Toni and Jess at EIS

A couple of days ago Toni shared some of his views on the problem with sports’ coaching in Great Britain. As promised there is more to share.

We pick up with the English Football teams’ recent loss to footballing minnows Iceland,

“…if the fear of failure gets bigger than the desire to succeed then you’ve lost”

“Why did England lose? I don’t know…. they probably had their eye on the next game, not the current game. It’s the same in any walk of life, if you focus too much on the outcome you forget everything you’ve learned about how to actually achieve that outcome”.

“It’s like Dave Alred* says, ‘if the fear of failure gets bigger than the desire to succeed then you’ve lost’ ”.

“It shouldn’t be hard. You need to trust that you’ve got the right plan and then you’ve got to get on with it. Never underestimate the plan and don’t go changing too much. You write plans in pencil to fine tune them, not to obliterate them”.

“Isn’t that where the coach comes in?

“A great coach brings the best out of people. He has a plan and develops trust with the athletes to deliver it. Coaching is fundamentally about relationships.”

“A great coach brings the best out of people. He has a plan and develops trust with the athletes to deliver it. Coaching is fundamentally about relationships. Of course you need to understand and be a student of your game and the technical components but that’s just something to learn”.

“You say that…”

“There does seem to be too much superstition and fashion in football. You have to ask how do they pick players? What do they base those decisions on? The data that shows who can actually deliver or other factors?”

Hurdles training session

One of the first times I saw Jess and Toni train together I was surprised to see Jess dragging, carrying and placing hurdles on the track. I was used to other sporting environments where a team of willing helpers usually does the dirty work. Perhaps even more unusual is the sight of Jess fine-tuning her hurdles skills only six weeks from the Olympics to the backdrop of several hundred screaming schoolchildren enjoying their sports day. I make the point to Toni,

‘It’s hard to imagine the England Football team regularly doing the same thing”.

“…Difficult circumstances are what come at you in competition, why should training offer anything else? Focus on your job, deliver the plan, control what you can control.”

“As far as I’m concerned that’s just about being real. Keeping your feet on the ground. We have a job to do, period. Difficult circumstances are what come at you in competition, why should training offer anything else? Focus on your job, deliver the plan, control what you can control.

You get best out of athletes and they take more responsibility”.

“Whether it’s clearing away hurdles or managing themselves in competition?”

“If you like”.

“I saw on Twitter that you nominated Sam Allardyce for the next coach. Why?”

Sam Allardyce

“Because he’s big, hard and seems able to drag players and teams back from self destruct mode to performing again. If anything him and his players appear stimulated under pressure, not suffocated by it. He seems to have the ability to drive a common sense approach and all of this without huge budgets”.

I take a high risk approach, “Is this a reflection of you?”

“…you have to blend craft and theory. Too much theory and you’ll lose the athletes. Lack of knowledge and what are you putting into practice?”

Fortunately Toni sees the funny side, “The number one thing any good coach needs is to understand yourself. Play to your strengths and don’t try and do what you can’t. Never be afraid to bring in experts but never be afraid of those experts either.

It’s like David Priestley from Arsenal says, you have to blend craft and theory. Too much theory and you’ll lose the athletes. Lack of knowledge and what are you putting into practice?”

“And the role of the coach is?”

“To adapt and apply what the experts tell you based on your understanding of the people you’re working with. The coach directs the experts for the benefit of the athlete”.

“What about the cherry on the invisible cake?”

“The point is to have a cake in the first place. That’s what the coach is for”.

“Chef Toni?”

“That’s my cue for a tea-break”.