Kate Vogelsang is a coach at one of the oldest football clubs in the world – Wanderers FC. But that doesn’t mean her coaching philosophies are outdated. In this article she tackles the challenge coaches have revolving around the need to feel liked by players. This, in my mind is an important issue, and one that mediates a coaches ability to train players effectively.
Many years ago, my first boss described me as someone who, as a manager at work, wanted to be a player-manager. Yes, I want to be in charge, but I also really (really) want to be part of the team.
I’m no different as a football coach.
Coaching as a human is one of those things that can be really hard to do. We as humans want to be liked. It’s in our nature. But as coaches we have to make difficult decisions. And we won’t always be liked. I’ve been coaching in a number of guises over the past 20 years, mostly just helping out, like coaching kids, ex teammates and also young people with learning disabilities. Last year I started up my own women’s football team, part of Wanderers FC, an already established club. I was going to be in charge. So the difficult decisions were going to sit with me.
I had to think about how I was going to put a team together, and in the back of mind, I wanted to be liked while I was doing it!
Not everyone of you will agree with me … but deep down, even though you may want to win at all costs, I bet you still want to be able to have a beer and a laugh with your team after a match (should you be coaching players old enough to drink!) And it works both ways, if your team like you, I bet they are more willing to work for you; do the bleep test without complaint, turn up when it’s chucking it down, wash the kit etc.
So even if you say you don’t want to be liked, you still want to be successful right? You still want your team to listen to you and follow what you say?
To my mind, if you want that, you need to be really clear and consistent in what you’re telling them, and I don’t just mean when your strikers should pressure centre-backs in a match situation, or how to control a volley.
The first thing is to sort out your brand. Sounds a bit much, but what are the values of your team? What do you stand for?
I’d joined a club with a very strong brand. A proud and successful history (Wanderers won the first FA Cup in 1872), a commitment to fundraising for charity (the club have partnered with Football beyond Borders), a team that wanted to celebrate diversity. So I needed to find players who wanted to be part of that. But I also wanted to set out how my team would operate.
Very early on I let all the players know what it meant to play for Wanderers, and what my expectations were. Everyone had to enjoy themselves. Everyone had to put in 100% effort at all times, both for themselves and others. And everyone had to encourage their teammates. Any negativity and they would be off the pitch for a bit and possibly off the team.
Behaviours and Attitudes
As soon as you outline what your team stands for, make sure they’re not just words. Stand by what you’re saying. Don’t be half-hearted about it, and don’t shy away from doing things that may be difficult.
As soon as you make it clear what you are trying to achieve, and why, and live by those values, then you’re half way there with your team for when you want to start the coaching proper.
Oh and yes, my team do like me. Honest.
Kate Vogelsang is a coach at The Wanderers FC (one of the world’s oldest football clubs!)