What makes some coaches so much better?

From the times when the only way get exposed to different football philosophies was to go to the park to watch teams traveling from distant places to our days, everything has changed. Today, we can watch any game of any league using the internet. Not just that. Even training sessions, interviews, lectures, courses are available. It’s all out there.

So how come some coaches are so much better than others? That is the question stuck in the back of my mind at the moment. I’m not saying that nothing new will be done in terms of training or tactics. But even when it’s done, thousands will know instantly. So what will make me better? I don’t have the answers, but my thoughts follow a few directions.

The first one is leadership. Good coaches not only know their trade back to front but they are also good leaders, able to manage a group of players for an important amount of time. Leadership too depends on a number of factors, such as interpersonal skills, charisma, ability to inspire and convince but I would say that the most important one is the integrity. Integrity makes a good leader not only because of the importance of teaching by example but also because the players will know they can trust the their leader. Even a tough coach can never be perceived as “against” the player. Once that happens, things start to fall apart.  

The second thing I think it’s extremely important, especially in non-professional environments is the organization. The season needs to be carefully planned in advance. All the procedures need to be known back to front by everyone involved. All sessions should be ready to go way before they start and the gear taken care of after the session. There should be an inventory of the gear, as it’s common for cones, bibs, balls and everything else to get lost during the season. Game day procedures should be carefully prepared, as it’s the day that requires the biggest mental effort. Punctuality is essential from everyone, plus back-up plans for everything (what happens if it rains? What happens if we have 1, 2, 5, 10 players missing?). Statistics should be carefully recorded, not only for performance purposes, but also because coaches can use numbers when being confronted (My son hasn’t had enough playing time!). Having a manager and\or assistant coach helps a lot, both with in-field and off-field organization. Coaches shouldn’t need to worry about registrations or texting players with game times. It’s nice, as well, to have the sessions and games filmed and shared in an application such as google drive or dropbox. All of this will provide an environment where the players are more likely to engage (they feel like they are part of an Organization) and hence perform.

The third aspect that differentiate coaches in my opinion is the ability to adjust. I’ll give you the example of Pep Guardiola, but it applies to any to any situation. During his career, many well-known adjustments were necessary. Some of them required a lot of courage, such as the dismissal of superstars Ronaldinho and Eto’o in his first job as a top-notch coach. Later on, every year he adjusted Barcelona, within his philosophy, to play in a different way, to counter opponents adaptations and also to adapt to new players styles. Also, moving to Germany to coach Bayern Munich, Pep realized he couldn’t play a slow patient tiki-taka style of football, not only because the players have different characteristics, but also because the club and even the country have a different approach. And it worked again.

There will be more articles on this matter, as it’s far from an exhausted subject. 😉

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