Media – Ask Coaches the Hard Questions

The problem with the current state of the game rests utterly and entirely with the media.

There are no other scapegoats so don’t bother searching for any.

Stoppages are killing the game – they have effectively doubled over the last decade. Coaches coach for stoppages.

Think of Linus and his security blanket – stoppages are the coaches personal blanket.

Unfortunately media, journalists and interviewers do not have the inherent skills, understanding, knowledge or ability to ask the right questions to coaches and are severely intimidated anyway.

Until a coach is questioned on his strategy – which is illogical and make little sense, but we will get back to that – they will continue to coach the game into the ground.

Why are more players being hurt when they are tackled into the ground? Simply because they are forbidden to release the ball and therefore have their arms pinned (they actually deliberately encourage tackler to pin their arms) so as to send a signal to the umpire that “the ball is pinned to me, so ball it up”. If they do not have their arms free they cannot brace for the fall and their head becomes the first point of contact. The art of lifting arms in the tackle and releasing it by hands is not allowed these days, is frowned upon and highlighted at game review sessions. We loved the player that seduced and incited the tackle only to raise his arms and release the ball to a moving player who was able to exit the congestion. Not any more. Players must keep it locked in, create a ball up or better still a boundary throw in. If my arms are free I will have to get rid of it so tackler, please lock my arms!!!

Why do coaches want 80 to 100 stoppages a game?

They have a sick and perverse view that they can control the game from the stoppage.

Sure it gives players a breather. It also allows them to restructure behind the ball (defensively) and more frustratingly fill the stoppage area with more players to congest and pressure the player with the ball into error either at the source or down the ground.

There are 2 things that coaches like to focus on; TIME & SPACE.

Reduce the time a player has to make a decision or execute skill AND minimise the space he has to do it and the zone he is delivering it to. Stoppages allow the construction of these facets.

So in the next after match press conference or when you have the coach in for a chat do this;

“So coach….. why do you encourage stoppages?

Then shut up and listen.

He will probably say;

“It’s not me” or “There are several factors that affect it” or some other divergent garbage.

Then ask;

Do you think stoppages allow for greater control tactically?

Then shut up and listen.

He will probably say;

“There is no doubt teams like to control that part of the game and it allows teams to get their structure in place”

Then say’

“So its a specific part of the strategy and tactics of the team to create a stoppage and go in search of a stoppage – its not what it was originated for, an outcome when a piece of play was deadlocked????” Then shut up.

One answer is yes and the other is no.

If he answers honestly and says “yes”, ask;

WHY? Why would you create and encourage such a debilitating spectacle? Why do you think it assists your strategy when there is zero evidence it assists scoring and winning as proven by data? For example scoring has dramatically reduced with the increase in stoppages?

If he answers “no”, ask;

So you don’t want to create stoppages? So how do you explain stoppage numbers going from an average of 35 a game less than a decade ago to over 80 a game now? Don’t your players listen to your instructions or follow your orders?

Then shut up.

You see where this is going. We need to ask WHY several times to get to the root cause of why a particular phenomena occurs, and it traps the coach into disclosing his REAL driving focus and agenda.

I have said this many times over the last 10 years, coaching tactics are driving the game into the ground. Defensive mindsets and associated strategies such as creating stoppages are “un-Australian” and the curse of our game

Coaches are thinking more about their own coaching mortality than instilling a “dare-to-win” attitude. Stop the bleeding, minimise the loss, keep it close and we may snatch it, shut down, lock down, block space, set up zones, numbers at the contest, create a stoppage………….the list is growing.

Its up to the media to expose it.

4 thoughts on “Media – Ask Coaches the Hard Questions

  1. Paul Roos and Ross Lyon brought this scourge into the game. Everyone saw it at Sydney in the early 2000’s and it spiraled out of control from there. It’s s basic basketball playbook. Zone off, clog the play around the ball and work to be in the game for the last 5 minutes. Thus resulting in a 60 points to 50 game.

  2. GT interesting pojnt of view and I agree with most of it. Media doesn’t have the football understanding or the journalistic skills to ask the right question. Questions are meaningless and are designed to safely get a response without demonstrating the journo’s lack of knowledge.

    I was lucky enough to be in the coaches box last Sunday and the coach I saw wasn’t encouraging stoppages. I’m not sure how many there were for the game but the message was run, carry, kick long, create uncertainty for the opposition.

    That doesn’t mean they don’t train it during the week. I’m sure they do. And I’m not sure that changing rules is the answer.

    I think your point is valid. Challenge the status quo through strong insightful questioning. But that would mean journalists need to face their own mortality too.


  3. Thomo,

    As much as I detest rule changes (because the rules of Australian Rules Football have been fine for decades. [It’s just that the AFL [and KB in particular] stuff around with the rules due to the type of litigation-free TV-footy they want played, in order to please the tv people behind the billion dollar broadcasting rights deal, and corporate sponsors?), I would bring in a new rule to counteract the stoppages.

    I would introduce a rule which states that the forward six (FF 2x FPs, CHF, 2xHFFs) and the back six (FB, 2xBPs, CHB, 2x HBFs) from both teams have to stay in the forward or back half of the ground unless they physically carry the ball across the middle of the ground. (Okay it’s a bit clumsy in its wording at the moment, but you get my drift). And once they’ve carried the ball over the middle of the ground and disposed of it, they have to return to their half of the ground.

    It would force teams to play Australian Rules Football as we know it, once the ball is in the forward or backline. (I’m not sure how to stop centre bounce stoppages under this rule, but it would certainly stop them in the forward and backlines).

    If they don’t implement something akin to this, one day we’ll wake up and hear the commentators say, “This or that team has a magnificent array of players if you consider all of their 18 midfielders.”

  4. I personally blame two things…. 1. The Holding-the-ball rule…..Too often, the player trying to make the play is penalized and the person second to the ball is rewarded……people come to the game to see free flowing football and goals…..Rewarding the tackler and emphasis on Pressuring the ball carrier means disposal efficiency has dropped sharply……Players just grab the ball and boot it away blindly or handball to team mate 1 metre away(also under pressure) 2. Assistant Coaches. 30 years ago, we had 4-5 Coaches (SNR, RES, ASS, ChairOfSelect) who were all part time (as were Players). Now in the Full Time Era, each club has at least 8 Coaches all working Full-Time, doing 60-70 hour weeks……how do they justify their jobs and the hours?? By nit picking over every second of the game, every kick, mark and stoppage.then thinking of more trendy “buzzwords” to try and make them sound smart and make the game10 times more complicated than it needs/should be and then try to control all of it…

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