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7 reasons why professional footballers should consider investing in an independent coach

Professional football or Soccer if you’re a player from the USA, is much more than kicking a ball into a goal and you’ll know as a player reading this, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

The reasons I’ll be mentioning are born from conversations I’ve had with former professional football players, articles I’ve read, experience and knowledge from the training and investment I’ve made in my self-development and some of the client experiences clients have shared with me, without mentioning any names.

Let’s consider 7 reasons why you should consider an independent coach

7. Uncertainty about your future

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Uncertainty in any situation can leave you feeling lost and this scenario is one that a client of mine found himself in and was doubting whether he should continue to play the beautiful game or not. His self-belief was at a low and didn’t know what to do or what to say.

We formed a strategy that allowed him to address what the uncertainty looked and felt like then created a plan to remove the uncertainty. Once it was dealt with, he moved forward with confidence and purpose. His self-belief was back again!

6. You’re in a slump

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You reached the professional level after dedication, commitment and hard work but something has changed and you find yourself in a slump and you’re being judged and criticised which isn’t fair because you have no idea why you’re in a slump. Here’s the thing; you haven’t suddenly lost your technical or physical ability, so what’s the problem?

When you communicate with others, you interpret body language and words in a way that makes sense to you at that moment in time and somewhere just before the slump, you’ve misinterpreted some words, tone of voice or body language that led you to think differently. When you think differently you behave differently so when you’re in a slump it’s because your thinking has changed, meaning your performance drops but this all happens subconsciously.

Some people will go out of their way to try to get in your head while others, may have good intentions but really don’t help at all. It’s important you understand, to get out of your slump you have the ability to change your thinking, to improve your performance.

Let’s say you’re a striker and haven’t hit the target for a while. The media will be on your back, your manager will be getting anxious, you’ll be getting anxious, tactics will change and you’ll practice shooting more than ever in training. All this can help but you must work with your thoughts before any of the above can have the impact needed to break out of the slump.

One professional sports person was in a slump. He didn’t know why but together we uncovered the source. He had misinterpreted a comment from his coach. In his head, he assumed the coach said something that contradicted his ability, which confused him, but because he respected his coach, he believed the instruction to be true and so changed his thinking. But because his new thinking was in conflict with his ability his emotions were all over the place so his performance took a dip.

This demonstrates how easily and quickly you can take a comment and interpret it in a way that’s detrimental to your performance. Let’s not let that happen to you.

5. Your livelihood depends on your performance

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Your ability to play football at a high level has attracted rewards such as a great salary and perhaps sponsorship deals. You have money! With money you can buy houses, cars, go on holidays, invest or do whatever you like with the money YOU’VE EARNED by kicking a ball about.

Imagine for a moment the ability to play football was taken away from you. Imagine you were no longer needed. What would you do? How would you make a living? Are you even thinking of what you’re going to do after football because the truth is, your time as a paid football player will come to an end and you must be prepared for when that day comes or you’ll end up scrimping and begging others for money just to pay the bills.

If your performance doesn’t improve, what’s the worse that can happen?

If you want to read how to motivate yourself take a read of this blog on how Michael Jordan motivates himself

4. Others will replace you in the blink of an eye

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Now you’ve had a thought about your livelihood, it’s also important you know, you can be replaced in the blink of an eye. You rarely know what deals are being talked about, how your manager perceives you as a piece in the jigsaw or which players they are looking at to replace you.

The relationship between player and manager is a strange one, considering the player and manager want to win yet communication is limited at best, with the odd exception (Klopp) but you can take control of that relationship by asking specific questions.

As a professional player, you have the ability to adapt and improve quickly, when you have a desire or need to improve, but how do you know what you need to adapt or improve? You can ask your manager a simple yet powerful question that will get you the answers

“What can I do differently to help the team?”

This is a powerful question for the following reasons

  • It let’s your manager know you care about the team and therefore him
  • It lets your manager know you have a commitment to helping the team improve and you’re not just looking out for yourself which can be perceived as selfish
  • Through asking this question, you’ll quickly build a new level of respect and trust with your manager, meaning he will look at you more favourably
  • You have a new purpose to strive towards meaning you’ll be energised and motivated in new ways
  • Your value will increase with an improved performance

3. You get the truth

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Sometimes the truth hurts, but would you rather have a moment of hurt or continue to live a lie?

Some people around you will speak highly of you, telling you how great you are in an attempt to not hurt your feelings, yet when you aren’t performing and you hear these positive comments, a false sense of security is created, meaning you’re prone and susceptible to being let down badly.

Only you know the truth but when the truth is masked by false comments, you can become lackadaisical and without a dose of truth, your performance will be in question and when performance is in question, so is your value and use for the team.

Independent coaching has no other agenda than to help you know it’s OK to accept your reality and remove the masks and false beliefs.

Some say it’s smart to hide the truth from you. I say it takes courage to accept your truth.

2. You can speak freely without being judged

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Many clubs have sports psychologists, player liaison officers and other support staff which is good on some levels, but there’s one big problem this environment creates.

One former premier league player I spoke to told me a horrific story of one player opening up to the psychologist in confidence. It was only when the manager mentioned the confidential topic in a meeting, did the player realise his trust had been broken. The other players lost their confidence in their manager and the team went into free fall. Can you imagine the pain, the frustrations and uncertainty within that club and within the players?

When you open up and share their deepest thoughts, there has to be confidentiality between you and the coach. An independent coach doesn’t have to report back to the manager or anyone else. A great independent coach, knows that trust and integrity are two of the most powerful acts a person can show another. This instils growth and improved performance.

1. When the person thrives, the player thrives

You are first and foremost a human and as a human your performance is driven by your thoughts.

Let me share a formula that you’ve probably never seen or heard yet is one you need to understand.

A thought leads to an emotion that ultimately affects your behaviour or performance. Remember earlier when you learned a slump is the effect of misinterpreting communication. You created a new thought, that led to an emotion, possibly confusion at the time, that led to a new behaviour, the slump.

For you to thrive, understanding this formula gives you a deep understanding of why you do what you do, why you say what you say and how you navigate the world of professional football and when professional football is great, you’ll be aligned in all aspects of your life.

But when there’s struggles, uncertainties and anxiety, you must learn to change things quickly before the worse happens.

A great independent coach will listen to you, understand you, create new thoughts with you and help you through challenging times while you reap the rewards on and off the field.

Bonus

If you’re thriving, then I congratulate you! You’ve got it figured out and I’m sure you feel balanced and able to navigate the world you live in with extreme confidence.

But if there’s at least one part of your life that you’re not happy with and want to improve, then talking with an independent coach could be the right move for you.

You can contact me in confidence by clicking here


Mike Nichols is an independent Master Coach specialising in discreet one-to-one coaching and is the owner of Elite Sports Minds 23, a high level, confidential coaching service for professional athletes

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Winning V Wellbeing???

The Two Modes Of Thinking

There are two camps when it comes to creating a culture of a professional sports team

Winning at all costs V Wellbeing Of Athletes

Some believe winning at all costs is the way to go and some believe the wellbeing of athletes should come first so let’s explore what happens in each of the cultures.

Winning At All Costs

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The only thing that matters is winning!

The only athletes you want are the ones that have that desire and hunger to run through walls to win and those that don’t make the grade will fall away, quickly replaced by someone else who wants a piece of the action.

Any mistakes will be punished. The coach has one way to coach and that’s to push the athletes to their limits.

The coach and athletes will knock the opponents down, seek to gain unfair advantages and do what it takes to ensure the win falls in their favour.

Losing is met with anger and extra training sessions and some form of punishment.

Losing brings an almost depressing state of mind as the reality of failure eats away at the minds of those involved.

Wellbeing Of Athletes

From speaking to people in the sports industry, there is a sense that when you put the wellbeing of athletes first, their desire to win will be diluted and their ability to perform under pressure will crack. Some perceive this approach as wrapping the athlete up in cotton wool as if to protect them from a hash reality and to make sure they are comfortable at all times.

This couldn’t be further away from the truth!

Who uses a wellbeing approach?

There are two current coaches I’m aware of that value the wellbeing of their athletes at the elite level and they have won championships by putting the wellbeing to their athletes at the centre of their culture.

I’ll highlight some of the key phrases from articles that demonstrate their approach


Jurgen Klopp – Manager of Liverpool Football Club (Premier league winners 2020)

Credit to Liverpool FC

The first thing Klopp did on arriving at Melwood, Liverpool’s training facility, in 2015 was to memorise the names of each member of the backroom staff, everyone from the kitman to the chefs to the janitor. 

It was clear from the start that the Klopp leadership mantra was based on cultivating relationships, bonds nurtured through humour, compassion, and the eagerness to help.

Be it victory or defeat, promise or pain, there was the leader embracing his troops, absorbing their experiences into his own.

Klopp is a rare leader who leads from the front without basking in the spotlight.

“have strong people around you with a better knowledge in different departments than yourself” is something Klopp has regularly acknowledged, stressing that a manager cannot “act like you know everything.”

Read more about this article here


Steve Kerr – Head Coach Of The Golden State Warriors (NBA champions 2015/17/18)

Credit To CNN.com

“My success stems from my players and the team as a whole. None of this is about me.”

Kerr is famous for always working to hone his leadership and coaching style.

“No matter what field you’re in, you’re managing human beings.” That’s why communication and compassion are so important to him, and how he builds trust and rapport.

Yelling and “tough love” is no longer viable in professional sports.

 “When I hear a coach saying I treat everyone the same, I don’t trust that coach. I’ve learned you have to treat each individual according to what that person needs.”

Read more from the article here


More People Understand The Value Of Putting Wellbeing At The Centre Of Player Development

There is a shift in attitudes towards the power and value of creating a wellbeing culture for professional sports team and blogs like this, and other programmes, articles and individuals are pushing wellbeing more towards the spotlight that shines over professional sports and moving away from the ‘Winning At All Costs’ cultures.

Creating this type of culture within your team has shown it can lead to winning just as Klopp and Kerr have proven.


Let me ask you a question

Would you rather be involved with a team where the manager/coach believes they know it all, they tell the players how good they are, how bad they are, no questions asked, highlight their mistakes to prove to them he’s the boss and when you win it was down to them? Players play through Fear!

OR

Be involved with a team that supports each other, where the manager wants the players to be the best they can be and understand their individual needs and questions and ideas can be aired for the purpose of finding a small margin of improvement? Players play with freedom!

When the person is feeling valued, trusted and respected, the athlete thrives

Listen, I understand creating this type of culture isn’t easy for some people, but if your team has had a losing season let me ask you this…

Knowing a wellbeing culture works and brings wins, wouldn’t you be curious as to how you can learn more and implement this culture?