By Matt Ward, Coach and Author of 'From Zero to Pro in 4 Years'
Over the past few days, I had a catch up in Taiwan with British Coaches Louis Lancaster and Jamie Brassington, who are the Head Coach and GK Coach of the Chinese Taipei National Team (Taiwan is named Chinese Taipei in a sporting sense for political reasons). It wasn't a surprise to learn of the huge amounts of organisation, preparation and work ethic included in their daily routines. But what does surprise me, is how much we celebrate big names at bigger teams who also (unsurprisingly) work hard.
Having worked with Louis in China where we was on it 100% from early morning, all the way through to early the next morning, when I was fortunate to get a glimpse of his squad's preparations for an upcoming camp, it made me smile. No stone was left unturned, no detail was left out and this, was as expected from a National Team Head Coach..... professional and world class.
Photo Source: CTFA Website
During a meal I settled into conversation with Jamie, who the BFCN featured in a previous article while he was still coaching in Iceland. I'd heard that Jamie is held in high regard by the English F.A and as soon as we got talking about football, it was obvious to see why. Not having any real knowledge of the game in Scandinavia myself, within a few minutes I was given an idea of a template I could successfully use, if I ever found myself over there (mainly in Iceland) needing to call upon local knowledge. Again, this should be expected from professionals.
There was at one stage with one of the clubs I had previously worked with, where I could tell you just about every detail or every stat of every player in the league - both our own and those of the opposition. In normal, every day life, I can hardly remember birthdays and anniversaries but, ask me how many headers the No.9 for our opponents in two weeks time had scored from corners, I would be able to answer you like an automative answering machine...... "Six. Two from outswingers taken with a left foot and the rest by inswingers also taken with a left foot". Again, as already mentioned before, this should be an expectation from a professional setup.
There was the funny episode with Leeds Utd and 'SpyGate', which resulted in Bielsa presenting all of their data held on Derby County, and he was lauded for the masses of work and detail put into the findings. Thankfully, there were many coaches and football professionals who already knew, that this was nothing out of the ordinary and this amount of detail was indeed, 'the norm'. Perhaps some of the press who was making such a big deal about it, need to learn their trade a bit more and visit a bigger pool of clubs and see how much detail goes into certain preparations?
The beauty of it all is that although it should be an expectation, the saddening fact is that it's not and there are coaches and staff who get away with it - still holding a job in the professional game. Not to worry, results are called results for that exact reason and even if some external factors play a part in a Manager/Coach's downfall, you can normally spot those who aren't putting the work in.
Chinese Taipei's Head Coach Louis Lancaster, has been busy meeting his talent pool.
The Bielsa example was also mentioned in an article by Training Ground Guru which featured Ex-Bristol Rovers Manager Darrell Clarke, who basically said that this in depth and detailed analysis was also being done by British Managers in the lower leagues (extremely true). This is not to say that what we saw from Bielsa and SpyGate isn't awesome, because it is, but perhaps it should be used as an example of level, needed to be a successful professional, regardless of nationality and current level.
Regardless of the level you are coaching or working at, we must always aspire to conduct ourselves as professionally as possible. This may mean being organised with your planning of a U9 session, backed up by a full post-evaluation and self-reflection afterwards or, attention to detail shown at a pro club which resembles that of Bielsa's presentation.
Being a coach or staff member isn't easy and nor should it be. Hard work, dedication and working smart should all be a given expectation and of course with this, it's entirely your choice how far you wish to take it...... and how far you wish to take your career.
Don't worship the 'expected' like mystical magic, use it as a reference, a guide and a benchmark.