Field of Dreams

It was 3pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon. This was not just any Saturday afternoon as our captain and vice-captain, JC and Bill led the boys out in their first game of the opening of our new stadium, Murray Field. Not only was it our first match at the purpose built ground but it was our first game in the senior ranks. The 5 year project was coming to fruition. A dream to get a town of just over 10,000 people, into the professional game with a structure and philosophy which was like no other. Early on we had adopted our strapline of Mes Que Un Club (MQUC) and we were determined to do it differently.

The team who took to the pitch that day were mostly players who had come through the player pathway which took 5 year old boys and girls and gave them exceptional individual coaching from day 1. Indeed JC and Bill had both joined the club as 5 year olds and were now the rock solid central defence the team was built on. They were at their peak and the rest of the team had the energy, skills and bond that allowed them to progress through the amateur ranks to get to the professional game. 80% of the squad had followed a similar route. The other players who came in had to match these values or they wouldn’t last long here.

The stadium had been built by a community partnership involving all the local businesses, the local people and our main sponsor the Murray family. Indeed they had taken an active interest in the whole project as it aligned with their values of a strong work ethic, developing talent and a community with sport at the heart of it. Today, the stadium was full with over 5,000 people coming out to add support. The town had effectively shut down as we moved to the outskirts where the stadium had been built. The catering facilities were run by the local butcher and baker. The club shop was staffed by our younger players and the pre-match entertainment was provided by DMC, our local cheer champions. Not only was it a fantastic stadium but it was also built in line with our goal based on 100% renewable energy. The solar panels on the roof and the wind turbines and the mini CHP plant meant not only was this benefitting the stadium but provided free electricity for the local residents.

As the players did their warm-up, it was noticeable that it was exactly the same as I had observed earlier in the day when a few of the players on the field were coaching some of the younger teams in the morning. No lines, no boring drills but a ball for each person and working on technique as part of the warm-up. Individual development has always been our goal, even at the expense of winning. This is part of our DNA, this is how we do it here. From 5-18 we couldn’t care less if we never won anything. The plastic cups that are so revered by many are inconsequential. We aim to make better people and better players by giving them a lifelong love of the game. We aim to have as many local people playing as we possibly can so whether you are 5 or 55 or even 85 then there is an option to play. Our local health record is the best in the country because we believe wholeheartedly in this ‘system view’ where everything is connected.

Our crowd and environment at the side of the park is very different from what you would expect. The spectators which are all local people understand our culture so there are no shouts of abuse at players or refs. Supporters are mixed together and we hope our approach will rub off on others. You will never hear a spectator telling a player what to do. Only encouraging shouts of ‘well done’ or lots of clapping are heard. Indeed the communication from the coaches is very similar. No berating players or telling them. No joystick coaches but a nurturing and calm environment where players are allowed to make mistakes and learn. We have no separate dugouts but an area where our coaches and our opposition coaches stand together and compare notes, providing feedback to each other in a constructive manner. A rising tide raises all ships is the aim.

The match starts on the beautiful hybrid astro/grass pitch. The football is a joy to watch. The ball is always played on the ground. No big hoofs up the park and hoping. The players are comfortable on the ball. The movement is great and the supporters who have learned over the years to appreciate this is how football should be played. We know this doesn’t always result in winning the match but we have never bothered with the scoreboard and we won’t start now we are in the professional game. Indeed, our aim is still to be part of the process where we can produce players with the correct values and behaviours that would allow them to get to the top. Better people generally make better players. We work on this religiously and follow some All Blacks principles like ‘Sweeping the Sheds’ and ‘Play with purpose – Ask Why’ plus ‘Follow the Geese’ to create a ‘One Club’ feel.

As the match progressed, we continued to try to apply our game. It was so pleasing to see this team progress from a group of amateurs 5 years ago to a well oiled machine, led to by our two stalwarts at the back and our 16 year old creative playmaker in midfield. The boys did great but unfortunately the more experienced team got the better of us in a 5-4 defeat which had everything that is good about the game. Generally people equate sports success with winning but why does it need to be? We came off the park having witnessed a great game. Loads of good football with entertainment in a friendly environment. Most clubs will be disappointed in a defeat but not us. We rejected that notion years ago. There is a deeper meaning to sport. This meaning and purpose is developing our players as better people first. This took time and many players and coaches left the club to chase trophies elsewhere. We set out to convince players, coaches and parents there was a different way of doing things and to adopt a developmental and healthier outlook within our club. We are now seeing the results of this ‘road less travelled’

After completing our warm down, we were joined by our opponents players, coaches and supporters in our adjacent sports cafe. The place was buzzing as we spent a good few hours recollecting the great moments from the match as the area became the focal point for the whole town. At around 7pm, the local band set up which comprised a few faces who were part of our football programme and indeed some were still playing at the club. This kicked off the second part of the day as we enjoyed a night of community spirit, chat and dance. A brilliant day was ended around midnight as we bid fairwell to our guests and got tidied up to prepare for Sunday’s match where our Woman’s team are hosting local rivals Stirling University in their first game at Murray Field.

As I wandered home and fell into bed, I reminisced about today and thought this is more than a club (MQUC), we are the community. I drifted off to sleep with a big smile on my face.

As I woke up from my Field of Dreams. There was only one reaction. ‘Build it and they will come’

Footnote: My next blog will cover what would kill this dream.

Field of Dreams

Kill Your EGO

Ego 1

I have decided it is time to go to war with the EGO. Both mines and yours. The ego has, without doubt, a detrimental effect on performance and wellbeing. So let’s start to diminish its influence on each and every one of us. Remember the ego is not you but rather a self-image you have created to seek approval from other people. It feeds on power and lives in a state of fear.

If we are to perform at our optimum level then we need to remove all thoughts, doubts and that little voice in our head that says “you’re not good enough” We need to be in the present to have any chance of reaching a state of ‘flow’ If you can be present and be in ‘flow’ then you have effectively silenced the egoic voice in your head. You are in the moment and your complete attention is on the task at hand. Flow and ego cannot exist in the same space.

I have achieved the ‘flow’ state state a few times while playing but nowhere near enough. In the vast majority of games I played with ‘fear’ and my egoic voice kept telling me ‘I wasn’t fast enough’ or ‘I wasn’t skillful enough’ or ‘that centre forward is way better than you’  There is no doubt in my mind that this thinking had a deleterious effect on my performance. The fear was never far away and that voice stoked the fire. I know this fear based thinking must have been the vast majority of the time as I can remember only a handful of games where I seemed to silence the voice and achieve the ‘flow’ state. I can still remember the games when it all came very easy. I read the game with ease. I seemed to have a 6th sense of where the ball was going before everyone else did. My passes never missed a team-mate. Tackles were made and headers won with no real effort.

Even 30 years later, I can remember particular games where I achieved this state. A midweek game against Maryhill when I wasn’t meant to be playing. I had arrived late and was looking forward to a ‘night off’ However at the last minute I had to step in as we had some last minute injuries. There was virtually no time to think and my expectations were extremely low (I had even eaten a pizza about 30 mins before KO!) So it was a quick change and on to the park. Whatever happened that night, it was magical. Everything worked and it was so easy. I even capped it off with a goal. Another time was away to Larkhall. I was loaded with cold and shouldn’t have really been there but thought I would ‘sweat’ it out. I knew I wasn’t fit to play but something kicked in again and I seemed to know where every ball was going before it left. I cruised it again and had a very satisfying win. The last one was a game against Arthurlie at home in Brig O’Lea. This was our local derby and I was playing against their ‘star’ centre forward who went on to have a great senior career. I just had one of those games where I won everything and hardly gave him a kick at the ball. On reflecting over these games, there seems to be common themes at play. Firstly, my expectations were low before I started the game. Subsequently, I felt no pressure going out to play. Lastly, I was operating in the present. Consequently, the combination of low expectations and letting my game go with the flow produced some of the best performances I can remember.

I can only conclude that by removing the ego in these games and thus reducing any expectations that performance is enhanced. This raises the question on how we can achieve the flow state in every situation? If we start with my own hypothesis that the ego raises expectations, thus creating a self-image that you are then trying to live up to. Unfortunately in striving to live up to it, you are having an adverse effect on performance.

My answer is to try and kill the ego or at least try and silence it for a period. Lower your expectations (watch out as your egoic voice will attempt to hijack you!) and just go out and enjoy playing. Be present. Take it all in. Don’t think of past performances or future events, they are just another egoic distraction. Be in the ‘NOW’

I spoke to a player last week who struggled in a game despite a great performance the previous week. After chatting, I asked him what he thought the difference was. He said ” last week you told me not to care and just to go out and express myself. I felt really free and it felt good. This week I had loads of problems at school and home and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. My mind was elsewhere I just couldn’t concentrate on the game.” The results were clear:

Free mind + No Fear = Great performance

Cluttered mind + Fear = Poor performance

Our ego really does work against us. That damn constant voice questioning our every move. Until we realise that ego is a problem we will never reach our optimum. There are many ways to address that incessant voice. The first step is living in the present. If you solely focus on what you are doing then the voice doesn’t get a chance to influence your actions. You will silence it and your performance will improve.

Ignore the past, it is done. The future has a myriad of options which are too many to think about. The only solution is to live in the present. The present moment is all we have.

At the end of the day, does it really matter? We are but a spec of dust on this planet spinning uncontrollably through the cosmos. Will getting 3 points in a game  really make a dent in the universe? The ego will tell you it does!

Be Here Now!

Kill Your EGO

I am Grateful


I am grateful for every single player in my team. I wouldn’t change one of them. They are all different and that is why I am so thankful for them. Every session is a joy and every player contributes in so many different ways. It is a pleasure to be their coach and I am truly grateful.

I am grateful to every coach at our club. Every single one of them gives up their precious time to coach, develop, mentor, guide and care for all the players within their teams. Is every coach a tactical genius? No. Is every coach deeply knowledgeable in football? No. Does every coach do their best with what they have? Absolutely YES and I am grateful to every single coach, helper and committee member that make our club such a great place to be.

I am grateful for every parent (and grand-parent) that brings their kids to our club. My gratitude goes out to both the ones who turn up to every game but also the ones who don’t but by just you encouraging your son or daughter to come and get involved is good enough for me.

I am grateful to the clubs we play against. Without them, our players couldn’t test their progress. They make us better. They raise our bar. Think of the next game and if the opposition didn’t turn up, then who would we be playing against? Would it be as much fun? Stop seeing them as rivals and let’s work together for the better of the game.

I am grateful for the referees. This is when people think I have now lost it!! I hear some of the abuse the refs get in our leagues and it really is shameful. Is 3 points so important that you need to ‘abuse’ a fellow human being? I have watched senior people do this at the side of the park and just been bewildered by it. I would love to see the reaction if the shoe was on the other foot and people at work carried on like this. The workplace would be very different! I am grateful to every individual in black that has the courage to go out in testing circumstances allowing yourselves to be verbally abused. You have my utmost admiration and I am truly grateful you facilitate our teams playing week in, week out.

I am grateful to all my ex-team-mates, coaches, managers and officials. You have shaped me into being what I am today.  You have developed my great love of the beautiful game. which has lasted 50 years. There is a bit of you in everything I do. I am grateful that I have taken your good points and learned from your not so good points and put it all together to create my own beliefs and vision of our game.

Finally, I am grateful for my wife, family and close friends. Without your support and understanding, I would not be able to pursue my constant fascination with this crazy sport. Thanks for putting up with me!

Hopefully, I have included everyone that I am grateful for! The reason for this is that I don’t always say thank you when I should. I don’t express my gratitude as I should and this is my attempt to fill this void.

Gratefulness gives the opportunity to be happy. I pondered the question: ‘Are happy people grateful or are grateful people happy?’ I am pretty sure it is the latter as I believe, gratefulness gives you an opportunity to be happy.

If you are grateful then you are not fearful. You have a sense of enough. You have everything you need. It removes the ego. The ego is based on scarcity and greed. It is driven by fear and worry. Who wants to be in this state? By practicing  gratitude, you are not in a state of worry or fear. You are living in the present. The ego has been put in its box. Now that is something I am grateful for.

So the next time you are feeling worry and fear. Practice gratitude. It really works.

I am grateful to you for reading this. Give it a try! It only works in any situation!!



I am Grateful

Eureka – This Is Groundbreaking

Last week both my son and I returned from the astro pitch where we took off our football boots and managed to leave a few piles of little black pellets. A common occurrence for both of us and a source of frustration for my wife. Forty years ago, I am sure my own mother used similar words when I came home with muddy boots and managed to trample it through the hall carpet. This got me thinking on what are all the differences in our beautiful game from the muddy boots days. Here are a few to get us started:

Ash parks v Astro parks

Streetlights v Floodlights

‘S’ Forms v Academies

Street Teams v SSG

Woolworth (3 Stripes) v Adidas (3 Stripes)

Any strip at training v Full training and playing kit provided

3 matches at weekend v 1 match at weekend

Dragged in from playing v Dragged out to play

30 hours+ v 10 hours

Subbuteo v FIFA

Belle Stars v Doncaster Belles

10-21er v Conditioned game

1 sub v Rolling subs

Mitre Mouldmaster v Any modern football

Dad Coach v Dad Coach with coaching badges

No Goalie Gloves v Goalie gloves designed by NASA

Sock Flashes (remember Leeds Utd) v Nothing to compare!

Crab Football v Futsal

Qualifying for European and World Cup finals v The Widerness

I am not saying it was all great back in the day. I can assure you that cold showers following a freezing day being hit by a Mitre Mouldmaster on an ash park was not the greatest of fun!! However, have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

Big strides have been made in many aspects of our games but why are we worse off?

There are of course a myriad of problems and solutions and I have discussed many on previous blogs. However, I think just one of the above would revolutionise our gane and turn us into World Cup winners. My vote to bring back sock flashes will propel us back into the world’s elite. Think about it, who else is wearing this groundbreaking technology. The Leeds United team of the 70’s started the trend and look how successful they became. Bring them back and let’s get back to where we belong in world football!!


PS Please feel free to add to the above list. I would be interested to hear your thoughts from the past v the present.


Eureka – This Is Groundbreaking

A Football Parable


This is the story of an old coach who had been with the same club for a very long time.

One day his best player left the team to join a so called ‘elite’ team. Many parents consoled the coach saying that was such bad luck.

The coach responded ” Maybe”

The following month the player returned as he was unable to settle in his new team. Not only did he return but he brought with him another three very strong players which would make the team much better and would now be a certainty for winning the league. The majority of parents were delighted and said to the coach ‘We’ll win every game with these new players’

The coach responded “Maybe”

The following month all four players were signed by professional clubs leaving a depleted and weakened squad. Again the parents lamented at this unfortunate turn.

The coach responded “Maybe”

Losing all four players meant that some fringe players had to take a leading role and develop quickly as games were coming thick and fast. With so much more game time one of them developed so quickly that he was called up to the national squad. A great achievement for a small club like ours said one of the parents.

The coach responded “Maybe”

The following month after being ‘capped’ by his country, it was clear that the fame had got to this player as he treated his existing team-mates with contempt. The parents raised this with the coach, saying how it was having a poor effect on team morale and the team performances.

The coach, in his usual manner, responded “Maybe”

As team spirit deteriorated and the team slipped down the league, the parents were in uproar and attempted to blame the coach for their current position.

The coach looked at them hard and said “Maybe”

Following weeks of turmoil and in-fighting the coach decided that it was time for him to leave. Consequently the team folded.

When the coach was asked if he could have done anything to stop this happening then I am sure, by now, you know what his response was!!

This story was based on an old Taoist parable involving a farmer and shows us how to look at events without judging or interpreting them. We never know how events will unravel when they are occuring. We don’t know what is good or bad in the moment.

As a coach, we are never fully in control. We may influence but cannot control. An event is never ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it just ‘is’

It is our own thinking that it gives it meaning.  To finish on Shakespeare “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”


A Football Parable

NOW Kills The Ego


Why are we always on the look-out for the next shiny thing? It’s the new phone, car, trainers, clothes, game etc, etc. There is actually a name for it  ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ In short, once you have your ‘shiny’ object then you soon lose interest and are then looking for the next ‘shiny thing’ We are constantly living in a state that is looking to the future while forgetting to live in the present. We have turned this adventurous, awe-inspiring, beautiful life into one that feels like we are chasing the proverbial hare that will never be caught.

So what is the station we are hoping to reach on our journey? For many of us, this will lie in possessions as we seek to get that car we always dreamed about or the watch, jewellery, house that we have aspired to for years. For others it will be the dream job or that perfect partner. No matter what, it will be some kind of goal that has been set in our mind. But who is driving the train to the station? I would like to suggest that it is our ego who is driving and the bad news is that there is no brake on the train! Our lives are getting faster and faster as we look at accumulate as many of these ‘shiny things’ as we go. Unfortunately it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

Just as our game mirrors life in general, as coaches and players with ego’s then we are no different. We are chasing our own ‘shiny things’ It might be the striker who you are desperate for or that ‘experienced midfield general’ at under 9’s! Or that one player who will just make your team complete and bring lots of more’ shiny things’ in terms of league titles, cups and admiration from the footballing Gods. As we look to the future and plan how we achieve this immortality. Maybe it’s a scouting mission to spy on the opposition or paying our top striker for every goal he scores or dropping that player from the squad that won’t help you get those precious three points. Whatever it is, the ego is shouting at you to do it.

But STOP!!!!!!!

Bring yourself back to the present. What are you actually trying to achieve? Take a deep breath and pause. Sloooooooooow down! Instead of thinking ahead to all the good things which will happen as a result of you getting your new ‘shiny thing’ I want you to take a big step back and concentrate in putting yourself in the NOW. What does that even mean?

Let’s explore it.

As a coach, are you always trying to get somewhere? Is what you are doing always a means to an end? Is your fulfilment always just outwith your grasp? Are you running round that track chasing the hare? Do you believe if you win that Cup then you will become more fulfilled? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you will not be more fulfilled because your own ego won’t let you.  Now that sounds strange as I have just said it is your ego which is driving this behaviour. Your ego is fickle and the bigger yours is, then the more it is a problem for you. Here’s why. Ok, I’ve won that cup and it feels great but then that little voice says “I want more” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and an unhealthy one at that. Your ego will drive fear, worry, tension, stress and anxiety as it constantly looks  to the future (getting more shiny things) and tricks you into all these emotional states to get what it wants. In addition to the future is also looks back with all your regrets, guilt, bitterness at things which didn’t go to plan. So, your ego is constantly beating you up by looking both forward and back!

The best antidote is living in the present. As a coach or player wanting to give their best  the greatest approach is to clear your mind and concentrate on what you are doing at this exact point in time. I remember Jonny Wilkinson talking about his kicking and how he had to have a clear mind by thinking in the NOW. If he was worrying about the outcome of the kick or the consequences of missing then this would have a direct affect on the accuracy of what he was aiming for. All the ifs, buts and maybe’s would have a detrimental affect on his kick. The work of Tim Gallwey in his Inner Game series also backs this up.

So why not give it a try! Go into your next game as a player or coach with a clear, relaxed mind. Where you are only thinking of what you are doing at that exact point in time. Many people refer to this as the ‘Flow’ state and many peak performer’s work hard to achieve it as it undoubtedly produces their own best performance. It is really just mindfulness but it only works as Jack Black would say. Just concentrate and take in everything that is happening in the NOW. Any other thinking is just disturbing you from being your best self. Surely, being your ‘best self’ is what it is all about? You will feel free, liberated and living in the moment and just see the results you get!

My final word to coaches and others in our game. I believe there is far too much ego in our sport. You really need to work hard to reduce Egoic Coaching. The first step is being aware that your ego is running the show. Try my suggestion of letting go of outcomes and just concentrate on what is going on NOW. If that is your next coaching session then don’t think about anything else but making it the best session you have ever given that will help your players improve by just a tiny bit.  If you do that every time then just think how much development they will get and how good it will feel  not to coach with the Egoic Mind.

Be present, mindful and in the NOW and the ego has nowhere to live.

NOW Kills The Ego

The Arrogance of Ignorance


Whether we like it or not, we are all programmed in a certain way. From our early years we are conditioned to behave in a certain way by a series of treats, rewards and punishments. As we enter the school system we are trained to pass exams. Don’t worry about learning, just make sure you can pass the exam. Because remember, if you don’t pass that exam then you won’t get into university and won’t get a great job. This mental model has now been peddled for years and it is now seen as the only track available for many. What nonsense. I was recently told that over 70% of children at my kids high school will go onto university. Indeed my daughter has just been accepted and I wish her every success. However, all a Higher/A level and university degree means is a confirmation of the ability to absorb and remember information and then spew it all back on a page on exam day. Is this really education?

I know many teachers (indeed my wife is one) and they all say the same. The system is beating them. We will get to the point where no-one wants to become a teacher. They entered the profession to make a difference and wanted to give the kids a real education. Instead they have been browbeaten by a system that focuses on testing, performance reviews, parental involvement and admin. No wonder they are worn out! What happened to education for education sake? Teaching kids life skills and lighting up their imagination! (Think Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society) It’s all been extinguished by a system that doesn’t care and is only interested in producing average automatons. No doubt this was just what was needed back in the onset of the industrial revolution and the days of the British Empire where sending clones out to far fetched places to administer the work was the order of the day.

Unfortunately, football is trapped in the same arrogance bubble. We are the sheep and the system is the sheepdog. When do any of us break out from Groupthink and do our own thing? We don’t because “it has always been done this way” Our education system produces compliance and conformity just like our footballers. Breaking free has become almost impossible.

No matter how enlightened we think we are, we are basically ignorant. It is not our fault, we have been conditioned over many years. Over 50 in my case and it is made me what I am, good and bad. In recent years, my thinking and questioning has got wider. My first attempts at getting my thoughts down were through this blog. It was a way of expressing my emotions but I now know the limitations in this.

Our ignorance lies in our current reality and perception. I know a very successful businessman and his mantra is ‘perception is reality’ and he is not wrong. He runs a successful business and I know many of their problems yet to the outside world and his investors he is very successful. His success has been based on perception and he has used this to his advantage. We all have our issues to deal with but some hide them better than others. That mask of perception hides many evils.

This personal perception is driven by the ego. I have talked about this before and we all suffer from it to a greater or lesser degree. We can’t get away from it as ego is part of each of us. The problem with ego is that it creates an unhealthy belief in our own importance. This over-confidence and sense of superiority is ego-driven and takes that same person beyond their ability and competence. I believe the ego is one of the biggest problems we have to deal with and it is the root cause to many of our issues today.

So back to grassroots football. When we now have a system where we have all been conditioned into, and this is filled with a variety of ego’s driving the system then how the hell do we break this paradigm? Well I wish I had the answers but here’s my first step.

Education, education and education but not as we know education today. Until we break free from the arrogance of ignorance and start to educate ourselves on what is really going on will we get to the root cause. Let’s start by asking good questions and challenging why we are where we are?

Let’s break the chains and free our mind from ignorant thinking. Break out the arrogance bubble and don’t be a sheep. Challenge the system because unless you do the you are stuck in the ‘Arrogance of Ignorance’

The Arrogance of Ignorance