Don Revie Former manager of Leeds United and England
John Napier says, "Yes! It is all about the soccer players!"
Many, many moons ago, in the late 70s, when I was first starting out in my coaching career at the professional level in England, I decided I needed to talk to the best in the business. At that time, Don Revie, the manager of Leeds United, and later the England National team, and Brian Clough the manager of Nottingham Forest, were two of the most famous soccer people of all time. I wanted into their heads, why where they the best? What got them to that level?
I was young, I wanted to be prepared to be able to handle the day to day happenings in a professional club, and be able to deal with the players and egos that go with it. Both men were very different, but also very similar in some ways. Their love and passion for the great game shown through in every sentence; I was gripped by their desire and belief in themselves and their coaching staff and players. Talking to them was a lifelong experience for me.
The most important thing that both these great coaches said to me has stuck in my mind still to this day; “You are only as good as the players that walk over the 4 inch line.” In their eyes, it was all about the players. Has anything changed today? No! It is still the same. It is still about the players.
You only have to look at the top club teams across the world today who are trying to buy championships. Take the English Premier League (EPL). The English Premier League is a perfect example; Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United simply spend millions and millions of dollars on players.
In Spain, Real Madrid is also spending millions trying to overthrow Barcelona (basically a team where most players have come through their academy system) with a few additions along the way. The same can be said in Italy, and other top countries around the world. (Small clubs in the same leagues cannot compete financially and therefore get left behind).
Does it always mean you are going to buy success? Abousalty not, but it certainly can put your club much closer to the goal. Having the best and most talented eleven players on the field, in any game, will give you an excellent chance of success.
Where does the coach fit into the scheme of things?
Well, at the professional level, the more money your club spends, the more likelihood you have of being relieved of your job (or, other words, fired) if success is not achieved, and sometimes that maybe in a very short period of time.
At the highest level, player management and motivation are probably the strongest virtues of a professional coach, considering you are dealing every day with so many different personalities, it is obviously a very stressful job. This is why I believe we have to admire long term coaches who have been able to overcome all of the above and continue to be successful.
How does this relate to our world of competitive youth soccer, is it any different?
Probably not, if you have the best players in your bracket, and you are a good recruiter, and your club is well recognized, you are probably going to be right up there.
This is the time of year where it is “beg, steal, or borrow.” You will see youth coaches out at games talking to parents about their child. You will see young players training with new teams in an attempt to get the eye of the coach and coaches will get more cell numbers from parents to fill up their iPhones. A coach's email box starts to grow. Only difference really is that youth coaches can’t spend millions of dollars, but they do have a card up their sleeve called “scholarship”. Some clubs have this "card" more than others.
Many of the top youth clubs in Southern California will go to any lengths to load their teams with the best talent. You might hear this sentence: “I know of one family that lives in Chula Vista and travels to Orange County to train and play.” It is not unusual for kids from Temecula to travel to La Jolla, or across the Ortega highway to Orange County or Los Angeles, and there are many others where a two hour drive to practice is normal.
As the tryout season arrives, you will see an enormous amount of movement in youth sports, not just in the game of soccer.
So does having the best players at youth level make you a better coach?
That is a pretty loaded question, and has many answers. I have seen very good coaches work with less talented players and have minor success, and I have seen what I think as very average coaches get a lot of success with very good players. It certainly helps you and your club and team the more talented the players. Getting back to our theme, "You are only as good as the players on the field.”
I had an interesting scenario way back in the 90s when I was DOC (Director of Coaching) in Escondido; a coach moved to our area from a highly successful club at that time, he had been very successful winning State championships and big tournaments. After his first year with us, he told me he really had to work harder that year than any other. Having had so much success with his previous club with very talented kids, this had been a challenge, with very little success, and he was an excellent coach. Go figure!
Coaching can be very rewarding, especially if the success you achieve comes with less talented players, seeing young players grow and mature under your leadership is exciting.
Can coaches change a game?
Big time. I think one of the biggest factors that separates youth soccer coaches from professional coaches is “making tactical adjustments in a game”, especially in the 11v11 game. Even with the best players, changes have to be made to be successful, sometimes just a positional change is enough, but it has to be seen and executed. I don’t see it enough, coaches work hard in training to get the players physically and mentally prepared for the big game on Saturdays, but then they don’t see the big picture, that’s the part that hurts.
In my lifetime, as I have coached at all levels of this great game, I have seen many changes, some good and some bad, but it really comes down to getting your players prepared to play, being organized, being unafraid to go with change.
Brian Clough Former Manager of Nottingham Forest
Players will come and players will go, and if you don’t have the most talented players, then it just makes you work that little bit harder.
Explanation: The "Manager" in English Soccer is essential the man in charge, including coaching.
One of many Brian Clough’s quotes:“I wouldn’t say I was the best coach/manager in soccer, but I would be in the top one.”
One of many Don Revie’s quotes: “You get NOWT for being second.”
Unfortunately these great soccer personalities passed quite a few years ago, but they will never be forgotten.
John Napier Girls 95 ODP Head Coach