Through trial and error, media pressure – and seemingly the end of the road – coaches are finally understanding that footy is actually not about footy.
Dimma Hardwick was under massive pressure prior to his resurgence and ensuing premiership. Now I must state from the outset that I have no inside information on how or why coaches have transitioned themselves from tactical coaches to cultural coaches however it has become very apparent (evidentiary) to me that there is a move in the right direction.
Neil Balme appears to have been the catalyst for a change in thinking for Dimma. My external view of Dimma is that he is a jovial people person with a good handle on tactics. In my opinion he didn’t completely understand the impact of culture management and had an imbalance between the “like” and “respect” aspects of the leadership role. This is a real coach-killer for inexperienced recently retired players. They desperately want to be liked and received well by the players – some of whom they’ve either played with or against.
It seems to me that Neil Balme was able to slightly adjust Dimma’s thinking and approach to coaching which enabled his real strengths and attributes to be displayed. The now legendary “Triple H” sessions conducted by the team was a real driving force to their premiership win. Telling your fellow players about your Hero, Hardship and Highlight is an intimidating and emotional process however the impact is dramatic. The level of trust, respect and understanding gained through those sessions enabled the side (a group of talented individuals) to come together as a team (a group of selfless, considerate, trusted, team focussed players).
Similarly we are seeing a shift in management style from Nathan Buckley with equally dramatic results. There is no doubt in my mind that Buck’s has previously lacked empathy and connection with his players and his rapport has been built around their talent, effort and discipline to follow instructions. His approach has somewhat “softened” in my view as he is now considering his players as people along with addressing the cultural aspects of his club. Empathy is vital from your coach and I think Buckley has realised his players want him to be more considerate of their personal and off-field circumstances and not just their ability to be in the correct spot at the right time or make the right choice and execute perfectly.
His recent internal deal (bet) with the players on not shaving whilst his team obeys a certain rule at stoppages has gained significant momentum from the media regarding his appearance however the real gem in all of this is his humility and engagement with players. They now feel very connected to him and that feeling appears mutual.
Strong, assertive leadership with empathy and compassion are vital ingredients for coaching success. For some they seem at odds with each other however the true talent is dealing with the confrontation of leadership and relationship.
Most coaches still think footy is a game of chess and can be won on the stats sheet or magnet board. Thats rubbish.
The coaches who really come to terms with cultural management, people management, strong leadership with care and understanding are able to apply their technical nous on the game to greater effect.
Those that think it’s unnecessary will come to a grinding halt over time until the penny drops.
Coaches who have been outstanding assistant coaches or development coaches should be left there to be great at what they are excellent at. Unfortunately we pick them up and thrown them into the Head coach cauldron expecting them to be a success and yet we are effectively dooming them to failure. Why? Because they don’t understand some of the key components of leadership – or if they do they do not know how to implement it.
We are seeing more and more evidence of technical coaches failing and its not their fault.
The criteria for selecting a coach to lead your club, drive sustainable success and cultural change is far more complex than a former player with a couple of years excelling tactically or developmentally.