achieve what you want?

Outside of sports a lot of research has been done into this type of leadership and it turns out that all it does is demotivate the large majority of people causing most companies with such leadership do well short term and then burn up quickly and completely. If your goal is to win, think about what will motivate each individual player. Maybe there are players who will get motivated by being shouted at and actually enjoy it (who knows, there are a lot of weird kinks out there and shouting at each other might get the adrenaline flowing), but for most there are different far better ways to motivate them.


If you play just for fun without any results being recorded you'll often have a few guys who don't give their best, simply because they don't have or want to. After all it's just for fun and having fun on the pitch can be very different from one person to another. Some people (like you) want to win every single game and someone else might be more interested in just doing tricks and showing off... or someone just comes to the pitch to hang around with you guys to drink a beer.

So in your case I'd try to be not too aggressive when someone doesn't want to listen. Give them time and they'll eventually adopt you your game and put more effort into it. They still need to get to know you and this does come with a price. Respect on a pitch is not found, it is earned. So go ahead and show them how you do it and lead by example. If they're interested in playing with you guys they'll learn more from this than from being shouted at.

My old coach used to say that and he also said "Here I'm your friend, but as soon as we go out there (pointing at the pitch), I'm your boss and when we're back I'll be your friend again. ", but I don't think it is a good fit in game between friends. It's a game for fun and not the Fight Club.

  • Edited the question to fit more to the title based on your last paragraph, thank you. Does the situation change depending on if each person is agreed on the game being serious? Or is it always better to not be too aggressive from the off?
    – Fitzy
    Jul 24, 2018 at 11:55
  • @Fitzy That depends on the people. If you play completely serious and everyone does that it'll be okay to try and tell them how you do it. But in general I stick to my answer: Don't shout at new people. Show them.
    – dly
    Jul 24, 2018 at 11:58

Answering your particular case:

Your football skills (especially game vision, defensive skills) should match your leadership ambitions. Apart from the seniority in the team or leadership qualities, these are the skills players need to have to captain their teams. If you are in possession of these skills and if you create chances for your teammates to play (which is very important in street football), your teammates will love to have you as a leader, motivator, or someone who tells them where, when or what to improve.

Answering your general question:

In my personal experience as a frequent player, “what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch” is only applicable if you are friends outside football too. E.g, if it was something else that connected you: your neighborhood, college, school, work, etc. but not the football itself. If it's not the case, I'm afraid, the great answers given on ips.se still hold.

Your football temperament is very close to mine. I have couple of unpleasant memories from the times when while being extremely emotional and passionate about the result or small game details I have ruined the game for my teammates and opponents.

  • Are you saying that the extent of motivation allowed is based on the ability of the footballer? Or can you be the same type of motivator without being as good a footballer
    – Fitzy
    Jul 24, 2018 at 13:01
  • You yourself being full of motivation is very much appreciated no matter what are your skills. But when someone (a stranger outside the pitch) tries to motivate another player while in the game it can be perceived as the motivator asks that player to be more like them. But if the motivator is in the possession of some specific set of qualities, their authority will greatly increase in the eyes of that player and they will follow motivator's lead.
    – gdrt
    Jul 24, 2018 at 13:15
  • Ahhh I see what you mean, in essence it is personal opinion regardless but it's nice to see I'm not the only one with this temperament
    – Fitzy
    Jul 24, 2018 at 13:21

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