The E.P.L – the English Premier League, is arguably the most exciting professional football competition in the world. It is also the most at risk. The history of professional sport has taught us one thing above all….long term, sustainable success is nearly impossible to achieve. And, the teams and competitions which are most at risk are those who have not learnt from the mistakes of the past. This post discusses the dangers in store for the EPL and suggests some ideas on how the EPL can choose to survive and thrive or die.
Sometimes you win. Occasionally you win easily. But most of the time you win when it’s difficult, challenging and when things go wrong…winning ugly.
Sometimes you win.
Very rarely do you win easily when everything goes the way you planned it to go in training.
Sometimes winning is about winning ugly.
So what is winning ugly?
How may times do you actually go out on the field with all of your best players 100% fit and healthy and in the best form of their lives?
c. All the time
If you answered d. Never – give yourself a round of applause.
The aim of the game is to win. In a perfect world the “football-fairy” appears and magically transforms your team into a perfect performance powerhouse that seemingly wins with ease.
In the real world, there is no “football-fairy” and you’ve got to win when you’re tired, when you’re fatigued, when you’re not feeling great – you gotta find ways of winning ugly.
There are many good coaches in the world all striving to do their best and to help athletes realise their full potential. Some coaches – through their hard work, dedication, commitment, tenacity and creativity make the transition from good to great.
Many people aspire to leading high performance sporting teams, organisations and national sporting bodies. However, most are unprepared for the real challenges of leadership – particularly of leading effectively in an environment of pressure, stress and high public expectations.
Every time a professional player or elite athlete tests positive to drugs or is caught abusing alcohol, you can guarantee three things will happen:
- Newspapers and other media will over react and claim an isolated incident is evidence of an inherent drug and alcohol abuse culture in the club or sport (or all of sport);
- The club or sport will over react and ensure a drugs and alcohol education program is put in place as soon as possible;
- Everyone associated with the incident will over react, deny responsibility and blame someone else.
What’s the reality?
They don’t call it the Hot Seat for nothing – the coaches’ box!
The coaches’ box is the place where the coaches sit during the game and make important decisions about tactical, strategic and technical issues that have the potential to impact on the momentum of the game and even change the end result.
Some coaches’ boxes work well.
Some coaches’ boxes don’t.
So what’s the difference?
The Accountability Myth – Why the current Leadership models in High Performance Sport are failing (badly).
Time to be honest about this whole Leadership concept in high performance sport – it is not working.
It’s not working because of the Accountability Myth: The Accountability Myth is the reason why the current Leadership models in High Performance Sport are failing (badly).
Typically the end of season means a well earned rest, a few quiet drinks with team mates, some time with family and then… the end of season review.
Every team does some kind of season reflection or review – in most cases motivated by one or more “P” – Performance, Politics, Pressure.
- The Performance Review: is one motivated by a drive to improve the performance of the team – players, coaches and staff – for next season.
- The Political Review: is a review often driven by the Board or Executive to achieve a political agenda or philosophical shift in the club.
- The Pressure Review: is one forced on a team by media, fans, club, Board or other stakeholders as a result of a poor performance.
By far the most effective review is one that is deliberately and strategically placed in the team’s “performance cycle” each year and is embraced by coaches, players, staff, Management and Board as being an important and positive aspect of progressive performance from season to season.
Here’s a typical football Club scenario. Pick a club – any club – any code – it doesn’t matter.
The team loses a few games, has a couple of bad seasons and the decision is made to sack the head coach.
In fact, Legend AFL Coach David Parkin once said, “There are two types of head coaches. Ones who have been sacked and ones who will be sacked”.
So the club sacks the coach, goes through a search process, finds someone else to be head coach and prepares for the next season.
Next season the team loses a few games, has a bad season and surprise surprise – the Club starts looking for another head coach.
Some Clubs have recruited and sacked several coaches over the past ten years and have not had a change in their on field performance.
Many of these same Clubs have had the same Board, CEO and management team in place throughout that same ten years.
So what they are saying is, “we are doing everything right, we have all we need to win a title, we have a great culture and leadership – all we need is a great head coach and we will be back on track”.
Is it just me or is this a really silly way to run a business?
The Coaching Team.
Gone are the days of the “GURU” coaches.
Sure, the great names of coaching have all been “one man bands” – strong, decisive, authoritarian, leadership focused head coaches who controlled every aspect of the team’s performance.
However, elite sport has developed at an incredible rate over the past twenty years and the knowledge and skills required to win an elite sporting competition are greater than any one person can bring to the table.
Think of the advances in sports science, sports medicine, analysis, IT, nutrition, psychology and technology since the 1980s.
How can we expect that any one person can be THE expert in all performance areas plus coach the team, deal with the media, work with Club Board and Executive, recruit new players, talk to sponsors, meet the fans etc etc etc?
So – the Coaching Team and Performance Team concepts are born.
Here’s how it goes.
Your club has had another poor season.
People looking for answers come up with a lot of ideas on how to improve next year.
The management team determine that what the Club needs is a new high performance facility: new stadium, new meeting rooms, new computer lab, new medical facilities, a new gym and of course the obligatory new recovery facility.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
This is the Facility Fallacy.