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How Sport and Economic Policy can pave the way for Success

By Jon Woodward, Coach Education Advisor

On a recent stay over in a hotel, I found a copy of the Economist provided in my room. I will admit that this is not often a magazine of choice to read, but on scanning through it, an article caught my eye.

Titled “Tor! Tor! Tor!” (Goal! Goal! Goal!) (the Economist, p42, May 25th2013), it details how the success model of German football, encompassed by the finalists in this year’s Champions League (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund) is also mirrored by the German economic policy.

In the early 2000s, as Germany went through economic reform, the football association encouraged the Bundesliga 1 and 2 teams to set up talent academies (and I would guess building on the French model at Clairefontaine), to support the development of promising players and educate them, mirroring the education of the workforce in the German industrial sector. There was also an agreement to keep financial policies reasonable and in line with international standards across both sectors – no player salary caps, but stringent polices by all involved.

Germany opened up and there was an influx of immigrants to support the workforce. This is also mirrored by the Champions League finalists who between them can count “four Brazilians, three Poles, two Australians, a Peruvian-Italian, a Serb, a Croat, a Swiss, an Austrian and an Ukrainian” (the Economist, May 25th 2013). However, these numbers would account for around half of the squads of the two teams, supported by a number of German players/internationals

Many of these players, both German and overseas, have played in various leagues and international competitions, and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to develop the game and, more critically, the new talent being brought through.

I am often critical about the influx of overseas players in the Premier League and British football as a whole, coupled with the recent debate over the demise of success at Under 21 and Under 20 levels. There may be some lessons to be learnt from our European mainland counterparts and industry:

  • Bringing in selected overseas talent works up to a point, but ultimately young players need game time and experience to develop.
  • Not all overseas players bring good habits and levels of professionalism with them – for every Gianfranco Zola (who was highly regarded at Chelsea), there are several others who haven’t contributed as positively.
  • More money does not always bring the level of application that the talent deserves. As the quote says, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”
  • As coaches and policy makers, we need to look at other industries and learn lessons and take guidance on how to nurture talent and achieve potential within sport
  • Embrace technology and new methods – and use them effectively. – For example, the use of video analysis can be used at all levels, looking at performers and coaches alike – but do we take time to really understand the information and data produced?
  • Encourage players to participate elsewhere and do other things – how many of us use different sports/activities to develop footwork, reaction time and flexibility to enhance performance in our main sport?
  • Develop and widen experience – how many of the current England internationals have played football overseas? And how many players can you name currently playing abroad? Lineker, Wilkins, Waddle, Gascoigne, Beckham to name a few players all played overseas at some point in their career with relative success. From the last England squad named, how many have had this experience? None.
  • And how many British coaches have worked in different leagues? – Roy Hodgson and Steve McClaren are the ones that spring to mind as those currently working in professional leagues in England – you can go farther back and look at Sir Bobby Robson, John Toshack and Terry Venables who have had success abroad. There are numerous coaches working abroad but, with respect to their roles, not in high profile positions (Terry Fenwick to name but one)
  • As coaches, there is a need to take responsibility for our own learning and development. Development opportunities are everywhere, from formal courses, to observation through to conversations and articles. The key is that we seek them out, and then apply these theories (where relevant) to our own coaching

Football in the UK has followed knee jerk reactions from the French system, the Spanish model and now the German theories are being touted as the best – for any system to fully embed and bear fruit takes a generation. Brent Rushall, in his paper‘The Future of Swimming: “Myths and Science’ (2009) discussed “that it takes at least 25 years for a finding in human movement science to be accepted by coaches and incorporated into their practices.”

Don’t look elsewhere and moan – take what it is good and make it better, but make sure the impact is felt across society as a whole – whether the United Kingdom, through a sport success and even in your own village and community.

If you do today what you did yesterday, then you will be beaten

If you do what others are doing today then you might be competitive

To win – you must do what others will be doing tomorrow – today

Maybe something for Mr. Hodgson and Mr. Cameron to consider?

Follow me on Twitter: @JonWoodward74


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