Google+ Blueprint for Football: February 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Leaving Your Comfort Zone, Tattoos to Monitor Performance & More

There are a lot of people – in football as in life – who opt to allow others dictate what they’re doing.  They might not realise it but without consciously intending to they let their own original thoughts be over-ruled by what is expected of them.  Inspired by Mark Manson’s book and using Arrigo Sacchi as a model, this piece looks at how coaches allow others to interfere and why they shouldn’t do so.

Michael Beale, one of the most respected young coaches in England has taken the unusual step of moving to Brazil where he will be an assistant coach at Sao Paolo.  It is in many ways a brave yet easy decision to make because, regardless of how it goes, the experience that he accrues will allow him to grow.  In this interview he talks about that decision and provides his views on youth development.

Although as a club Fulham has faced a lot of difficulties lately, it’s big saving grace has been an academy that has produced an incredible amount of talent.   It is one of the big success stories lower down the English league structure (Nottingham Forest and MK Dons being another two) that are well worth examining.

I found this piece on the advancements being made by electronics in the form of wearable tattoos extremely interesting, especially if you think about the options that it opens up for football.

“One night, I went to a bar; I was with a woman. We talked all night. We laughed, we flirted, I paid for several drinks of hers. At around 5 am, a guy came in, grabbed her by the arm and took her to the bathroom. He made love to her and she left with him. That doesn’t matter, because I had most of the possession on that night.” - Jorge Sampaoli

Monday, February 20, 2017

"The coach is the most disposable element in a football team."

Having delivered tiki-taka and a generation of players that dominated world football for almost a decade through a system based almost exclusively on ability, Spain is rightly seen as the home of technical football.  Out of this success a culture has developed that is appreciative of the aesthetic and confident that the best results can be achieved through the domination of possession.

Fueling this culture are coaches who bring the ideology to life.  Ismael Díaz Galán is typical of this class.  His experiences might have been limited largely outside the Primera Liga but he is a deep thinker about the game and a keen educator who is eager to share the vision that lights up Spanish football.

Blueprint for Football: What made you want to be a football coach?
Ismael Díaz Galán: I did not choose football, it chose me!  After trying to seduce me from the pitch I decided it was time to try from outside and for the past thirty years I have been trying not to disappoint.

BfF: Do you have a philosophy of football? What is it?
IDG: We all have it, even those who say that they don’t.  It is what guides us in life, it is the theory of what we believe to be true and therefore also in football.  Those who know me know that my way of understanding the game is just as much about how I understand life.  

As such I do not hope for a win, I aggressively try to make it happen by keeping hold of the ball more than not; creating a collective intelligence that makes us stronger as a group without diminishing individual creativity.

BfF: How did you develop it?
IDG: Living.  Feeling.  All this by watching, reading, talking, looking at what others are doing and what they are doing to my team.  Adapting to different ideas given the reality that I was working in.

BfF: What do you do to keep learning?
IDG: Keep my eyes open and, even more so, my mind.  The human brain is like a parachute, it only works if it is open.

BfF: You coached Luis Enrique when he was a child: was his talent always obvious?
IDG: So, I met "Lucho" when he was playing the youth team with which I was a co-ordinator.  His talent was obvious but he always was a very strong competitor.  He also had great tenacity and determination.  He came over the rejection for being too small and not physically strong.   He was let go and did so well in his new club that the side that had let him go was forced to take him back.

BfF: Have you followed your career? Do you get some satisfaction knowing that you have helped?
IDG: Yes of course, as all players who I had the satisfaction of working with.  We help them all; there are none who are considered more important than others.

BfF: How much you learn during coaching courses and really learn how to train the players?
IDG: During coaching courses you get the tools to make your way but you have to decide which is the method that is most suitable for you to be consistent with your way of thinking and feeling.  Starting from the coaching course is when the real learning begins.

BfF: You've worked in several clubs: what are the first things you do when you take a job?
IDG: Soak in your new reality: your environment, its structure, facilities, staff and, especially, the players.  I like to know as much as possible about each one.  In order to get them to perform to their full potential I have to know as well and as precisely as possible about each one.

BfF: How important is winning the confidence of the players in your capacity? How do you do it?
IDG: It is the most important thing.  The coach works for them and not the other way round.  This does not mean that you have to treat them as figurines (i.e. you are afraid to do anything to them) but knowing that to achieve your objective it is fundamental that you get the most out of everyone.

That is the first thing and for that you have to know them well.  The second is that you treat them honestly and fairly.

BfF: What is more important: the tactical system you want to play or change the system to suit the players you have?
IDG: Many have ideas of how to play.  They copy the wrong things by watching people and their winning tactical manoeuvres without understanding what lies behind them.  Systems are created through the inter-relationships between the different parts of the team.  As players are human beings the best system is that which is flexible to adapt to any situation and rigid enough so that everyone moves in unison.

BfF: What does a coach today to succeed?
IDG: First of all know what success means for them.  We are not all the same.  It is easier to know your way if you know where you have to go and what you want to achieve.  After that you have to be honest with the game, consistent with your ideas and how you feel.  Finally, do not betray players in the desire to be better.

BfF: Knowing that your job is at risk if you do not get the expected results, how hard is like a coach to give opportunities to young players?
IDG: One of the great truths of being a coach is the risk.  If you do not assume this then you’re lost.  To move forward you have to risk.  You have no guarantee of the outcome of a decision before you take it.  It is the same with young players.  The big advantage with them is that they are an investment in the future.  That said, you should never use them simply to win points with those surrounding the club.  They never disappoint me.  In all my teams I’ve played young players and they’ve always repaid the confidence shown in them.

BfF: How important is a coach to the success of a team?
IDG: The game of football is based on players.   The role of the coach is to create a team that plays well together.

BfF: You’ve worked outside of Spain: what did you do to adapt to a new country?
IDG: Learn as much as possible as soon as possible.  The customs, the language, how players think and their technical ability.  On top of that develop as much as possible my ability to communicate in order to make myself understood.  This not only has to do with the language but in the manner that work has to be carried out in order to develop.

BfF: What has been the greatest satisfaction you've had in your career?
IDG: Making players happy with my work.  In that manner we all lived through Malaga’s promotion, a title with Sporting Gijon’s B team, remaining in the Portuguese top flight with Farense, in the Kazak top division with Kairat and in the Spanish Segunda Liga with Palencia….

Those are the big achievements that make you feel good about your profession and help you in the difficult moments.

Want to hear what fellow coaches think about football, how they learn and build their philosophy? Check out our Blueprint According To... series of e-books here (and here for US readers)

BfF: And the biggest lesson?
IDG: Humility.  The coach is the most disposable element in a football team.  We have to learn this and try not to put too much importance to ourselves.

BfF: What has been the biggest disappointment?
IDG: I cannot point to one particular instance.  I suppose that they are all related to people in whom I had confidence and trust and how betrayed me.

BfF: What goals do you have in your career?
IDG: Keep growing in everything that I without losing myself.

For more information about Ismael Díaz Galán follow him on Twitter or else check out his website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Development of Speed, Imitating Tom Brady & more

A fascinating piece – more so because it links to research data - on the development of speed in football.

Coaching is a meritocracy, not an aristocracy concludes this article that looks into reasons why former players struggle to make it into coaching.  An interesting and fair look at the debate.

I am not a fan of American football yet I too can appreciate that Tom Brady is a fantastic sportsperson from whom a lot can be learned.  This article confirms it.

To round off this issue, something on muscle recovery techniques for football players.

“Possession means nothing when the opponent takes its chances” – Franz Beckenbauer

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Looking At The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

There are some books that are obvious reads for anyone in sports; where there are clears lessons to be had in texts aimed directly at people within sports.  Other books are not so obvious.  Yet although these are not directly aimed at people in sports it is still possible to learn from them.  Indeed arguably reading such books is even better because it opens up the way you think about various issues.

Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” is one such book.  On the face of it – as one can easily deduce by the title – it is an aggressive attack on a lot of pop-psychology that is circulated these days.  The idea that positive thoughts can be enough to lead to a happy life, for instance, is one that particularly irritates the author.

Though Manson is primarily a blogger, there is a lot of substance to his writing.  As with a lot of articles online, the title is aimed at getting people curious and willing to check it out rather than because it is all about creating controversy.

Indeed it is in the explanation over what he means about ‘not giving a f*ck’ that this starts to emerge and the value of the book for football coaches becomes obvious.

Manson makes reference to Alan Watts’ “backwards law” which goes something along the line of the more that you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.

What this essentially translates to is not looking always for positive experience and that, if you learn off it, a negative experience can end up being an extremely positive experience.  It is only human to want to be comfortable but sometimes that leads to apathy.  It certainly doesn’t lead to development.

In football terms, if you get too comfortable coaching kids within a certain age group you may opt to keep on doing so not because you know that it is best for you or what you really want but because you keep getting high on the feeling of being good at it.  You don’t go looking for new challenges – which might ultimately bring with them further satisfaction – but chase the easy fulfillment.

It is around such feelings and search for easy comfort that this book is focused.  Indeed the whole philosophy of the book deals with not caring too much (if at all) on what may be thought of you.  Indeed it lays out three rules that end up applying to anyone within the game of football as much as they do in everyday life.

The first centres around being comfortable with being different.  It is not easy when you are trying to do something that is not conventional.  There were many who criticised and ridiculed Arrigo Sacchi when he first spoke of his ideas that centred around zonal marking and pressing.  He was seeing things differently in a country that had been dominated by catenaccio - the religion of ultra-defensive football  - for more than two decades so this reaction was hardly surprising.

Perhaps a weaker man would have folded and gone the conventional route.  But Sacchi, a manager with no history as a player and who had spent most of his adult life working to be in a position to try out his ideas did not, to paraprhase Manson, give a f**k about what others thought of his ideas.  He was comfortable with being different and that brought about a revolution in the game.

Sacchi is also a pretty great illustration of the second of Manson's rules: that in order not to care about adversity you must first care about something more important than adversity.

This might seem to be pretty obvious but is not so. For some people the headache that might come with trying something new can be too much.  There are countless coaches out there who come up with new ideas but many fail to try out these ideas because they fear the challenges that players might put up or how fans will react.  They care more about not facing the problems than they do about the potential end result that might come through them.

Sacchi didn't care about players not accepting his ideas.  What he really cared about was seeing his ideas being executed; that is what drove him.  He coached his players so they understood his ideas, explained what he wanted them to do and then made sure that they did so.  Not everyone appreciated it and he certainly had his fair share of set-backs.  Still that didn’t really matter to him as he was convinced of his ideas.  Of course, he was a great communicator and his enthusiasm ended up driving his players but that is essentially a secondary aspect.

This leads into the final point that Manson makes: that you’re always choosing what to care about whether you realise it or not.  You have to decide whether you are going to focus on your ideas and what you want to do or whether you are going to give in to what others might say or think.  

As a coach you often have to make difficult decisions especially if you are doing something that goes against the accepted norm.  It is perfectly fine to choose the option that leads to least resistance but you have to be conscious that you’ve essentially given power to the possibility of criticism or failure.  And once you’ve given up that power it is very difficult to claim it back.  

How many teams fail to deliver on their potential because a manager starts deferring to some or all of his players on major decisions?  Indeed a clear sign of a manager nearing the end of his career is any news of that manager making decisions to keep certain of his players happy.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Participation Trophies, 8 vs 8 Ideas & More

For many, participation trophies are seen as a symbol of declining standards that are putting wrong beliefs into the minds of children about what it takes to succeed in life.  Is that the case, however? Not really.

Whenever some young player does well, there instantly appear predictions about his development.  In truth, it is simply not possible to do so.

How to set up teams at 8 vs 8.

Clubs are constantly looking to sign the most promising of players and, in their determination to do so, are fighting over children at increasingly younger ages.  It is a sad, albeit not unexpected, race to the bottom where everyone (or most) realise that it is wrong but keep on doing so.  It is also the subject of this article that delves into the issue in quite some depth.  Thought provoking

“Best players don’t always make up the best team” – Marcello Lippi

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Best of Coaching Links This Week: Growth Mindset, Futsal, Paul McGuinness on Academy Failings & More

There is always something of temptation to replicate coaching sessions between different groups.  Yet such sessions could end up having a negative impact.

Richard Branson is one of those rare entrepreneurs who you find yourselves somewhat automatically admiring not because of what they achieve but how they do it.  His blog is often thought provoking but this piece on the growth mindset was particularly compelling.

In a week when a lot of Premier League clubs used the FA Cup to give their young players an opportunity - some being more successful than others - this interview with former Manchester United youth team coach Paul McGuinness on what a player needs to make the jump between the reserve and first team sides proved to be particularly insightful.

I had missed this when it first came out but the idea that futsal should be utilised during the winter months to help increase the technical skills of players is one worth considering.

"Football needs its roots, it needs its connection with the supporters. But those in charge seem to think they can do without them." Graham Taylor

If you like this list of links, why not join Blueprint for Football Extra, the newsletter that delivers the links and more directly to your e-mail inbox every Monday night?  Click here to join.