Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done. Burger king franchises hire managers. They know exactly what they need to deliver and they are given resources to do it at low cost. Managers manage a process they have seen before, and they react to the outside world, striving to make the process as fast and as cheap as possible.
Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in. My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management. Maybe that word used to fit, but no longer. Movements have leaders and movements make things happen. Leaders have followers. Managers have employees. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
Change? Change is frightening, and to so many people who would be leaders, it seems more of threat than a promise. That’s too bad, because the future belongs to our leaders, regardless of where they work or what they do.
That extract is from Seth Godin’s book Tribes. Alter the word ‘leader’ for ‘coach’, and you have the blueprint of how a successful coach would think.
Change is required
British football needs change. No doubt in my mind – it has to change imminently. Everything points that way. The pool of coaches and players within this nation shrinks by the year. Why this is attributable to a number of issues; a self-entitled attitude, reliance on finance and plain laziness. No one person is to blame and yet, in the same light, we all are.
Becoming a great player may not be an option for everybody, but anyone can become a great coach. If you study and understand the game, with willingness to purposefully practice your craft, then my belief is that you can become an able coach. My own experience informs this opinion. Just revise those great coaches we have all seen, whose passion for the sport was not impeded by lack of skill on the pitch and whose success is irrefutable.
A common misconception is that in order to be a top coach, one must first be a top player. Of course it can help – it gives you a perspective and empathy to the game that can’t be taught. But whether this experience guarantees ability as a coach is dubious. A vast list of top players that have gone on to be abysmal coaches springs to mind. I know this because I’ve played with a few.
Predominantly, this transition fails for coaches, because they approach the position with their ‘player’ mindset. A successful player can easily follow the notion that once a coach, he can simply pass on his wisdom. Unfortunately, coaching is not this simple and the method falls flat. Failing this, the coach will move on to spending. Buying someone else, he’s told, will solve it. And when this fails? Time to panic.
The two roles are completely different disciplines. This can’t be emphasized enough. As a player, their destiny was in their own hands. If they played well, they controlled that. A game was as good as he gave. As a coach, success is sought through the success of others. Control is limited to your leadership skills. And to lead, you need followers. Screaming at someone what to do and how to do it, is not leading.
Once a player takes to the pitch, there’s no point screaming at him, trust me. We can’t hear you. We can hear you at half-time. We can hear you all week at the training ground. But on a game day with a crowd in? Save your breath. For this reason alone, I believe we must produce pro-active players. Not re-active. It is the coach’s job to educate the player, so that player can analyse and adjust in real time. A player’s ability to change and better himself on the pitch is the true signal of a coach at work.
Inspiring a generation
So how do we inspire a generation of coaches? A Ferrari in the hands of a Skoda mechanic will not compare to a Skoda in the hands of a Ferrari mechanic. The Skoda will improve. In the same light, a strong coach will improve a player. Unfortunately too many poor Ferrari’s have been ruined by Skoda mechanics.
The good news is, we still have a passion for football that is unrivalled anywhere else on this planet and I envisage good things.
We have the passion and the resources to build a tribe of coaches. We must take that passion and allow anybody from anywhere to be a part of that tribe. If you’re taking the time to read this, you care enough to make change and to join this effort. It takes only two things to turn a group of people into a tribe:
- A shared interest
- A way to communicate
The communication can be one of four kinds:
- Leader to tribe
- Tribe to leader
- Tribe member to tribe member
- Tribe member to outsider
There is no quick fix coming. There is no individual to rule the way and the FA is so out of touch its untrue. It’s up to us, the ones that care, that is on the ground and with a voice. Everything that has happened up to this point has harmed our national teams. Those foreign owners and individuals in power are thinking about their pockets. The only way they would care for player development, is if that development saves them money.
As much as I hate to state it, it’s the hard truth. And I say the truth because I do care. I will make a difference. Maybe to my own son, perhaps to some kids in my area or even British players on a wide scale. This is a game that has given me so much. It would be selfish of me to continue taking and never give back. It is a duty to give what we take. Otherwise, what will be left for those to come?