When you are coaching football you are in essence executing (inter)actions with your players and staff in the context of the football game. These coaching actions can be executed in a lot of different ways which is what is called leading, the way you coach. We have earlier described in general, three different leadership styles that you as a coach use when leading; the commander who tells players what to do, the teacher who guides the players and the manager who takes a step back and let the players guide the process. Now, let’s zoom in on the remaining leadership style, the manager, and take a look at when it could be a good idea to use this leadership style in your coaching.
Imagine that you take over a team that has been very successful over quite some time with a group of players that all have a lot of experience. These older players are used to success from earlier clubs or have been in this team for quite some time. Would it be a good idea as a coach to lead this group of experienced players as a commander and tell them how to do things from now on? Or do you think spending time teaching these players who’ve had success for many years will be the most effective way to get them performing at their best? Maybe it would be wise to use the experience of these and the success that these players you’ve inherited has had? When you take over such an experienced and successful group isn’t your objective to maintain the current level of the players? Instead of coaching like a commander or a teacher you can increase your chance of maintaining the current level of your new players if you choose to coach them like a manager.
Something of a similar situation can arise if you have been coaching the same team for a number of years and taught your players how you want things to be done, or as it is also called; ’installed your culture’ in the team. If you have successfully taught your players to coach each other in accordance to your standards, the culture that you have created could lead to you choosing the leadership style of the manager as the best option. This process will probably take quite some time and it’s not a certainty that this culture is possible to achieve.
Now, what if you’re coaching a team that are filled with young talents instead of older, experienced players? Could that be a scenario where coaching like a manager is a good fit? Well, the characteristics of the leadership style for the manager is to ’take a step back’ and facilitate the processes instead of guiding them as the teacher or instructing them like a commander. When you are coaching younger players they are in need of guidance to develop since they have not yet accumulated the knowledge and experience needed. Therefore coaching young players like a manager is not a very good idea. When the manager is ’taking a step back’ it does not mean that you let the players run the show on their own. It means that your starting point when coaching changes from developing players (as a teacher) to maintaining the current level of your experienced players like a manager.
As we’ve described earlier, due to the characteristics of the game of football, your starting point as a coach is to lead like a teacher and guide your players to develop better decision making. Since football is a players sport and it’s up to the players to execute the decisions they make on the pitch in the game, you as a coach should help them improve these decisions. However, when you are working with a very experienced group of players with a high level of decision making, the best way of helping the players to execute good decisions could be to coach them like a manager.