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Are football coaches a different breed from other coaches!

By Colin Bennett, Coaching Network Manager, sports coach UK

I was very fortunate recently to go to watch England v The Barbarians at Twickenham for my first ever, in the flesh, rugby game. You have to understand that my whole sporting life has been dedicated to the pursuit of football (soccerball) in terms of playing, watching and now in my dotage coaching. So on the day it was good to compare and contrast the occasion with my normal live sport watching experience.

It started off normally for a round ball expat! Fireworks, PA announcer you couldn't understand and two teams of fit young men ready to lock horns. First play and then I noticed a difference - where was the coach? The gesticulating, moaning, hero/villain of the piece. The watch tapping, in your face, fist pumping COACH?

Last season was noticeable in the Premier League for the suited and booted Paolo Di Canio knee slide down the touchline at Sunderland and the Alan Pardew leap into the crowd at Newcastle, the retiring of Fergie Time and the normal revolving door policy of the Chairmen - "they're coming to take us away ha ha, he he"

So where was the head supremeo of England rugby? My daughter (she who loves rugby - a dagger through my heart) advised me he sat in the stand with the other coaches watching the game and analysing data. It would seem his work is done with the team on the training field, those last moments before ko and then the half time team talk to put some bits straight but there is minimal game time interference.

So that got me thinking - Where are all the coaches from other sports during "game time" and when was the best time to coach for the most effect?

Cricket is everywhere you look at the moment with the Ashes about to start and the shorter format Champions Trophy just finished but once the fielding team cross the rope they are making decisions for themselves and pity the poor batsmen out there in the middle - the fielding team aren't exactly going to pass them any notes from the coach. The coach is sitting on a balcony in a stand that is a good Freddie Flintoff six away. They don't orchestra the play but rely on the skipper and players to think for themselves.

Last year's Olympics brought athletics closer to us, the great unwashed, than ever before and where was Jess Ennis's coach, Toni Minichiello (who was named UK Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards 2012: Supported by Gillette….phew a quick tip of the hat to the sponsor) - he was sitting in the stand with everyone else. And this was the same for every coach from every nation. They are not track side screaming at their charges, they are not running through the long jump pit to jump on the back of the Gold medal winner or getting in the faces of the officials when their athlete has been red carded for a false start!

At the UK Coaching Summit we were treated to an insight into the world of rowing through a wonderful speech from Katherine Grainger, the Gold medal winner at the London Games but also winner of an inspiring 4 silvers and she was talking about her first silver where the last 500 meters was just 4 women screaming at each other and all thoughts of a game plan went out of the window as there was a chance of a medal. They found that extra bit of some unknown human endeavor from within. And the coach? Well that's the thing, Katherine was so gracious in the belief that her coaches on her journey were the reason that she had got to where she was but come game time it was the work the coach had put in prior that paid off.

So why has the coach in football evolved into this mad eye loon? If a manager doesn't prowl the touchline fighting people, throwing water bottles, celebrating every goal and joining in the action at some point then the radio phone ins are awash with "fans" claiming the manager has no passion and if he has no passion how do they expect the players to play well. But the flip side is that the coach and pundits will say once the players cross that white line there is nothing they can do - sounds like an oxymoron of best coaching practice!

So can football coaches learn something from other sports or is it too late? Does the football coach on game day have to be a pantomime figure as it comes with the territory?

The final word goes to an ex England International right back who was with Nottingham Forest with the irrepressible Brian Clough in charge. When asked on a FA UEFA A course what Cloughie was like he told us about the way he would have him screaming in his ear every time he went pass. And how did you process the advice and words of wisdom coming from the great man, we all asked as we leaned in for any nugget of coaching advice we could glean (second hand) from one of the game's greatest coaches. The answer "I ignored him and pretended I couldn't hear!”

So what are your views on when is the right time to coach, the best use of your coaching skills and are there sports like football where the coach is an integral part of the occasion? Add your thoughts below and maybe just maybe some of the mad eye loons may make that behaviour change!


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