This is a book about learning.
Learning can often be forgotten or fringe in the pursuit of other fruits. When these fruits are practice books, formal & standardised education and easy to digest, saccharine infused niceties there is a risk that we overlook one of the fundamental human needs; to develop, change, grow and learn to master crafts.
The mastery of crafts such as coaching takes time, earnest commitment and many challenging, chastening experiences that leave us feeling a little less than skilful. However we overcome these challenges, they are likely to be enablers that support our learning and growth towards becoming a better coach than we were yesterday.
This book is intended to support that exploration; generate and guide your thinking whilst ensuring the gestation of those seeds of thought. We will encourage and enable a deeper understanding of the people or players in our care and provide some illumination on how to guide our decisions in designing environments that are responsive to both you and your players.
There will be no coaching prescriptions, simply because the general nature of a constraints-led approach is at odds with prescription focussed approaches to coaching. A constraints-led approach encourages us to take account of, better understand and integrate what we understand about the player (person), the game of football (task) and the specific conditions on any given day (environment) into every interaction, coaching session, game-day, tournament and any other activity we might engage in within player development. There will, however, be some probing into alternative ways for coaches to eschew the traditional practice book or formal curriculum and scaffold player and coach development towards a unique, bespoke, responsive eco-system that keeps rhythm with the beating heart of our own football club.
Taken together, this can support the experiences we are exposed to and build to be unique, individual and reflective of what collectively we have agreed and understand to be important in our world. The characteristics of our context should be coupled to our commitments.
The backdrop to the way of thinking expressed in this book has been supported by a generation spent within coaching and development; fortune has favoured the opportunity for me to support in a sustained fashion the development of players who have been top scorers at The World Cup, multiple Premier League winners and coaches who coach and manage across some of Europe’s top leagues. However, these perceived successes must be allied to the players within those same development programmes whose opportunity has been curtailed by serious injury and coaches who have fallen foul of some of the vagaries that the industry can perpetuate. As such, no development system is universally successful or unsuccessful and we should be careful, thoughtful and willing to as readily ‘research’ the graveyard as we do the top table.
That mirror may be unpleasant to stare into at times, yet it is an important reflection of our own fallibilities and an important reminder to ensure that whatever outcomes our coaching and development programmes facilitate; supporting them to be as humanly supportive yet challenging as is consciously achievable is a worthy and important goal.
The aspiration for this book is that it provides a map of some of the landscape that coaches may wish to explore in developing their own constraints-led approach to development both for the players in their care and for themselves as a coach. Illuminating this fertile land sufficiently to support discoveries that are purposeful, personal and personable.