Google+ Blueprint for Football: May 2016

Monday, May 30, 2016

Essential Qualities of a Football Coach: Psychology

An examination of the abilities that distinguished the game’s most legendary managers from the rest will reveal a number of similarities.  To a man they were visionaries; capable of transforming the way that football is viewed and played.  They managed to build their teams around the abilities of their players and also shaped the talents of their players to fit into the way they wanted their team to play.  And they always ensured that their players were willing to do whatever they demanded of them.

That latter ability used to be described as the capacity to motivate players.  What those managers did, however, was more than that: they could understand what drove their players and acted in a way that built up that drive.  For most of them, all of this either came instinctively or else had been shaped by their life experiences.  

Today’s managers and coaches, however, do not have to rely on fate or fortune.  There is now a whole discipline – sports psychology – that is devoted to helping coaches deal with players and their mentalities.  That is not to say that to be a good coach you need to know whatever a sports psychologist knows but it is essential that one is at least aware of how to deal with different issues.

This was best explained by Dan Abrahams, a sports psychologist and the author of the book Soccer Tough.  “I believe that a coach must be creative and to do so they must seek as much information as possible in the four major areas; technical ability, tactical ability, physical conditioning, and psychological strength,” he said in an interview with Blueprint for Football.

A coach must understand the physical talent but what is often overlooked is mental talent.  The kids that are naturally gifted in terms of concentration, discipline and dedication; that is something important that is often ignored.

The other thing is being a 1 percenter: I want them to leave no stone un-turned.  Find all the 1% shifts you can to help your players excel.

Quite frankly, it isn’t good enough for a coach to simply give up when a player seems to hit a mental barrier.

Too many coaches say that they have players that have lots of physical talent but 'he doesn't want it' and there's nothing that can be done.  That is rubbish.  Of course something can be done.  This is where I get back to seeking that no stone is left un-turned.  Going to FA modules, reading books like mine can help you get a better understanding.  But don't just stop there, put into practice what you read.

And Abrahams agrees that the ability to leverage psychology is what distinguishes the great from the good.  

All managers do psychology within their role and some are better than other.  A key factor is the culture they develop within their club.  If you look at the leading managers - Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger - they've developed different cultures but also sound cultures that help develop their team and their commitment.  They've built a culture of success and achievement.

Join Blueprint for Football Extra to ensure that  you don't miss future articles and get the full transcript of the interview plus a free e-book in the process.  Other Blueprint for Football e-books available here (international version here).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Essential Qualities of a Football Coach: Curiosity

Join Blueprint for Football Extra to ensure that  you don't miss future articles and get the full transcript of the interview plus a free e-book in the process.  Other Blueprint for Football e-books available here (international version here).

Football is a highly conservative game so it is hardly surprising that those who work in it tend to be conservative as well.  None more so than experienced managers who hold on to ingrained opinions on how to achieve success and who refuse to look at ideas that challenge those opinions.

It is for this reason that there are managers who still do not fully trust the benefits of a healthy nutrition regime, of proper training or of the use of statistics to help shape tactics.  

There is little doubt that the majority of these managers possess a huge wealth of knowledge about the game of football.  Most of them have spent their whole adult life working within the game and in all probability know little else apart from football.

And therein lies the problem; there is a point at which the laser focus on the game at the exclusion of everything else hinders rather than helps.  Their lack of curiosity about anything other than football leaves them with a poor frame of reference with which to look at any new idea that they come across.  Or, to put it another way, they aren’t equipped to absorb and learn new ideas.

As we grow older we tend to become less active explorers of our mental environment, relying on what we’ve learned so far to see us through the rest of the journey.”  So writes Ian Leslie in Curious, a book that deals about curiosity and the role this plays in our lives.

“If you allow yourself to become incurious, your life will be drained of colour, interest and pleasure.  You will be less likely to achieve your potential.

Sound familiar?  It should especially if you’ve heard ‘traditional’ managers talk dismissively about the value of statistics in football or negatively on the notion of rotation in managing the squad’s fitness levels.

That is not to argue that coaches should be curious for curiosity’s sake. Indeed that kind of curiosity – diversive curiosity – often results in wasted effort.  What people should be trying to foster is what Leslie terms as epistemic curiosity, which is a more structured and deeper form of curiosity that can ignite the desire to learn and attempt to do things that one would not normally consider.

There is much that coaches can learn by being curious at what is happening in other sport, to come up with one obvious example.  There is much to admire and think about if you spend some time looking at the ideas that underpin the success of the All Black rugby side, for instance.  The same can be said of other team sports like basketball or hockey.  

Will all that can be found in such examinations be immediately useful for coaches?  Probably not, but they will sow seeds that will blossom when their time comes.

Steve Johnson, author of “Where Good Ideas Come From” calls this the slow hunch.  “Rather than coming out of the blue…the best ideas are the result of hours, days, sometimes even years, of digging into a subject and pursuing the hunches that slowly emerge as a result,” he says.