Monday, 20 May 2013

Manage the Man

In life, we constantly strive for success. We always want to improve, move forward and to find new ways to become better, fitter stronger and healthier. This is particularly evident in today’s sports world. New ways of improving the individual and the team come along so fast it is sometimes hard to catch up. From recovery supplements to performance enhancing clothing, each sports team strives to be better than their competitor and will look down any avenue to gain the upper hand.  This can be traced back to the days of the cold war and the supposed alternative training methods used behind the iron curtain. These methods intrigued the world, particularly the United States, and after the iron curtain fell, many Americans ventured over to Russia to see how they could keep up.

In today’s world nothing has really changed from then. From a football perspective, soccer boots are now made that supposedly make you go faster, turn quicker and track how many miles you ran on a pitch. The under garments worn in games now are supposed to increase blood flow while keeping the body cool or warm, depending on the weather. Then some players use certain fluids to replace their electrolytes and supplements to aid recovery after a game. Fitness drills have changed. Gone are the days of long distance pre-season who can get sick first training. Now, we have heart rate monitors monitoring our work rate, our workout it’s specified to the position we play in and our diet is as detailed as nothing you have seen. From TRX to cross fit to plyometrics, it’s hard to keep up isn’t it?

But one thing that seems to be forgotten about or overlooked is the art of man management. This, in my opinion, is vital in looking after a team or any individual in sports. If you can man-manage well, the greater the likelihood of the team and individual given you all they can and pushing themselves to the maximum. Recently Frank Lampard of Chelsea said this about man management “First and foremost it is about man management and how you get on with players. If you are a top-level manager you have top players, but getting the best out of them is the trick and it’s 70 per cent of the job”.

As a football coach myself, I can see the importance of managing an individual and the team as a whole. It’s extremely important in my role as I manage the two teams in the club, so I deal with 35+ players, all who have full time jobs and want to enjoy football but win at the same time. I am coach / manager of an amateur team, Dunbar Rovers, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I am very blessed to manage some amazing footballers in my two teams and their technical ability and knowledge of the game is amazing. But like every player, whether they are pro or a pub team, managing them and keeping them happy is vital in the group’s pursuit of success. If a player is not happy with his or her surroundings, then their attitude and application will drop, which will affect both their own game and the group goals and ambitions

In my teams, I deal with some players who have families and very demanding full time jobs, so the time they can fully dedicate to the team is limited. So, when dealing with grown men, majority all older than me, I try to balance the goals of the group together with the time the individual can give me. As a group, there is always one common goal. That is to be successful. In our teams and club, we also try to incorporate certain styles of play and to ensure we enjoy it.  Before I took over this season, I spoke to several of the older players in the squad who had been with the club for a few seasons  and asked them what they liked the previous year, what they didn’t like and what they would like to see in the coming season. Then I told them my ideas and vision and we successfully came up with a plan that we felt would help the group, as well as helping the individuals. One thing was training. Before we began training at 8pm and didn’t finish until 9.30pm and by the time the players got home and had food, their kids were gone to bed and it was past 10pm. This season we shortened out training time and started earlier and ensured that in the time we had, we worked as hard as possible.


In pro sports there are many well-known coaches who excel in man management. In Basketball, Phil Jackson, winner of 11 NBA titles, managed two of the best players in the history of the NBA in Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. In his time at the Lakers he managed the hostile relationship with Shaq and Kobe and managed to win 5 championships by keeping the group goals as the focus while making sure the two huge egos were massaged and dealt with properly . In football, Harry Redknapp is a manager that comes to mind when you think of managing players and galvanising squads. Many times he has been criticised for taking over the hill players or players who are seen as disruptive but Harry uses his unique skill to bring harmony and to ensure that all players play to their maximum while achieving the team goals


Man management is not something you can learn in college. Some people either have it or they don’t. They can build a rapport with their team and demand respect and honesty from their players. In return the coach provides a happy and open environment which suits both him and the players and enables everyone to work towards the common goal. Winning. 

A lot of managers and coaches find that consulting their players or asking for opinions is a sign of weakness and devalues their authority over the group. They are afraid that it will show they are incapable of making decisions and need confirmation from their players before deciding. This is not the case. If done in the right manner, consulting certain players on decisions makes them feel important. It can help you get the senior players on track to your way of thinking while also letting the players voice their opinions. At the end of the day, no one is always right and by speaking to your players, it shows them you care about their feelings, are humble enough to admit mistakes or look for counsel and want to know what makes them happy. This builds a relationship of trust and respect that can help you through tough times in seasons ahead.

 One of the greatest man managers of all time, Vince Lombardi summed it up perfectly It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. Men respond to leadership in a most remarkable way and once you have won his heart, he will follow you anywhere”.

You may know all the drills, all the tactics, formations and techniques but unless you have all of your team on board and singing from the same hymn sheet , as they say, then all coaching badges, formations and tactics are useless to a group who don’t want to learn and don’t see you as a leader. They will not follow you.