Blueprint According To...Alex Trukan
Alex Trukan was coaching at a Dutch academy in his native Warsaw when received the offer to join Nottingham Forest’s academy staff. That was two years ago and he has since continued his development in England where he not only teaches players to develop a growth mindset but lives that idea on a daily basis.
Blueprint for Football: Let's start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long was that?
Alex Trukan: No one from my family has ever been involved in football in any way so when I started to be interested in football it was a bit of surprise for everybody.
As most of the coaches, I started playing at a local club when I was 13 and played there for couple of years. I then progressed onto bigger academy and played there for some time. At the same time as I was playing, I have received an offer to assist with a local U13's team. I was thinking about coaching even before that so I liked the idea and agreed.
As it became difficult to coach and train at the same time, after a couple of months I had to make a decision and went onto the coaching pathway, resigning from playing. At that time I was 16 years old.
Since that time, I have never regretted that decision and absolutely loved the coaching which has became my full time job 2 years ago and still is at the age of 20.
BfF: Have you had any mentors in your career?
AT: I had a pleasure of always having great people around me and have been always finding it vitally important to listen and learn from others. I think the most important mentors
in my life would my parents, who have not only thought me the basics of how to live but have been also very supportive in my career.
Specifically in football I had different mentors throughout different stages of my coaching pathway. Some of them have been close from the very beginning and still are, others just at a particular time. I guess it's a good thing and it's nothing personal to change mentors as the career goes by and the views and philosophies change.
BfF: What is your coaching philosophy?
AT: Coaching philosophy is something that should come from within the coach and is a crossover of his experiences, values, beliefs and behaviours. I think every coach that wants to become a great coach should start with analysing himself and getting to know his own personality. That's the only way to have unique coaching philosophy and be the best version of it as any other philosophy than your own personal is already taken.
My coaching philosophy is based around personal development, rather than the culture of 'talents'. I strongly believe that three essential ingredients are needed for the player to develop: passion (fuel), deliberate practice and master coaching. I have been also a great believer of developing a 'growth mindset', which ensures that learning process is valued not less than performance and is placed in the centre of coach's attention. My coaching philosophy is based on being passionate to inspire young people, positive as well as professional and organised.
BfF: Is winning important for you?
AT: Winning is an essential part of the game and regardless of the age of the players you coach, it should be valued and understood. For most of the kids, winning will mean scoring more goals than the opponent but winning for a youth coach will always mean development
of the players. I think a lot of modern academies went a bit too far in resigning from playing competitive games and taking the pressure out of the game and that now results in many players coming through into older and senior teams not being able to cope with the pressurised environments and playing to win. That's why some of the focus in the coaching programme should be given to learning 'winning mentality' understanding what does winning mean at different stages and for different players as well learning to cope with pressure.
BfF: What are the most important attributes of players in your teams?
AT: The things that matter the most and underpin other behaviours of the player are usually hidden and not easily visible for the coaches and scouts on the pitch.
Using the iceberg metaphor, the attributes I highly value are hidden under the water for most of the time and only bits of these can be seen from time to time. The starting point for me is the desire and passion for the game, not things surrounding the game like fame, money or recognition but love for it in a pure sense. Intensity of the motivation is obviously essential but what can be learned from many stories of the players is that stamina of that passion is even more important. It helps the players to be resilient and battle through hard times, which will inevitably happen throughout lengthy process of development.
The second most important attribute is the desire to learn. That does not necessarily mean being responsive to coaches and teaching but rather than that being keen learner of the game, whether it's in a conscious way or more in an uncontrolled 'street diamond' fashion which is self-taught. Only after those two fundamental traits, the other ones come which are more visible on the pitch: physicality, technical ability, game understanding.
BfF: How much is learned from attending coaching courses and how much is learned by observing other coaches and reading about coaching?
AT: That's an interesting one. I have personally went through different stages of that. There were times when reading and watching coaches was the only available thing to do as I
didn't have players to coach and was too young to go onto coaching course. And then more recently, I have been finding increasingly difficult to read and watch others as I have been coaching all the time!
The golden mean seems to be an answer to that. Coaches need both the theoretical knowledge gained by reading, watching others and attending course as well as practical one when they are actually doing it. What is important to realise is that the coach is as good as the work he can do on the grass, not in the classroom!
BfF: You write a bit about coaching. What attracts you to that aspect?
AT: I have a pleasure of writing tactical and conditioning articles for World Class Coaching. It is not only great because of the opportunity to share the knowledge with others around the world but also it is a great tool to develop as a coach and deepen your own personal knowledge. Knowledge not only in a sense of content of the articles but also ways of presenting it to other people, what clarifies the way you think and makes you simplify a lot of the stuff you write about!
BfF: You're a coach at Nottingham Forest FC Development team. What exactly is your role?
AT: At the moment I am coaching academy U9s team as well as pre-academy U7s and U8s. The role involves delivering coaching sessions 5 times a week, planning, evaluation (PMA) as well as managing a game on Sunday. Occasionally, I am also involved in some scouting and talent ID.
BfF: Forest is a club with a rich tradition and a proud history. Do you think this helps you as a coach?
AT: It's a great honour to work for such a club and represent it. I think knowing history of the club you're working for can help to see your role as more purposeful and make you even more committed to it. This was the case for me at every club I have played or coached at so far and it has definitely improved the standards I was aiming to show.
BfF: What do you want to achieve to be satisfied with what you have done in your coaching career?
AT: Long term I would like to coach Polish national team and win the World Cup with it. It is an optimistic and quite distant goal but I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be possible to happen. Football has an amazing power to change lives and I think such an achievement would contribute not only to people related to this sport but to the whole country.
In a more short term perspective, I would like to help my U9's become more technically proficient players and better learners with a passion for the game. I would also like to make my pre-academy players more familiar with academy standards and identify as many players with the greatest potential as possible.
Follow Alex Trukan on Twitter.
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