Player development and the winning mentality
Posted by Dean Holden at August 8th, 2013
by Kevin Murphy via Stuart Grieve’s blog, 18 June 2013
Kevin Murphy has 12 years elite coaching experience, primarily working with Hamilton Academicals’ Women’s Premier League side and as part of the Scotland Women’s Under-19 coaching staff. At the other end of the spectrum Kevin is a football development officer with the Scottish FA where his focus is on grassroots football and participation. This week on the Positive Coaching blog Kevin Murphy guest posts on the subject of player development and the winning mentality.
I often wonder what sort of journey young children face when getting involved in football for the first time and how their experiences will shape their attitude to football, and sport in general later in life. I also ponder over the part that journey will play in their development as a person and the weight it carries in them reaching their full potential across all walks of life. The most crucial component in this journey, in my eyes, is the coach. A coach has the power, at a moment in time, to truly influence their players, both on and off the field, but sadly that influence can be misguided and doesn’t always leave a positive effect.
There is a misconception that coaching is all about direct instruction, with the coach being the “holder of all knowledge”. I like to think of coaches as educators: teachers of the game who help their players learn aspects of the game through guided discovery, problem solving and learning from their own mistakes. The term “helping them to learn” should immediately spark you to think: how can I achieve an environment for learning at training? What can I do as a coach to stimulate my players to think of realistic, game-like problems and solutions, the likes of which they will face on a match-day?
The role of the coach should be to educate, nurture, and empower by providing opportunities for their players to grow and develop. These objectives are regularly attained to a greater or lesser extent in the training environment. On the contrary, decisions and behaviours of coaches on match-days often conflict.
All too frequently competitive environments bring out the worst in coaches – simply because winning instinctively matters to us, and we don’t always know how to effectively manage and channel our desire to win. Firstly, the coach’s philosophy and personality come into play, then there are parents who get obsessed with wanting their child to do well and view the score-line as being the sole success indicator. Lastly, and most importantly, the player’s own desires and developmental needs play a part. We need to first recognise these factors, both in ourselves and in those around us, and be brave enough to address them if we are to strike the right balance between teaching and winning.
Children are naturally competitive – a quality we should not discourage. However, as coaches we have a duty to manage and educate our kids on the processes of winning instead of judging success on the scoreboard. Winning isn’t a bad thing but solely focusing on this will only prevent development and in return result in failures and regrets.
The most successful coaches are not necessarily the ones who win the most games. Coaches who are successful win on the basis of players’ development and creating a robust team work ethic and togetherness. Look at new Manchester United manager David Moyes. Very few would argue that Moyes did a terrific job at Everton, but how many trophies did he win? There are varying indicators of success and in the case of Moyes success was relative to the club he was at and the foundations he helped lay. The work ethic and commitment Moyes’ players showed for the club were testament to the culture he created at his club and it is that success which earned him the Premiership’s most sought after seat.
“As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barca, we trained every day with the ball, I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.” (Lionel Messi)
A coach who is committed to using all of their knowledge, abilities, and resources to make each player in their squad as successful as they possibly can be is the epitome of an effective coach. My main focus is to aim to promote an atmosphere of teamwork, respect, and a commitment to set goals to continually improve. Easier said than done but by striving to achieve this ethos you can be a successful coach who develops individuals and wins the odd game too. These values I have do not change irrespective of the age groups I work with at the elite level of the women’s game or in my day job at the grassroots of Scottish football.
<Stuart Grieve is the National Programme Manager for Positive Coaching Scotland at the Scottish FA. More great stuff on his blog! – DH>