I don’t think it’s necessary to compare sports. I believe there are reasons why football is the most popular sport in the world but ranking sports is probably a waste of time. There are also reasons why every person likes one particular sport, so there’s no point in arguing about which sport is best.
But the fact is that football is a very complex sport. As it involves controlling a ball with any part of the body in a 360 degree spectrum of possibilities under regular pressure, not to mention the movements off the ball, the communication and relationship with your 10 team mates and the 11 adversaries, hmmm…. No question about it’s complexity.
Now think about knowing every player’s role, making the whole team work together in harmony, developing the performance of a group of players through planning and conducting training sessions, observing and analysing and finding problems and solutions? And not only that, inspiring, driving and developing all players and staff, with a special combination of planning, communication and leadership skills? Well that’s a football coach. Quite fascinating and exciting challenge.
Mastering this trade is just like any other. It will require solid years of effort. And that’s on the top of the playing years. I don’t mean that someone who hasn’t played football can’t be a coach, but it will probably make it harder. Even more so in a high level. How will you teach how to deal with problems that you never dealt with? Yeah mate, difficult but not impossible. Mourinho, Bielsa, Sacchi, Autuori. They’re all there to tell you.
One needs to be a special person to be able to carry this job successfully. All the qualities cited above need to be present. It doesn’t matter how much you know about football and training if you don’t know how to manage a group of competitive, demanding people, most of them with strong personalities. But it’s not enough to be very good with people and not know every little detail about every technical and tactical aspect of the game.
And there’s no way one will be able to pursue improvement in all these skills if one thing is missing: Passion. This is probably the only non-negotiable characteristic of all great coaches. They love the game. Love to play, to talk about it, to be around the football park, to smell the grass and feel the texture of the ball. It’s not about packed stadiums, or the glamour of a champions league final or a World Cup match. It’s pure raw football. Anywhere. Streets, parks, backyard, playing Fifa. It’s having your partner cranky at you because you’re not listening to what she’s saying as you’re walking past a bar and there’s a TV screen showing a green field and you need to have a look at what’s going on. So if you’re reading this and you’re a coach, beginner, improver, wannabe, pro, high lever, whatever, this is the question you should ask yourself: Do you love the game?
It’s easy to have bursts of enthusiasm for the game around world cups or great events. But if you don’t really love it there’s no way you’ll be able to go through it, day after day, session after session, season after season, which will include A LOT of defeats and probably coaching a few hopeless teams that will lose 9 out of 10 games. And when you’re not coaching? You’ll be planning sessions and going over everything in your thoughts ten thousand times a day, because that’s how you coach a team.
Are you up to it? 🙂
I stole the general idea and some phrases for this post from my current coaching bible: “The Football Coaching Process”, an Official FFA Publication, by Kelly Cross