Wizards vs. Warriors

High Fiving before the game

As for the title of this post, no, I am not speaking about the NBA (Washington/Golden State), I am speaking about an interesting comment Paul made to us in the team room prior to our games against UCONN and Duke.  Paul emphatically mentioned that to make it in this league as a player you must be a wizard or a warrior.  Hmmm.  A wizard or a warrior? 


Let’s define the two classifications.  A wizard would be a player that is magical.  She isn’t the most physical of players but she is brilliant on the ball and can create something out of nothing.   She is constantly a threat and can change a game with the simple touch.  She dribbles through players like a warm knife through butter.    All of this is done with a smooth, effortless style that makes the most difficult skills seem almost breathtakingly easy. 

A warrior is one who tackles and tackles often with massive force.  The opponent is lucky to leave the encounter in one piece or without a broken bone.  The warrior will run through a brick wall and smile when she comes out the other side.  She will dive in front of shots, slide tackle until her knees are bloody, and physically destroy the opposition.

I believe what Paul said was true, in order to be a one of the greatest players, you must exude either of these labels with obvious distinction.  You can strive to be both but from what we have learned from previous blogs, the most deliberate of practice is what makes perfect, and if you are practicing both then you will  never be great at one. 

Being a great team, however, requires both wizards and warriors.  No team has won a world cup with 11 warriors or 11 wizards because they complement one another.  Our team is an example of this.  You have the wizard, Lianne Sanderson, performing magic tricks in front of the warrior, Jenn Buczkowski.  If Lianne happens to lose the ball, Jenn is there to tackle to get it back.  It makes for the perfect marriage and we would not be a winning team without this mutually beneficial relationship. 

While I think a great team needs a mixture of both,  I think this perfect mixture is weighed heavily on the wizard side (careful when managing all the egos).   For instance, Barcelona (the best team in the world) has about nine wizards  and two warriors.  The warriors are the defenders, Puyol and Alves, and the wizards are all the jaw dropping players in front of them.  Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Villa.  The wizards will win you the games while the warriors will prevent you from losing.  As my old national team coach, Jerry Smith, once said, “A good offense will always beat a good defense.”

Truth be told, being the wizard is the more glamorous role.  You get the fame, the attention, and the accolades.  You don’t sport the same bruises and cuts as your warrior teammate.  You pose for pictures and practice your goal scoring celebrations.  The warrior does her work behind the scenes, out of the lime light and media attention.  The warrior performs her underrated role so that the wizard looks better.  Yes, it is more fun to watch the wizard because the warriors skill may be lacking in comparison but her determination, grit, perseverance, and fearlessness make her an essential component to the team structure.  

Some interesting questions are raised when debating this topic.  Are the seemed best players in the world warriors or wizards?  For me, they are wizards.  Zidane, Romario, Pele, Maradona, Christiano Ronaldo……all wizards, and after watching Argentina play the United States men’s national team this weekend, I can say for an absolute fact that Lionel Messi is a magician to the highest degree.  His balance, his deception, and his skill make it seem like he is dancing through the helpless defenders.  He is a man playing with boys. 

Another question, who would you rather play with and who would you rather play against?  I think that answer is dependant on who you are as an individual/player.  I would like to believe that when it comes to preferences of playing with, opposites attract, so there would be a complete pair.  Therefore, a warrior type would rather play with a wizard and vice versa.  I would also like to believe that the preference of who you would rather play against would be the alternative.  A wizard, for instance, would rather play against another wizard because wizards are not known for their vicious tackles or their defending prowess.   A warrior would rather play against a warrior because the probability of looking silly after being spun in circles is drastically reduced.

Wow, all of these questions and only my input.  I want to hear other thoughts, the thoughts of my readers.  Who are the best players?  Who would you want on your team?  What is the perfect combination? 

The most important question, who am I?  A warrior?  A wizard?  Some of both?  I think about my nationality, American, and move closer to the warrior side.  Americans are physical, athletic, fast, and strong unlike the Brazilians who are the definition of the wizard.  I think about my position, midfield, and inch back towards the wizard side.  Forwards and offensive midfielders (the creators) are normally your wizards as opposed to your defenders who are typically your warriors.  I look at my physiology.  I am slim, small, and compact and so again, I inch closer to the wizard.  I look at my mental capacities.  I am creative, witty, and spontaneous.  More wizard.  I look at my personality characteristics: determined, focused, and disciplined.  Point warrior. 

Somehow, after all of this, I end up smack dab in the middle.  Ah well, personal world domination may not be in my soccer future (so don’t worry Marta), but being a great teammate on a great team is never second best.  While I may never make the all-star team, I know my contribution here on the Independence is appreciated and all the awards in the world couldn’t compare to Paul’s mere utterance of the words “well done”.

About joannalohman

Professional Soccer Player for the Philadelphia Independence and Vice President of Tenant Consulting, LLC, a commercial real estate firm in Washington, DC. I believe that curiosity is the highest form of insubordination so I am always exploring and seeking out ways to learn. I am a multi-dimensional reader, dancer, socializer, leader, and motivator. I have traveled around the world for both soccer and recreation experiencing different cultures by submerging myself in the local community. I am currently living in West Chester, PA in a one bedroom, kick butt apartment. At 28 years old, it is my first time living in my own space and I am thoroughly enjoying every second of it. A mathematics nut, spreadsheets turn me on and I find equations stimulating. Business is my post career destination and I hope to one day change the world....however that may be.
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8 Responses to Wizards vs. Warriors

  1. Denise says:

    Great post as usual Jo! Great descriptions of the types of players. I do think that players can excel at both types. Most gravitate to only one but some have characteristics of both. I agree, wizards will always be recognized, because they have the accolades and are flashy, and I doubt you’ll see warriors getting a FIFA World Player of the Year Award. But, like you described for yourself, players may find they have parts of both in them. After your warrior explanation, I thought immediately of Abby Wambach. But, you said they’re typically defenders and get no spotlight. However, she is an exception to that rule. While Wambach is a warrior to a T, she has characteristics of a wizard. I’ve seen her pull off dazzling moves and creative plays that aren’t typical of a warrior. I agree with you on the fact that a winning team will have a balance of warriors and wizards. Its a beneficial relationship in which the players cooperate and work together effectively! Can’t wait for WPS to start. Best of luck to you and Philly, and keep up the great work on the blog!

  2. clg0519 says:

    It might be the American in me who grew up believing in the value of team work, loving the hard work of football’s offensive line making it possible for the QB or star RB or receiver making the game-winning play. My 12 yo daughter is by nature a warrior regardless of what position she plays in soccer. She gets yelled at alot by opposing team parents and her knees are always bloody. She is working on finesse but there is no moderation in her nature. She goes big or goes home each and every game because that’s who she is. Her sister is also a warrior but not because of physicality. That daughter is the total team player who never gives up, never stops playing and is always looking to find the pass, the tackle, the header, the run that helps her team counter and win.

  3. jMac says:

    Allow me to offer a perspective from an astute observer of the human carnival: Be it a Wizard or a Warrior it all comes down to these two very basic principles – One’s intent and one’s integrity. All (all being the operative word) shall rise from these two principles. They will constantly challenge & define one as a person/player. Per Derek Jeter, “You just don’t accidentally show up in the World Series!” Sounds like a bit of Paul Riley channeling through the DJ:)

    Another insightful, revealing, thought-provoking, great blog post Cheesesteak #17

    • joannalohman says:

      Thank you to everyone that commented on my latest blog, Wizards vs. Warriors. It is great to get other perspectives on the idea. It seems like us Americans just can’t shake that die hard warrior mentality. It must be our culture and the emphasis on work ethic. We may not always be the prettiest but you can never question the effort.

  4. AC Milan/Italy circa 2005-2007

    Gennaro Gattuso – Warrior
    Andrew Pirlo – Wizard

    It’s a midfield pairing of ball winner, ball distributor. These guys won a World Cup and Champion’s League in this fashion, while surrounded by great players.

    Zidane couldn’t do what he did without Claude Makelele as a DM, whom he personally asked to play next to him in World Cup 2006.

    It’s all about complements on the field, putting the pieces together and highlighting strengths while masking weaknesses.

    To me, the best players combine a bit of the two “W” words. They can attack, defend, and distribute. In MLS, think of box-to-box midfielders like Shalrie Joseph, Juninho, Larentowicz, etc. These guys are the pivot in the center of the field and everything goes through them.

    • check it – Andrea Pirlo, my bad

    • joannalohman says:

      Gattuso came to my mind immediately when I described the characteristics of a warrior. I agree that he is the epitome of that label. I also agree that wizards need warriors to be at their best. The most well rounded players have a bit of the two “W” words, yes, but I think the best players can get away with being 90% wizard, 10% warrior or even more so. If you are incredible on the ball you are usually excempt from truly defending so when the ball is won they are in a position to attack and have the energy to do so.

  5. Pingback: Wizards Warriors

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