Coaching influences

I was having a conversation on Twitter yesterday with football writer Mohamed Moallim and we were talking about the promise shown by Frank de Boer at Ajax and how he’d served a great apprenticeship at the club, one which had given him every opportunity of succeeding when he got the #1 job at the Amsterdam club. Whilst have this conversation it reminded how important it is for coaches to gain exposure to as many different coaches as they can during their early development.

When I was starting out this time last year the first piece of advice I was given was to work with as many different coaches as possible. I haven’t been able to do it this season but next year I’m certainly hoping to work with or observe a number of different and more experienced coaches.

Mohamed was explaining how Frank de Boer had learnt a great deal about coaching and management from Louis van Gaal, a manager who Jose Mourinho also credits for some of his development. Apparently the way in which De Boer prepares for games is exactly how LvG did, whilst Mourinho claims it was Van Gaal who taught him a great deal about coaching & training.

When you read or listen to interviews with today’s (or even yesterday’s) top managers you will often find reference to those who they either played under or worked with. Guardiola is influenced by Cruyff, Mourinho credits Bobby Robson for developing his man management skills and Louis Van Gaal for understanding how to coach. The way Carlo Ancelloti writes up his tactics pre-match is identical to that of Arrigo Sachi and on a more national level Martin O’Neill will talk to anyone about the man-management skills he learnt from Brian Clough.

No two coaches mention the same attribute, everything from man-management, to motivation, to tactics and match preparation is mentioned so it explains exactly why young/new coaches will benefit from working with those who have more experience.

Opportunities to work with other coaches don’t land on your door step and so as a coach, at any level, you have to go out and make it happen. I’ve already mentioned to the club I work with that I’d like to do some additional coaching with another age group next year so I’m hoping that will help me continue to improve & develop. I’m also going to try to see if I can sneak in at somewhere like Oxford Utd and watch their academy coaches working. Anything which will give me new ideas and understand more about coaching at a youth level.

I hope that in future blogs I’ll be able to detail what I’ve learnt from different coaches but in the mean time I’d be fascinated to hear any examples from you – who inspired you? Who did you learn the most from? How did you gain that exposure or experience?

Barcelona reach purist perfection

Barcelona 5 – 0 Real Madrid. The score line was equally as emphatic as the dominance Barcelona held over Real Madrid in El Clasico at the Camp Nou on Monday night. Mourinho, of course, claimed it wasn’t an embarrassment for Madrid but the rest of the world saw the win for what it really was.

The performance and the result had adulation flying in Barca’s direction from all corners of the world, and what must be most pleasing for everyone connected with the Catalan club is the fact that this came from a team built almost entirely from home-grown talent.

Real Madrid’s squad cost around double that of Barca’s, so at around £140m Barca have still spent considerably to ensure they sign some of the best players in the world but Madrid, unlike Chelsea, have failed to turn their investment in to trophies.

Barcelona’s youth development program is now rated as the number 1 youth academy in world football and when you look at the player’s who’re coming through, combined with the football they play,  it’s easy to see why. What I like about the Barca academy is the ethos that lives within La Masia – 433 is the default formation which is combined with three pillars of player development:

  • Player technique (control, balance etc)
  • Positional awareness and movement (total football)
  • One-touch passing

Combine these together and you begin to see why the Barcelona first team have been so successful in recent years. However, great credit should be shown to Guardiola because it still takes great management to ensure that the whole is equal to the sum of the parts – that is, just because you have great players doesn’t necessarily mean success and trophies.

Barcelona’s performance in El Clasico was as good a performance as I have seen from a club in my 20 years of watching football and although I have seen great performances from various teams in the past, they haven’t represented the type of “purist perfection” that Barcelona’s performance simply  was.

I take great inspiration from Barcelona, the way they develop players and the way they go about their football. It makes me want to develop young players in the same way, concentrating on technique, awareness and one-touch play. I want to develop players who go on to be good players, players who are comfortable on the ball and players who are proper footballers  and Barca motivate me to do this.