How many times have we seen coaches shouting instructions to players, and the players respond by giving a thumbs up? Many. Ask the player after the match about what the coach was saying. They will tell you they heard nothing. If you listen to player interviews where they are asked about what the coach said at half-time, they all say the same thing. “The coach said ‘go out there and enjoy yourselves’ and so we did”. Those are parting word after a long lecture.
There is so many young men and women aspiring to coach football teams one day and my advise is, believe not only in your dreams to be coaches but in other people’s dreams to be led by yourselves. That is far from enough. Success only comes to people who have the assurance that they will be great coaches, that they can deliver.
Why does one desire to be a coach? Hopefully, it is not to be like Gavin Hunt, Keutsepilemang Ndebele or Joseph Mourinho. Having a yardstick is encouraged, but then, be your own man. Do whatever you can to curve out your football. Be the architect of your own designer football.
The desire to be a football coach becomes futile if one looks at the money and the fame that goes with it. Stress is part and parcel of the package and you cannot escape it. In doing football at a high technical level, forget EVERYTHING you have ever heard from football commentators, analysts and reporters because, entertaining as they are, they are not knowledgeable at all. Their analysis is good to the ear and for arguments, but it is fatally dangerous for your consumption as a professional.
That goes to all media people as well, like myself. They are great people and do a good job in providing information, because, normally they get access into where no Jack and Jill can. Sometimes they get access to information you need as a coach and it will be worthwhile to get them closer so you can have visuals or audios to do your job.
You must become a coach to portray a pattern of the game that is only in your head alone. Stop dreaming and fooling yourself trying to think what Sir Alex Ferguson says to his team. It is never about what anyone says. Words are the most irrelevant and behaving like a traffic cop on the touch-line making a nuisance of yourself is meant for circus. It is what one does at training that gets translated on match day on the pitch.
I say this because many people expect a coach to tell his players to do this and that, play here or there and so forth. That is the best way to express your ignorance about the game. Players are not to be told anything, they are to be coached football at the training ground. As a coach, teach them football during the week and wait for them to show the world what you taught them from training on the match day.
However, somehow the most marketable coaches are those speaking the language of the layman. They are in good books with the media and the administrators. They operate and the same level with them – birds of a feather. That is why national teams fail. The board members interview national coaches and when the coach talks the football language, the interviewers laugh when he leaves the room, and then go on t give the job to the one who makes them nod heads in approval. We all know where that leaves the national teams.
Become that kind of coach and get good jobs with good salaries and produce nothing. You tend to have a lot of sweet football words without depth. This type of coaching also translate to a lot of talk during team talks and half time. There is too much emotion and shouting and the chairmen and owners who gate crush the dressing room enjoy the scenario because he believes you are really ‘telling them’. That is a lot of dust.
This boils down to a mentality or a philosophy. You want to achieve a certain football result that only you can produce and in your own way. It becomes necessary for the club culture to share components with what you can, and want to achieve. In this regards, keep good friends around including journalists and administrators so they can source you tools you need.
The concepts and their applications as you want them must be researched, planned for by you and practised over and over until well understood. Repetition is key to any training. However, national team coaching becomes more interesting and less laborious as more tactical work is done.
Understand football rules and their limitations so you can utilise and sometimes exploit them and then work out what you want attack or defence to mean to you. Learn to define what you call success. As said before, if certain people around you start to shout your praises, watch out and do not be carried away and begin to lose focus.
Having a football strategy that you exhibit to the world successfully week in and week out makes you a good coach. It makes you feel good and very selfish football-wise, which is good. It is for this reason that qualified people step on each other’s toes if placed under the same roof. Most stay together to keep their jobs because they have families to feed.
As a potential coach yourself, know what you want and map a way to achieve it. Go out and study trends and developments. Sit down and draw up practical plans and get the players you need. Gather data, pictures, videos, talk to those who know, ask questions, invite experienced mentors to your teams and to watch your sessions and matches.
Consultation does not mean copying and pasting other people’s ideas. The point is to polish your own. It means you want to see how your football can be similar or different, better. It is about trying new things and maybe remodelling the status quo. You need useful information that may make your football more relevant or useless. It helps keep your game at your finger-tips and strive to be better than yourself.
You will remember that when I formed KFA, most of the best players were registered with other teams and the particular group I eventually worked with were said to be rebels and thugs. Using reverse psychology, this is the tool I used to make KFA fearsome. It was my straight talk with the players, because I told them in their faces that I heard they were criminals and unruly.
While they were concerned to start with, I told them that is exactly why they will not be beaten in football. The thuggery energy was suddenly converted to a spirited weapon that detonated at each kick-off. We went on a rampage and thrilling fans and referees in 2nd Division. We refused a few penalties offered for free and quite a lot of favours. Actually, the only two losses from our 40 games came when entertained referees tried to help us.
Have a very strong belief in your own football. Read the game well, see the wrongs in general terms, and see the good. Give solutions to the problems your players have. Sometimes it can be done on the spot, but usually, major tactical problems are to be noted and trained upon during the week.
This actually makes your starting point. That you must have players play football and give them solutions to the problems they face. You can not start giving the solutions to the problems they do not have, and may never have.
I have seen revered coaches who find teams playing football and then they try to give half-time pep talk. You can only give advise and corrections to students you have taught. Otherwise, just let them play and enjoy. The essence of coaching gets drowned in the emotions and theories sometimes. Under all circumstances, know the parameters under which you are operating and adjust accordingly.
As a coach, you must always remember that, you do not play Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho‘s football. You play your very own football. Players and clubs play your own football. Get the data and statistics you need, sit and plan. Go to the field and follow your plan to the letter. Do not create or accept short cuts. Make very simple and practical exercises in areas that resemble the game situation. It is either you will go along the trends or against the grain.
Be involved and be part of the players and make fun. Let the whole thing be enjoyable. Come match day, all you did during the week becomes your team talk. That goes for half-time pep-talk in the dressing room. You do not go in there and shout out things that players are not aware of. Calm down, and then go over the game plan, what is going right and what is going wrong. In either case, you state why you are right and why things are going wrong. You will need statistics to prove your points. Ask questions from players about where they are finding difficulty and how they think they can solve the problems. All within the scope of your work with them.
In my case, I become calmest when I am losing and the situation is bad, but somehow players will tell that the boss is mad. They will try to make things happen for you. It becomes a very hard noisy push when the win is big (2-0 and up) and could have been bigger. You must be tactful to know your players. Some people you do not take it lightly the use of a loud voice or public address while others will only hear and act if facing open ridicule.
Either way, they are playing your football. While fans may be clapping and cheering for you and your team, and commentators are revving and screaming your praises, remember someone may be sitting somewhere in a corner laughing at how much of a moron and a clown you are. It is unfortunate they never really get time to sit down and ask you what exactly you were trying to do.
In most cases, 5 to 10 minutes will sell out your tactics and depending, one coach may be changing their tactics to counter yours, or turning the screw to stamp their authority. Depending on your ability and strength of mind, you may be one coach or the other.