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The football leadership style

Transformational leadership is the new leadership model that, starting in the managerial world, has been extended in recent years to the world of sports. Here are the 4 main characteristics and examples of soccer coaches who use it

  1. Idealized influence - Conveys pride to the players, sets a good example to follow, and allows the leader to earn the respect of them in a way that increases the relevance of values. Ferguson: “I always have a lot of pride in seeing younger players develop.” In this way, the job of a coach is like to that of a teacher. Technical skills are formed, a winning mentality and better people are built. This leads to loyalty in young people to the club, as they are aware of the opportunity they have received.
  2. Inspirational Motivation - Conveys a vision of where the team is going motivates the players while inspiring them to take on challenging tasks. Communicates optimism and enthusiasm and stimulates self-efficacy. Guardiola: “I don’t want everyone trying to dribble like Leo Messi, you have to pass the ball, pass it and pass it again… Pass, move well, pass again, pass, and pass… I want every move to be smart, every pass accurate, that’s how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that’s all I want to see.”
  3. Intellectual Stimulation - Encourages problem solving through new and creative strategies. Klopp: “”Playing unforgettable games, being curious and looking forward to the next game to see what will happen, and that’s what soccer should be about. If you make that attitude your own, you will be 100 percent successful.”
  4. Individualized Consideration - Recognizes the commitment and needs of everyone within the group through empathy, listening, compassion and the coaching process. Mourinho: “There are many ways to become a great manager … but above all I think the most difficult thing is to lead men with different cultures, brains and qualities.” At Inter he granted a vacation to Wesley Sneijder who was exhausted. “All the other coaches only talked about training,” Sneijder said. “He sent me to the beach. So I went to Ibiza for three days. When I came back, I was willing to kill and die for him.”

 

Doping, more tolerance is fair?

Since January 1st of this year, an athlete caught using drugs (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, cannabis) after a control risks a disqualification of only three months, which can be reduced to 30 days if he/she shows regret and participates in a rehabilitation program. For WADA it is important that the drug has not altered the result of the performance.

But shouldn’t sport have an educational role? Wasn’t it supposed to keep young people away from drugs? Wasn’t it supposed to be an example of healthy living and wellness? Wasn’t it supposed to teach how to live frustrations and difficulties in a constructive way? Wasn’t it supposed to teach responsibility and work ethic? Okay, it failed!!!

Master athlete secrets

More and more people over35 continue to play sports at a competitive level and this article published by the Canadian organization that deals with sports and physical activity proposes how coaches should behave with this type of athletes.

The training of masters is a relatively new topic, which has caught medical experts and physiologists off guard because, thinking in the traditional way, they have reached an age in which it is no longer possible to provide absolute level performance. These limits are scientifically demonstrated but the relevant question seems to me to be another.
What are the limits that masters who play sports in a competitive way can reach is not so clear, we know much better the damage caused by sedentariness. It would be interesting to know more about the relationship between genetics, psychology, medicine and physiology. Also to know better the numbers would be useful. If I think of people my age, that is, over 65, we know that in Italy only 10% of men and 8% of women practice sports continuously and that 5% of marathon runners fall into this age group. However, we do not know how many are those who train regularly weekly in a specific sport rather than those who walk. We know that an activity carried out in a balanced way, not wearing out the body is desirable, but what is the difference between these people and those who instead perform competitive activities. Does the secret lie in lifestyle or in genetics, in the wear and tear to which they subjected themselves in previous decades? These are the questions to which we can give answers, in my opinion for now generic or based on social stereotypes.

In the meantime, let’s read this Canadian research that opens a glimpse into the training of masters and the skills of coaches.

Psychology dominates in soccer, but not psychologists

There is a lot of talk about psychology in soccer and yesterday we heard Antonio Conte’s phrases on the anxiety of his players, Fonseca’s phrases on his team’s 20 minute blackout and Andrea Pirlo’s phrases on the winning mentality that Juventus must have. Some time ago Alessandro Costacurta had spoken about the emotional intelligence that should guide the players.

These phrases show how high is the sensitivity of this sport world on psychology, but the question is that they are less than the fingers of one hand those who work in a soccer club. Who deals with it in the team?The coach is the psychologist of the team, on the one hand it is a function that is quite usual for those who play a leadership role in any group, on the other hand it represents an additional degree of responsibility that he does not share with anyone because within the staff there is no sports psychologist.

This absence, obviously, is not of today but it is a constant with some exceptions. Currently, to my knowledge, only Juventus and Verona have one working with players.
It doesn’t get any better in the youth sport and in soccer schools where they are quite common but often with marginal roles.

We are very far from the role that the psychologist plays in the US club. Robert Nideffer and Kenneth Ravizza have worked for years with many American football and baseball teams. The coach behavior evaluation system in youth baseball was introduced over 40 years ago now. In soccer in the UK, Chris Harwood proposed a soccer academy coach development program based on psychological characteristics, which is now used by soccer clubs and is widespread in the English-speaking world.

In our country we are stuck with the experiences of individual professionals, few in number, and in any case the interest of clubs is scarce.

Athletes needs expert coaches

Sometimes in high level sport there is the idea that the strong athletes when they go to the competition and in the days before the competition now no longer need the coach because they are ready and it is the athlete at that point that must demonstrate his/her value. It is thought that the psychological aspect of the approach to the race and the management of the same is a private matter, in fact it is time to demonstrate.

My professional experience is absolutely the opposite: precisely because they can provide exceptional performance these athletes need qualified people at their side who know how to direct them to live this experience in an effective and positive way.

I have in mind athletes asking you what they need to do or more simply wanting to talk to someone who knows them and is willing to listen. Without this last phase, which can be carried out by the coach or the psychologist, it is possible to throw away months or years of preparation for not having appreciated its importance.

I have in front of me athletes who before the Olympic final say that they are nauseous and do not want to go on the field or that three hours before they tell you that they do not remember what to do, or coaches who are surprised by unsatisfactory performance without having done anything to prevent it.

Today, when everyone feels like a motivator or mental coach, this lack is even more paradoxical, highlighting the fact that it takes specific professional skills to be the right person and that it is not enough just to stick this label on yourself, without understanding that training and competition are fundamentals in the consolidation of knowledge between coach, psychologist and athlete.

Be focused on the performance and not the outcome

I often wonder if it isn’t repetitive to keep talking about thinking about the performance rather than thinking about the result.

Nevertheless, I still find myself talking about this topic with the young people I work with, for the reason that they bring it up. Some says: “I always think about the result of the match, since the day before so I get tense and nervous and this doesn’t help me” or even “I think about the most important match even if it is in a month and not about the ones that come before”. A tennis player: “Before I was always thinking about the point, now I think more about pushing”.

Let’s just say that most athletes are not trained to think about performance, which concerns the behaviors to put in place to achieve the result goals (win, do your personal best, get into the final) but they think more easily of the result of their actions, I won/lost.

Many young people still think that the result should be their main thought.

Athletes must be aware that the mistake is always technical, if a shot in soccer goes out instead of into the goal it means that the ball has been hit badly, but this is only the effect, the question that the athlete and the coach must answer is:

  • the mistake is technical because the young has tried a shot that he/she does not yet fully possess due to some technical limitation.
  • the mistake is mental because he/she had to pass the ball, since from that position he/she would never have hit the goal.

The same mistake can be caused by different factors, if the coach continually puts the emphasis only on technique or tactics, the athlete will develop a mentality in which every mistake is always technical and therefore he/she never think to train the mindset.

The relationship between goals and failures

“As much as you set your goals too high and are unable to achieve them [skills], your enthusiasm turns to bitterness [motivation]. Seek a more reasonable goal and then gradually surpass it [experience]. That is the only way to get to the top.” (Emil Zatopek).

What happens in the world reveals that often people are not able to accept their limits and negative results, therefore, some give up, some lose confidence in themselves, someone else looks for shortcuts or turns to gurus who should make them change. Still others unknowingly follow Zatopek’s advice and thus continue their journey with renewed enthusiasm.

This sentence should be present in every school classroom, in every locker room or workplace because it explains what attitude to have when faced with mistakes and difficulties. It makes it clear that there are no shortcuts but only commitment and dedication (the sweat Hemingway talked about). Obviously not even the coach or the psychologist can replace this attitude, they can certainly explain that this is the best way to react, but the real work to achieve this thought is the one done by the person who is in difficulty to overcome it, no one can replace him/her.