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“Always bear in mind that it’s the players that you should have in your mind, you shouldn’t be coaching for your benefit, you should be coaching for theirs.”
It might seem simple, but it’s a philosophy that has guided England Manager Roy Hodgson more than any other in the more recent stages of his storied career.
Player power, empowering his charges to speak up to learn better, and creating an enjoyable environment are key tenets in the Hodgson coaching handbook.
Having guided England through a perfect qualification campaign, winning all ten of their games, Hodgson sat down for a comprehensive interview with Performance, the quarterly journal from the Leaders Performance Institute, a few weeks out from the showpiece tournament in France.
The Englishman, who has over 40 years of coaching experience behind him with the likes of Inter Milan, Liverpool, Halmstads, and Switzerland, charted how his leadership style has evolved, outlined his core managerial philosophies, and plotted out his blueprint for success this summer.
What sort of advice would you impart to young coaches?
You’ve always got to be thinking about [the players], putting yourself in their place, and taking their wellbeing into account. I think I would get people to concentrate on their coaching manner, the way they approach people, the way they speak to people, the way they encourage and enthuse and inspire. I would definitely prize words like ‘energy’ and ‘enthusiasm’. I think ‘inspiration’ is a better word than ‘motivation’ because you could find yourself as a coach at various levels with a group of players who aren’t motivated and will never be motivated because they’ve got no interest. So you’ve got more chance of inspiring them and that will depend upon you, what you’ve got within you, how your passion for the game, your love for the game, your desire to be better and make them better shines through. And that, I’d point out, would override any technical factors, any tactical insights you might have can easily be overridden by someone with less of those factors but more of the other ones. So I’d make it clear that they’re a factor and I’d make it very clear to them that if you really want to reach the top then you need both because you’re not going to reach the top by being a passionate, inspirational, energetic person per se, it would have to be matched to knowledge. But if you’ve got to choose and say ‘my knowledge will never be very good’ then don’t forget that you could probably go a fair way just on those. I don’t think you’ll ever really get to the top if you haven’t got the manner, the way you approach people and the way you lead people, however knowledgeable you are. People will respect knowledge but only for so long. Everybody needs that feeling that they’re loved, supported and wanted. And it’s hard I think to get away with it on the basis that ‘they’ll respect me because I know what I’m doing’.
“Everybody needs that feeling that they’re loved, supported and wanted”
Do you treat all the players the same?
What I think you can do is avoid clear favouritism. You see coaches who are in cahoots with certain players. Whatever happens, the rest of the team have to get the feeling if a player is getting any kind of preferential treatment, it is because he has earned it over the years and has the right to a certain degree of preferential treatment. But even then the good players won’t put you in a position where they want anything preferential when it comes to their teammates, but they might expect to be treated with a bit more tolerance in a certain area, they might expect you to show them a little bit more respect in your dealings but for me that is just the rites of passage through your career that give you a certain entitlement. People starting off may not necessarily deserve that, but that’s just sport, and that’s life in general. Certain cultures take it to extremes. Captains of Asian teams are picked on seniority. I think treating everyone equally is wrong, because that is not showing enough respect to the people who deserve a bit more, but definitely avoiding favouritism and players realizing that people aren’t going to get favoured.
The comprehensive interview covers the following topics:
• Creating an enjoyable learning environment
• Moving from a coach-led philosophy to a player-led approach
• The mentors that shaped his coaching style
• Advice for young coaches
• Younger players bringing fearless mentality
• Avoiding the ‘this is how it was done in my day’ trap
• Avoid favouritism, but treating everyone equally is wrong
• Exuding calm and downplaying gravitas
For access to the full 5,800-word interview, and to the most comprehensive bank of cutting-edge performance content in the world, including best practice case studies, original research, and an archive of hundreds of panel discussions, presentations and talks, become a member of the Leaders Performance Institute today.