Tag Archives: Coaching Philosophy

How Much To Share?

“I give them (anyone who asks) my training methods and programmes but I don’t give them my brain.” Jose Mourinho, Up Close and Personal p110

Every coach will some longevity is asked for advice by other coaches.  Many coaches are asked to present at clinics and workshops.  The response from coaches varies.  Many coaches will happily share their time and experience… up to a point.  After all they don’t want to share their secrets with possible competitors who could some day beat them.  Some coaches don’t share anything at all.  I heard one notable coach say that he had spent a lot of money and time collecting his knowledge, why should he share it with others for free. Some of those simply think they have the secret.  One coach I worked with actually banned me from watching parts of his practices.  Although I suspect the real reason was because he realised I knew his ‘secret’ was just a con.

Then there are others, like Jose Mourinho*, who happily share everything.  Their logic is simple.  They can share all of the mechanics of what they do, but the mechanics, while interesting are not the keys.  If another coach took all of Mourinho’s coaching methods and programmes and carried them out exactly as written, the results would not, could not, be the same. Those coaches understand that the most important things are the connections between things, the spaces between the notes so to speak.  Those coaches also have nothing to fear, because as Mourinho goes on to say, the great coaches are always fiddling and adapting with their programmes to continue to improve.

How much do you share?

*I would like to think I fall into this category, but suspect I am more often the coach who holds something back.  Feel free to challenge me on it.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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More On Coaching Interventions

The most common misconception about coaching is that the work of the coach is in the stuff he ‘does’ and most specifically the stuff he ‘does’ that other people see. So coaches are judged on the number of timeouts they take in a game because that is what people recognise as ‘coaching’. They are judged on the things they shout at the players in practice or games, because that is what people recognise as coaching.  They are judged on the amount of feedback they give in practice because that is what people recognise as coaching.

I have written before about coaching and these interventions. Simply, coaching is not in the interventions.  This short YouTube addresses the difference between what happens when the coach relies on interventions in practice and when the coach relies on other methods.  It is a great way to spend two and a half minutes if you are a coach. Or a parent for that matter.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Klucz do siatkówki

Artykuł przetłumaczony na język polski przez Zuzannę Dulnik.

Originalne po Angielsku jest tutaj.

Ludzie często odnoszą się do siatkówki jako do technicznej gry. To znaczy drużyna z najlepszym poziomem technicznym to drużyna, która najprawdopodobniej wygra. Inni mówią, że największa drużyna to drużyna, która najprawdopodobniej wygra. Osobiście nie zgadzam się z żadną z tych teorii. Najprościej mówiąc, kluczem do siatkówki są interakcje.

Interakcje są widoczne gdziekolwiek spojrzysz i są one (prawie zawsze) decydujące.

Interakcje występują pomiędzy zawodnikami, pomiędzy trenerami i pomiędzy trenerami i zawodnikami.

Interakcje występują pomiędzy trzema kontaktami z piłką po każdej stronie siatki.

Interakcje wystepują pomiędzy fazami gry, od fazy przyjęcia do fazy zdobycia punktu, od fazy ofensywnej do defensywy do fazy ofensywnej.

Interkacje występują pomiędzy wszystkimi wyżej wymienionymi: zawodnikami, kontaktami z piłką i fazami gry.

Ostateczny potencjał drużyny tkwi w optymalizacji wszystkich tych interakcji.

To jest gra w siatkówkę.

Ta sama zasada dotyczy treningu. Tak jak interakcje pomiędzy osobistymi, technicznymi i taktycznymi elementami decyduje o jakości gry, tak samo interakcje pomiędzy różnymi elementami treningu decydują o jakości programu treningowego. Jak renomowany trener od przygotowania fizycznego Vern Gambetta mówi:

“W przypadku wydajności, esencją są połączenia, nie izolacja. Zatem trening powinien to odzwierciedlać i skupić się synergiach i połęczeniach mięśni.“

Klucz do wydajności tkwi w interakcjach. Izolowanie sprawia, że czujesz się lepiej jako trener, ale łączenie sprawia, że stajesz się lepszy.

Win Forever™, Quietly


The central thesis of the Carlo Ancelotti‘s book ‘Quiet Leadership’ is that effective leadership does not necessarily require stereotypical ‘loud’ skills.  In Ancelotti’s words,

“The kind of quiet I am talking about is a strength. There is power and authority in being calm and measured, in building trust and making decisions coolly, in using influence and persuasion and being professional in your approach.”

The book is a good read with many testimonials from the great players he has coached (Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Beckham, Maldini).  Interestingly, all the testimonials include some version of the statement ‘Of course his tactics and training were good, but what was most important was to his success was his personality.’  A major recurring theme of his book is that a coach must work within the range of his own personality.  A coach must be genuine.  If he is not, then the players will not follow him.pete carroll

The central thesis of Pete Carroll‘s book ‘Win Forever’ is win forever.  The introduction to the book is one of the most inspiring chapters of any coach’s book I have ever read.  He describes the moment of reaching a crossroad in his career.  Using the time to reflect on his personal philosophy and values, he realised that his coaching until that point had not been true to those philosophies and values.  By deliberately taking the time to develop a training system that was true to those values and philosophies he was then able to do a much better job in his next two coaching jobs and became the Pete Carroll we know today.

After reading the introduction, I was excited to read the rest of the book.  Jose Mourinho also talked of taking the time to create his personal ‘manifesto’ (although at the beginning of his career, perhaps explaining why he has had no crossroads), so I expected that the book would go through that process as he did it and provide some valuable new insights.  As is the way of the world, hopes prematurely raised they are inevitably crushed.  The rest of the book was an explanation of his coaching methods, with numerous mentions of how I too could tap into these methods through his company and website, not coincidently entitled ‘Win Forever™’.  If I followed the ‘Win Forever™’ formula, I too could win forever.  The methods themselves are interesting, moreso if you haven’t read any of the great coaches from previous generations (Lombardi, Walsh, Landry).  If you have read those coaches, all you need from this book you can read the introduction on amazon.com’s ‘Look Inside’.

So what is really the central thesis of ‘Win Forever’?  Carroll explains that his coaching career didn’t not reach its potential until he took the time to understand himself and create a process that was uniquely his.  Therein lies the fundamental disconnect in the book.  The main portion of the book then tells the reader (over and over again) that the way to success is to buy his methods.  The methods that work because they are uniquely fit in with his philosophies and values.

So Pete, should I develop a coaching process that is uniquely mine and fits with my personality?  Or should I buy the process that fits with your personality?  Carlo knows the answer.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.Cover v2

Yeah, But…

Every coach recognises those words as the moment a player begins making an excuse for not doing whatever he or she was supposed to do.  A book with the collected excuses of players with that title would doubtless be a best seller as coaches would snap them up at a pretty decent rate, either for their own enjoyment or as amusing gifts for coaching colleagues.  However, despite what coaches would have you believe, it is not only players who come up with imaginative excuses.  I Taught My Dog To WhistleAs the cartoon above shows, coaches are just as prone as athletes to make excuses for their failings.  In fact you can open the sports pages on nearly any day and get a Coaching 101 lesson in excuses from the coaches who lost yesterday.   For example, every time a coach talks about the officiating.  Julio Velasco often talks about more serious excuses that coaches make.  One of his favourites is blaming the psychological failings of a player / team for coach’s lack of success, as I quoted about here, rather than seriously analysing their own work.  In the video clip, he talks (apparently, it is in Spanish) on a similar theme, of coaches blaming a player’s lack of talent for the lack of success.


The most popular current excuse for coaches is athlete ‘entitlement’.  You can read the complaint often on internet coaching pages and one well known basketball coach quoted ‘entitlement’ as part of the reason for her retirement.  The reason I use the inverted commas there is to emphasise that those are not my own thoughts.  Obviously, society has changed (as it always does) and with it so have athlete’s expectations of the coach / athlete relationship (as it always does)*.  But when reading those posts, it is impossible not to see that many of the posters are looking for excuses instead of honestly reviewing their own contributions.

How many times have you heard a coach or player say something along the lines of ‘The guys were fully committed today and that is all I can ask of them.’  As famous football coach Guus Hiddink says**.

“…commitment (is) also a little bit of an excuse.  When you have 100%, whatever happens in the game, we are happy.  I said ‘No, that’s not enough for me.  Let’s go and try to make the commitment more balanced to technical behaviour, strategy.”

Excuses are everywhere.  Ultimately there are two possibilities in any endeavour: you either succeeded or you didn’t succeed.  And if you didn’t succeed there is a very high probability that the reason was something that YOU did.  Those who search for that reason, and not for excuses, and seek constant improvement, are invariably the ones who eventually do succeed.

* I used to be a player.  The way I remember the ‘good old days’ is of what we had to put up with from our coaches.  Some in particular coached in a way that would now, rightly, be considered child abuse.  Instead of complaining about how players are now, we should be ashamed that we didn’t speak up about the things we were forced to do.

** in the excellent book ‘That Night’ about his work with the Australian football team in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.

Players Know Best?

I met Terry Liskeyvich more than 20 years while he was still coach of the US women’s National Team and visited Australia for a clinic.  Over the next five or six years he was a semi regular visitor to Australia in a variety of capacities and I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with him on a variety of topics.  From those conversations, the single biggest thing that stands out to me to this day is the book he described as the most important book he read in his coaching life.

The book is ‘The Fifth Down‘ and is written by Neil Amdur and is the ostensibly the story of a high school football coach named George Davis who had a particular way of running his team.  A very particular way in fact.  He ran his team as a democracy, allowing players to decide on many aspects of how the team was run, including voting for the starting lineup each week.  This is the part that has been sitting in the back of my mind for over twenty years now.  The rationale for having the team decide on the starting lineup is simple.  Davis maintained that the players themselves are in the best position to know exactly how much effort their peers are investing in the team and in training.   Therefore they know better than the coach who is playing well right now and who will put the team in the best position to win the next game.

While I am certain that coaches do not always see the right things in practice or choose the right players and will undoubtedly be swayed by personal feelings at times, I have never been convinced that this idea would work in practice.  Simply, if coaches ‘can’t’ be trusted to see the right things, how can one expect players with less training and experience make better decisions.  Players would also in many cases be making decisions about their friends and human nature compels people to see their friends in a favourable light.  At the highest level, I have had players with blindspots about the quality of certain teammates, both good and bad.  I have had experienced players who were 10% off in judging a teammates hitting percentage.  I have had teams in which certain players preferred playing with their friends on the team.

Players absolutely have insights into the team that coaches do not.  But I am not sure that a straight democracy is the answer.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

In the video, Terry Liskeyvich talks about ‘The Fifth Down‘.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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Everything Is Timing – Johan Cruyff Edition

cruyff quotes

Johan Cruyff is the most intriguing sports figure of the last 50 years.  He had the ability to say something you have never heard before, that is at the same time blindingly obvious.  How could he see the most obvious thing in the world that nobody else could see?

He understood speed.

What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster.

He understood that technique exists only in the service of the game and of the team.

Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate.

He understood how difficult it is to do the easy things well.

Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.

He understood understanding.

“You see it when you understand it.”

He understood leadership.

“Players that aren’t true leaders but try to be, always bash other players after a mistake. True leaders on the pitch already assume others will make mistakes.”

He understood the power of individuality.

“Every disadvantage has its advantage.”

And most importantly, he understood timing.

“There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time.  If you’re not there, you’re either too early or too late.”

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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