Were asked in football what does the future player look like now. Well I think, what did certain players look like in the past? I certainly agree with ‘holistic’ development and the vast majority of sports people who ‘succeed’ in becoming top professional athletes will be ones who follow the path. But what worries me is how I see football staff trying to put all players in the same mind-set. Just like we are with player’s football wise. Seemingly creating all the same player, I now see signs of us trying to create the same mind-set. Now I’m no psychiatrist (might need one) but to me freedom on the pitch in attacking areas comes from freedom of the mind. That is also not over thinking things.
All us that have earned a living in the game dress up our input, importance and role in creating the player and try to take some responsibility when it goes well. But what if good coaching is stepping back, recognising something great and letting the player develop their way almost organically. We simply set the scene, give them the best environment and act as the race track barrier to keep them on the tarmac. I guess I'm asking, what if we have a genius and don’t recognise the signs in his/her behaviour. We just see it as deliberate bad behaviour and despite our learning, we ignore the potential and send them to the club psychologist. Some of these guys then, just in my view, stabilise or neutralise all this, almost suppress it and the player marches out hypnotised, a new level headed, calm individual, just like everybody else. Now I don’t think that everything these people do is wrong either. Actually, genius doesn't come round often so for the majority it could be simply attention and focus issues or others reasons that the psychologist will have a tremendous input on. But when they globalise success as a certain path of thought, actions & behaviours, I'm sorry, I disagree and I’ll try to explain why.
When a player behaves differently how do you cope as a coach and what do you see? I think many coaches fear players, even young ones that have big personalities or issues. So many sit in the coach education courses and listen to the social/psychological corner on paper but they don’t apply it on the pitch. See when a player behaves so called badly, lacks concentration, doesn't listen, has learning issues or has punctuation, anger or other problems. What is the reason? My first thought is always, is there an issue at home, school or socially. So I believe some patience is required and I wish more coaches would apply some of their own words and think about what they learned in the classroom. Rather than quickly snapping at the player in public, demanding their attention and concentration. Is it better to find a way to make them want to listen?
There is of course many that will fall foul of behaviour. Maybe they simply have a bad attitude and we all know if that is the case they will likely not make the grade. Despite all your efforts as a coach and surrounding staff you just can’t pull the player round. Ultimately players that can’t be controlled overall will be waved out of the door. But bear in mind, if players are running wild that can also be sign of weakness in the coach. I don’t mean fear factor either, coaches earn respect from players of all ages and most of all, when it’s interesting, players apply themselves. But what about that odd individual that’s a bit more of a test? I'm not scared of so called ‘different’ behaviour, body language or personalities. Recently after training a parent came to me. “How was they today (brothers)”? Fine, I replied. She went on to tell she has had issues with their coach with concentration and behaviour. I thought for a second. I told her that if she means smiling, laughing then yes, they do that. They also poke each other around but I don’t see those as issues. There is definite improvement in these players, but I already began re-directing their thoughts, creating games where they were separated or had to work better together and if there is too much standing still, they get bored and poke each other. If you talk to long, yes they start juggling with the ball. Every coaches red rag to a bull! I don’t see that as bad behaviour, I'm the same, I get bored quickly. So, for me I don’t have any issues with their behaviour. After I walked off I thought about what their coach was seeing. Was he standing them around talking? Is it because there not looking at him listening attentively hanging on his words, (I've seen coaches take massive offence to this) that’s behaviour problems? Not for me. But then how do I know they learned? Guess what, we did a similar session where we worked on passing & receiving with movement to receive. Without talking to them, we set up. Off we went, they did all the things we did the week before. So, they did learn. They just don’t like waffle.
Do we really embrace creativity?
For me there are certain things in people that are closely linked. If I think about a list of great, but eccentric people, I think about their strong personality, some being unpredictable with anger problems but maybe strong leaders. But most of all, there creativity. For me, these individual won’t always comply, they won’t always be the same as everyone else. Maybe they are different for a reason? The fantastic late musician Kurt Cobain said “They laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same”
How would you define this list of footballers?
Eric Cantona, Paul Gascoigne, Maradona, George Best, Garrincha, Peter Schmiechel, Roy Keane, Mario Balotelli, Paulo Di Canio, Zinedine Zidane, el-hadji Diouf, Gennaro Gattuso, Joey Barton and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Possibly throw manager Jose Mourinho in there as manager? In here are some of my favourite players ever. But I would ask, are they entertaining? Would you pay to see them? I also think, what did these guys look like as youth players? Also, were they easy to coach? Imagine that lot in front of you as you shout “ok guys in you come, what did you learn there then”? What did this lot do when you shouted “Stop stand still” “Oi, Listen to me” “Oi, Stop bouncing that ball and concentrate”? Were they easy to manage & control or did they test managers? I had a reasonable size business and without question, the most difficult person to manage as an employee, was the most successful salesperson. Do I sack him for an easy life? So, these certainly are characters, they have a view of how they see things, they’re willing to say things, they’re willing to try things. So are they ‘Eccentric’? I looked that up for definition and found this…
What is an eccentric person? Is it a form of insanity? Or are these people simply free spirits who have the courage to do their own thing?
There are five salient qualities: nonconformity, creativity, curiosity, idealism, and self-awareness of being different.
Some secondary characteristics include: high level of intelligence, being opinionated and outspoken, possessing a mischievous sense of humour.
I thought then of other sports people I admired. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali, Chris Eubank, John McEnroe, Valentino Rossi, Serena Williams, Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson and so we could go on. But their is something similar here, big personalities.
When you consider music there are a vast array of great artist like Kurt Cobain who are not frightened to try new things and could be argued are very much their own people. Michael Jackson, Elvis, Prince, Sinead O’Connor, Liam Gallagher, Morrissey are great examples and today we see the amazingly creative Lady Gaga.
To really look to cement my view that some great people can be so called ‘different’ I looked further into history and found a couple seemingly great people who were noted for being difficult, different, unusual, learning issues, sleep issues, concentrations issues etc. These are Thomas Edison, Beethoven, DaVinci, Oscar Wilde, Michelangelo, Albert Einstein & Charles Dickens. No, surely you don’t need any more convincing that genius doesn’t always march around nodding they’re head, looking you in the eye and ticking the boxes.
If kids are actually ‘pieing off training’, that to me is another issue. Likewise unruly, nasty behaviour or bullying. All completely unacceptable on my watch. But others might need different types of activity and a certain level of discovery to keep them stimulated. Maybe they are just bored? Find a way, try something new. This includes some that might just need an enjoyable environment. Is smiling wrong? Some coaches think learning looks stern faced. Not always, you can smile and learn. It’s called a different way. I know for example, I cannot learn in a presentation/dictatorship fashion. I work in technology but was shown a computer application in a presentation. It doesn't stick, I have to be hands on to learn. But because the lesson was one person talking for an hour, it didn't stick. When I later asked some questions the reply was ‘you have already been told this’. This was a person in coach education.
Lastly if you do nothing else please look up this great guy. One of the best presentations Ive seen. Actually, why is it this stuck with me? Was it interesting? Did it contain personality? Was humour injected?
Please see my key snippets I feel relevant to us in football youth development.
Ken Robinson said in his great TED Conference ‘How schools kill creativity’
- Were educating our children for a world that we don’t know what it will look like? We don’t even know what it will look like in 5 years’ time.
- All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them pretty ruthlessly
- Story of the little girl drawing a picture and the teacher asked what it was a picture of. The girl replied “it’s a picture of GOD”. The teacher said “but no one knows what God looks like”. The girl replied “They will in a minute”
- If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original
- We educate people out of their creative capacities
- We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it
- We don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, he was in somebodies English class
- Gillian Lynne was labelled with learning difficulties. She couldn't stop fidgeting and had lack of focus, she couldn't concentrate. She was taken to a doctor who actually said there was nothing wrong with her, he turned on the radio and she was moving, he told her mother to take her to dance. They took her and she said the room was full of people like her, people who needed to move to think. She graduated, formed a dance school, worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and was a dancer/director/choreographer in a string of award winning musicals including Phantom of the Opera and Cats. Ken says, somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.