Many (if not all) coaches claim they are all about player development. I know the odd coach who has actually stated they are all about winning trophies but they very much exist in a very small minority. All the coaches I speak to, both personally and on social media keep on the politically correct track of advocating development of their players and how players always come first. I totally agree with this stance and our aim as coaches should be to develop better players but more importantly better people.
So, here is the problem as I see it. We all talk a good game on this subject but how many of us actually have the courage to follow up our words with actions? Time to play the honesty card – I was one of these coaches. I would talk about long term player development but my actions said something else. I have learned this lesson the hard way. I have repented and paid for my sins!!
You can tell a lot about a coach if their words match their actions. I can think of many who love to give the impression that they are all about the players but scratch the veneer a little bit and the truth comes out. Coaching is not about today and you will only know in many years time if your coaching developed the players under your tutelage. The easy option is to react to the ‘now’. Coaches who focus on short term success against long term player development. Natural Law will dictate this process with coaches giving in to their own ego and those of well-meaning but sadly misguided parents. The harder road is going against this and actually aiming for ‘real’ development educating and learning players in the technical, tactical, physical, social, psychological and emotional aspects of being a football player.
There are tell-tale signs that this ‘real’ development is not taking place. if you witness the following behaviours from a coach who espouses player development then get very worried:
- There is an over-emphasis on winning
- Stronger players are brought in with weaker players being removed or sidelined
- Trials are held to bring in stronger players
- Stronger. more physical players are played in preference to technical players
- Players are assessed (subjectively) for their future success in football (the “he’ll never make it” scenario)
- Over celebration by coaches when winning or anger when team loses
- Positive results and winning trophies posted on social media
- Constant shouting/direction from sidelines from coaches and parents therefore not allowing decision-making or failure
- Strong players played through middle of park with weaker players played out wide
- Perceived ‘better’ players get most game time (if not all game time)
- a ‘fight for your place’ culture exists
- Perceived ‘weaker’ players only get on when game has been won or lost
- Players put in same positions every week
- To improve chances of winning, training consists of attacking/defending free-kicks, corners etc.
if you see some of the behaviours mentioned, don’t be scared to ask the coaches what they are doing to develop my son/daughter? They might just be uninformed (unconscious incompetence) and trying to do the best with what they know. The more serious cases are the coaches who are actively displaying these behaviours (conscious incompetence) to become win at all costs coaches. Players and parents can decide what is in the best interests of the individual and where best that development takes place.
My convictions have grown stronger over the years I have been coaching. I believe we now need to stand by our words with strong actions. If not, then mediocrity will continue. We can all moan about it and nothing will change. Do the right thing and stop talking about player development and actually start doing something about it.
TALK IS CHEAP, ACTION TAKES COURAGE.
Footnote: Although these are my views, please read ‘Coaching Outside the Box’ by Mairs and Shaw. This not only backs up my own observations but quotes the research which supports these views on player development. Note if you are a win at all costs coach maybe you won’t read it!!