Tag Archives: Coaching Philosophy

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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“It’s Basketball… Get Over Yourself!”

I have a read a lot of coaching texts over the years.  And biographies.  And autobiographies.  I learnt a lot from all of them.  But at some point, I started to become disheartened.  In the books, the coaches did everything right, and never compromised.  The players eventually saw the wisdom of the coach and did exactly as he wanted.  The coach received the just rewards for his skill and wisdom.  There seemed to be a huge disconnect between the world of coaching in the books I read and the one that I was experiencing personally.

But over time, I read different books and I learnt that not every player liked John Wooden.  Or even respected him.  I learnt that Bill Walsh didn’t dominate every season.  Even though he was a genius.  I learnt that Pep Guardiola let this players talk him into changing tactics.  What?!?  I learnt that Alex Ferguson put his team in the wrong hotel before a big match.  Really?!?  And most all I learnt that coaching is just like everything else worthwhile; a multifaceted activity that sometimes you get right and sometimes you get wrong and sometimes you don’t know why.  I was reassured.

At this point in my life / career, the books that interest me the most are ones like Platonov’s book.  Resources that highlight the craft of coaching and talk about the practicalities of it.  The best current resource for that is San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.  I recently came across a video of a clinic he gave to coaches in Berlin a couple of years ago.  It is great, no bullshit advice for coaches.  The main takeaway?  Choose character.  And if you are wrong about someone’s character? Get rid of them and start again.  Here are a couple of my favourite quotes.  Or you can watch the whole video below.  Or both.

On working with jerks – “You want to enjoy yourself. Seasons are long.  There are lots of different situations that you are in.  You wake up in the morning, you’re a grown man or a grown woman, you want to spend your day with jerks?  You want to hate yourself when you go to practice because you have to put up with this idiot? … Get rid of them.  Start at the basic bottom line of character.”

On responding to winning and losing – “Bust your ass, do the best you can do, … and go for a beer.”

On responding to winning and losing – “If you win, act like you do it all the time and you didn’t do anything special.  If you lose go back to work, try figure it out.”

On timeouts – “The players go to the bench and I bring the coaches out here, and we talk, and make the owner think we know what we’re doing.  That we’re thinking about some strategy that’s really cool and we’re just talking about where we’re going to go to dinner after the game. Sometimes you gotta play the game a little bit.”

On timeouts – “You think everything you say (in a timeout) is gonna make them better.  They’re not gonna get better during that game!  You’re just wasting your time. So instead of telling them six things … Pick something!”

On timeouts – “I think timeouts are really important.  They calm guys down… Do what you gotta do. Briefly!  Succinctly.  The let them go back and play.”

On standing back during a timeout… “It helps some guys be better leaders because they don’t want to say some things in front of the coach… They’ll talk to each other a whole lot more if they’re together than if we’re over them all the time.”

On goal setting – “That process. That pride in work on a daily basis is what grows the spirit and what grows the character and what makes them feel like… they deserve to win the championship. Your team has to feel like they deserve it. Like they worked harder than everybody else… the mental as much as the physical part.”

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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