Are You a Player-Coach?

Robert Trajkovski
3 min readJul 6, 2021
Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

I love that face…Those questioning eyes…

In the past, I have talked about the success of teams by using sports. To me, sports team success translates well into business team success.


It is about the dynamics of the team and the culture surrounding them. These require three elements:

  1. Great team members
  2. Great team leadership
  3. Great organizational leadership

Just to refresh your memory, Chicago Bulls had a superstar and several good players, great coach, and ok management. It was evident when we now look back that the only part of that triangle that thrived after the six championships was the great team leader, Phil Jackson.

So my theory was solid and over time I have shared it with many people BUT recently during a casual conversation with a colleague, Caleb, I realized that my model was missing something.

My colleague spends a lot of time coaching high school football and when we discussed this philosophy he said it was missing one element. That element is the player-coach.

I was stunned… initially hesitant that it should be added. BUT I kept watching sports and started seeing examples of it.

A player does not have to be a superstar to be a player-coach. BUT it helps. I believe that the ability to drastically improve the other team members is the key component of the player-coach.

Too much theory for you?

Consider as an example Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul. I happen to live in Houston and watched Chris when he played for Houston. It did not work out well. He got embedded in a system that had another superstar. BUT with Chris, they managed to get to game seven before going to the Wester Finals. Chris was injured and the Rockets lost.

He transitioned to Oklahoma Thunder and quickly that team’s level raised to another level. He was quickly noticed by the Phoenix Suns and brought over to help them.

Phoenix Suns have been a losing organization for 10 years., They had a bunch of young players who will become superstars or at minimum great players BUT they were in badly need of a player-coach. In one season they have raised the team’s level to get to the western conference finals and now sit in a great position to win it all.

A player-coach gets everyone to contribute to their maximum. BUT at times steps up and does the work needed when they see the team failing. They fill the gap between the knowledge of the coach and the execution of the team. The player-coach improves performance on the field.

Why aren’t the stars player-coaches?

A star simply executes their knowledge and gifts BUT do not necessarily have the ability to raise the level of others. Often the star wants the glory more than they want the team to have the glory. They do not verbalize it BUT it is easy to spot.

So THANKS Caleb, the triangle of success becomes a square

  1. Great team leadership
  2. Great team player-coach
  3. Great players
  4. Good/Great organization

My four cents…



Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.