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The Jersey is Dead: Long live the Players

By Wayne Goldsmith |

 

The Jersey. The Strip. The Colors. The Jacket. The Jumper.

Doesn’t matter what you call it – the “jersey” is dead.

Gone are the days when a bunch of blokes could train two or three days a week, have a poor diet, skip training sessions, enjoy a few beers and then, come Saturday, suddenly get Amazing Super Powers because of the magic of putting on the “jersey”.

In those days, poorly prepared players relied on the emotion of the jersey for their performance. Putting on the old “black and green” colors – usually incorporating a “rev-up” by a former player about the “pride of the jersey” etc was enough to fire the spirit and inspire the soul.

That’s not to say that tradition is wrong or respecting and celebrating the past is a bad thing. The point is that the jersey is just that – a jersey – a piece of clothing (usually made in China) – and, as a performance enhancement tool in 2008 – it is dead.

Why do I say the jersey is dead?

Because of two main reasons:

1. Professionalism in the major football codes – soccer, American football, AFL, rugby league and rugby has made the concept of the “jersey” obsolete.

Players change teams, states and even nations if the price is right. In days gone by, a young player dreamed of playing for his local professional team. He grew up with flags and beanies and caps and posters and every possible piece of team memorabilia plastered all over his room. His idea of heaven was to be selected in the run on team for his local professional team and kick a goal in front of mum and dad and the people he grew up with. It was “his” team.

Now players chase money, cars, contracts, sponsorship, endorsements and the trimmings of success wherever they can find it – and as full time professionals they deserve it. Loyalty is given not a jersey or team but to the club which offers the best financial package.

2. Player preparation has changed dramatically – it is the era of the individual.

In the 1950s and 1960s it was about preparing the Team as a whole.

Then in the 1970s we moved to preparing Elements of the team, e.g. Forwards or Backs, Attacking Players or Defensive Players.

This evolved to coaching Units, e.g. Inside Backs or Outside backs, Front midfield or Back midfield.

Where we are now is about Optimal Preparation of Individuals.

Teams and competitions are so close that a coach or player can not afford to have a weak link anywhere. In the old days, some individuals could under prepare, have a few chinks in the armour and still perform well.

Now, with all the analysis, video reviews and emphasis on optimal preparation of individuals, no professional player can afford going into a game under prepared in any area of performance.

Coaching lessons:

1. Instead of relying the magical powers of the jersey, teach players to take pride in their own performance and give them the skills, opportunity and environment to prepare optimally: physically, mentally, technically and tactically.

2. Respect the achievements of the players who have gone before but empower players to “own” the current team and the colors now. The jersey is only meaningful if it is meaningful to the current player group.

3. Do not rely on the emotion of the jersey for performance results. Prepare each individual optimally, then if the jersey can add a little passion and improve a specific element of performance – great: just don’t rely on it to produce a result in a poorly prepared team.

Wayne Goldsmith

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