Think back to when you were at school and the teachers who most left a lasting impression on you. What made them stand out? Why were they better than other teachers? Was it because they knew the subject more than others?
Probably not. What made them different was the ability to make you interested enough to get excited about and understand - possibly even love - a tough subject. They explained it in a way that resonated with you. For some coming across such teachers is a life changing moment.
As a coach you have to be like that kind of teacher. You have to get players excited about learning the game. This might seem like an easy enough task until you look into the detail of it.
For most people football, like any other skill, requires a lot of practice and repetition. Take the teaching of a simple ability like passing the ball. Sure, you can (and need) to be inventive in the drills that you have the players practice but ultimately it is all about how you explain it to them. You have to make them understand what you want from them and why. If they do it wrongly you have to explain what they have done wrong and how to correct it. And do all this in a manner that doesn't put them off.
It is the same at every stage of a players’ development regardless of the complexity of what it is that you want them to do.
A manager’s ability to communicate clearly is never as tested as it is during a match. The message has to get across despite the player trying to focus on what is going on around him. Complex instructions have to reach players without putting them under any additional pressure (and, above all, without senseless ranting or shouting). That too, is built on the work that a coach does on the training pitch. It is there that the basis of his method of communicating has to be instilled in his team.
The importance of communication is best reflected in a phrase which Sandro Salvioni – a journeyman Italian coach – told me during an interview.
“I was at Parma when Arrigo Sacchi arrived as manager,” he said. “At the time I was 32 and I would say that it was only then that I truly learned to play the game of football.”
“I wouldn’t say that I took nothing from my previous managers but Sacchi was something else; his approach to the game, the pressing high up the pitch, his offensive outlook, everything.”
Imagine being a veteran player with more than three hundred professional appearances in your career and probably thinking that there wasn’t anything in the game that you didn’t know only to suddenly coming across a manager who can teach you a completely different way of viewing football.
That is the power that a manager who can properly communicate his thoughts can hold over his players.
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