If you’re coaching a team of players, there’s nothing quite like referring to the professionals as a way to inspire them. Pointing to the likes of Ronaldo and Messi is inspirational, not only because of their superb play but because of their unparalleled work ethics and fascinating stories. While the best of the best appears to have been born with natural talent, what we don’t see is how hard the majority of them have had to work to get to where they are today. Some players, such as Harry Kane, didn’t seem destined for glory at all in their teens, but put in the practice and demonstrated the perseverance necessary to excel at the sport's highest levels. Simply put, it’s always good for players of all levels and age groups to watch the professional game. And the good news is, many of them probably already do! Even so however, it's a wise move as a coach to do what you can to reinforce that interest and get your players to take a true interest in the pros. Here are a few things you can use to do it. Reading materials First and foremost, give your players a bit of "homework" in the form of inspiring reading materials on players past and present. For an offseason project, this can mean any number of different football books or biographies. Over the course of a season, it might mean anything appropriate that catches your eye –– such as a BBC Sport profile on the Brazil and Barcelona star Rivaldo, to give an example of something that ran recently. You may also consider more strategic material –– having players read up, for example, on the German gegenpressing tactic that was brought into the Premier League by Jürgen Klopp and other continental coaches. Documentaries Here’s something you can do as a group. Sit down together to watch the occasional documentary about a great player or team (or even coach). There are plenty of fascinating insights behind the (usually) closed doors of football clubs, such as you can find in the Brazil: All or Nothing documentary on Amazon Prime. That film provides a great opportunity to learn about a team seeking redemption after a humiliating 2014 World Cup. The Sunderland Till I Die documentary is another excellent choice –– a fascinating (and at times, inadvertently comical) look at the plight teams can suffer when things don’t go right. Finally, you can't go wrong with the Diego Mardona documentary (called, simply, Diego Maradona) released on HBO Max in 2019. Fan tokens This is an innovative way for your players to get involved in the professional game of today. The emergent fan token system in European football is driven primarily by Socios, which facilitates both the sale and management of team-specific cryptocurrencies. With these cryptos, you and your players will be able to take part in official team polls and in some cases be awarded special access to various promotions. You can think of it basically like a token-based membership program. It's a simple system, and if you dole out some fan tokens (say, for the nearest participating pro club, or for a club you'd like your players to pay attention to) you can rest assured your players will take an interest. Watch games together This may be obvious, but it is a surprisingly overlooked option! Watching games as a team together is a great way to improve the bonds between the players, while also analysing the play and understanding the newest tactics and strategies on the field. Point out how some of the pros do things that your players can learn from, and draw attention to pros who play particularly hard as positive examples. Set up a gaming league While not all of your players will have the same games and consoles, you might just be able to set up a sort of league you can all play in together –– perhaps through one of a number of mobile games that are easier for everyone to access. This allows you to connect with the pros through simulations (which are more and more lifelike), and widens your players’ knowledge of each team in the professional leagues. And while gaming is a very different skill from the real thing, there is no doubt a lot to be learned from video games that can help in real-life situations. More than anything though, it’s a great way to get your players bonding and meeting up together. Thanks for visiting British Football Coaches, and be sure to come back soon for more content relating to the beautiful game!
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