The business of football
The business of football

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The business of football

5.1 Players and managers making sense of teams

The following BBC radio extract and video consider two leading managers' and players’ perspectives of team success, or lack of it. Using their thoughts as a stimulus we hope that from your own and others’ contributions in the forum an incremental blend of ideas of what shapes effective teams should emerge.

Activity 6 Making sense of effective teams

Allow about 30 minutes

First listen to extracts from a BBC interview, from the series, The Managers (2014), with Pia Sundhage (gold medal winning women’s national coach). Then listen to Jurgen Klinsmann (national coach for Germany and the USA at successive World Cups) from the same The Managers (2014) series. Finally, watch the video with players from Chesterfield and MK Dons who talk about what they call ‘team spirit’. Combine these views with your own experience to develop a list of factors that help explain what shapes effective teams. Listen out for the differences between a manager's and players' views

Figure 9 Pia Sundhage
Download this audio clip.Audio player: 31825_pia-sundhage-edited-3.mp3
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Transcript

Jane Garvey
This is Jane Garvey, and this is the BBC World Service.  We’re in conversation with Pia Sundhage, who is the coach of the Swedish women’s football team.  Pia, you’ve had a hugely successful career, you’ve played for Sweden, you’ve coached all over the world.  Your biggest job - I know that Sweden’s a big job for you now - but your biggest job in the past that people will know you from is when you were coach of the American football team, USA.  And you joined the team at a particularly interesting, some would say challenging, time. This was 2007.
Pia Sundhage
December.
Jane Garvey
Describe the atmosphere in that USA team at the time.
Pia Sundhage
I felt that they were disappointed, the fact that they did not win the World Cup 2007.  So they wanted a change, and that is important. They wanted a change and I was the change.  The fact that they pick a Swedish coach, a foreign coach, was huge.
Jane Garvey
You did have to make some tough decisions about players didn’t you, the goal keeper in particular, is that right?
Pia Sundhage
The story is 2007 many things happened with the team.  They won the bronze medal, but the goalkeeper was excluded.  She said different things, and she hurt the team … some say.  What I did, when I came, and she was the best goalkeeper.  So here we have Hope Solo, the best goalkeeper in the world, and I listened to five different stories what actually happened, that was the first thing I did.  I said, ‘tell me what happened’ so I at least understand how serious it was.  And I get five different stories, from players, from the general manager, from the press officer, from the ex-coach, from myself.  And I thought, ‘okay, so what am I going to do?’  So I had some of the players coming in and we’d talk about the situation.  I said ‘I don’t expect you to forget, so many things happened, but I expect you to forgive and move on.  Because if, do you want to win, I want to win, do you want to win?’ [they said] ‘Yeah, I want to win.’ [I said] ‘Okay, in order to win, you have to trust me, we need goalkeepers, not only one or two, and right now Hope Solo probably is or will become the best goalkeeper in the world.’ So I sorted that out, I listened and I talked about it out loud, like this, ‘so this is what I want us to do’, and I gave them time to think about it.
Jane Garvey
And how quickly did they move on?
Pia Sundhage
Quickly.  I'm really proud.  They did such a good, a good job.  The whole atmosphere, after a while, and we had a lot of camps, and I think it was a smart move by US soccer.  They were brave enough to pick a coach from Sweden, but a smart move to change   and I started with fresh eyes and a little bit new coaching style. And I told them over and over again, ‘so whatever happened 2007, if we can forgive, if you can forgive, then we will have a bright future.’  So I talked about it in different angles, and I gave it time, I took time to show them respect.  It’s not the well we’ll just have to move on, like left it; I ran and listened quite a bit.
Jane Garvey
Now you have this phrase, coach healthy, don’t you, which means what?
Pia Sundhage
Well instead of trying to fix every mistake, I do the opposite.  So the way it works, we have a video clip and we show them, they have comments, and I ask them ‘what do you see, what is good, could it be better’, and let them talk as much as possible. So coaching the healthy part.  So let’s say she has two good crosses, but we want, well the game planning she has at least five or seven, we say ‘well you should do more of this’, just double it, instead of looking at a cross where it didn’t go well. When I analyse the game with the coaches, we look at mistakes of course, but analysing’s one thing, coaching is another thing.  So in order, we have analysed that, we don’t have that many crosses on the right side, then what? And then we show the right back ‘this is what we want’. But maybe she’s not playing the next game because she had only two crosses.  So I think it’s important to recognise analysing this is what we need to do the next game, but coaching well you know, you're almost there.  It’s okay to make a mistake. And what I do know is there are three things that motivate players.  One is if you win.  The other thing is to be around the certain environment.  You want to be in the team and belong here.  And the third thing is the fact that you improve.  So if I can inspire her to grab that, well you know what, I can do this as well, I can add something to my game, that is my job.
Jane Garvey
Can you give me an example of bad coaching that you had when you were a player?
Pia Sundhage
When I was not inspired and I was threatened or I was annoyed or I was, I can't find the right English words, but, I didn’t like the situation, is somebody saying ‘well I'm the coach, you're going to do what I'm telling you.’  I have a hard time with that kind of coaching, because I thought I had so many things to say as a player, and we had the same goal, we want to improve football.  But he was just telling me ‘no, your thoughts are not good enough’, and he didn’t know what I was thinking.
Jane Garvey
How, when you take over a team, Pia, do you establish the shared goals of the team?  And presumably you’ve got to do it really quickly.
Pia Sundhage
Well you started off with a goal, and then it’s so important to get to know the team.  So it’s not that I'm just picking the goal, ‘there we go’, we need to do it together.  And there are certain things that it’s important, like I do have my philosophy, and I have the power to decide the journey to that goal.  That’s the beauty of, to be a leader.
Jane Garvey
And what if a player challenges you, how do you deal with that?
Pia Sundhage
My job is to make sure that she respects the team goal, so to speak, or my leadership, and it’s [an] ongoing discussion.  It’s ongoing, looking at situations where are we actually doing what we’re saying, is that in a room or out on the field, it’s so important to be almost like a mirror.  So we have decided this, are you acting like we decided?
Jane Garvey
Presumably there’s always going to be a certain amount of conflict within teams and in dressing rooms.  Is it possible to avoid it, or is that crazy?
Pia Sundhage
I think it’s possible to avoid it.  But it’s important to understand the role.  I’ll give an example, if we have a team and you're centre-mid[field], and you have to understand the role but also accept the role, and respect the role.
Jane Garvey
What about when you worked in China, which was before you did the American job?  What was the atmosphere around the game like there?
Pia Sundhage
It was more complicated because I don’t speak Chinese, and it’s a little bit … I felt they took orders more so than if you say, you want them to go from A to B and then to C, well they went A to B, ‘here I am, okay’, ‘well you're supposed to go to C’, ‘yeah’, they'd just wait for orders a little bit, I thought.  We wanted to create a little bit of a chaos, you know, take the initiative, ‘it’s your game’, and I think we succeeded a little bit but not, well, we didn’t play the finals, I don’t think we were that successful.
Jane Garvey
I imagine is one of many reasons why you're such a good coach, because you really do know what it’s like.
Pia Sundhage
Well I know how I felt, and I really try to understand how it feels out there when I'm coaching.  Because it’s one thing to coach a game, watch a game, compared to actually playing it.  So that’s why, I think that’s one of the reasons why I've become a better listener, and trying to understand what they're actually saying.  It’s not that when we have pregame talks, for instance, or we analyse the games, it’s not that ‘this is what we see’, yes, that’s part of it, but ‘how does it feel?’
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Pia Sundhage is one of the world’s top women’s coaches having led Team USA to two consecutive Olympic gold medals. She is now coaching the team from her own nation of birth, Sweden, also a world force in the women’s game. Note down in particular what you learn about how she managed the severe discord in the US team when she took over in 2007 (early in the clip) and the way she develops and uses ‘team goals’ (second half of the clip). Note that when she mentions ‘the role’ and ‘respect’ for it, she is talking about an important aspect of team effectiveness – clarity of team roles. The transcript may be useful to you here.

Jurgen Klinsmann talks more about players taking responsibility making interesting comparisons between football and American team sports such as baseball, basketball and the NFL. Interestingly he also mentions conflicts within teams.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: bof_1_p05_w2_audio_2.mp3
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Transcript

Peter Bowes
And you mentioned the word tone, how do you adopt the right tone with players? You are a very, I can detect a very easy going guy and coaches sometimes are actually not that easy going, they’re quite aggressive, and some teams I suspect there is a certain element of fear between the players and the coach; what is your attitude?
Jurgen Klinsmann
I think there you need to turn it around, because I don’t believe in that the coach has to have the right tone, but I try, if a player really understands that he is in the driver’s seat, he is the decision maker on the field, because football is players driven, they make the decisions on the field. Yes, you will put the 11 on the field but then the game goes and it’s them.
It’s very opposite to the other American sports, baseball, football, even basketball you can call time out and you have always stops and you can explain things, and football is the very, very opposite of it because it’s inner driven, it’s the athlete that makes the call, that makes the decision. I think over time a real big player learns to take the coach’s messages the right way, learns to read the messages, learns to take it for him in order to improve, because you have, let’s say, 20, 25 players on a roster and there is no coach in the world that has the right tone for every one of those 25, it doesn’t exist.
So I think it’s much easier to say, you 25 players need to figure out a way to take those messages from the coach, if it’s now a stronger voice, a more aggressive voice, a calmer voice, whatever it is, and pick out those things that are good for you. Then I think you will grow as a player. I don’t think somebody, a coach makes Messi or Ronaldo or Steven Gerrard. Those went through x amount of coaches throughout their career and I had about 16, 18 of those, and every one taught me something, told me something, but there was no perfect one, so the tone has to be found actually by the player and not given by the coach, because you are not making it right for 25 altogether.
Peter Bowes
And when there is conflict within a team how does that affect the individuals?
Jurgen Klinsmann
Oh, it affects everybody, so there are two ways. The best way is to solve the conflict, you know, to talk it through, to work it out, and to create even more positive energy out of that conflict. That is the ideal scenario. When you over time, and that’s just my personal experience, see that we are not solving this issue, it’s too deep, it’s too personal, it’s too distracting, you as a manager then have to make the decision to let one of those two go.
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Now watch the video.

Download this video clip.Video player: 31702_nc_2014_businessfootball_vid004_teamspirit-360.mp4
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Transcript

Team spirit

Gary Roberts, Player, Chesterfield FC
Team spirit’s massive in a team, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I think it’s down to the manager. I think signing players is massive now. You don’t just play no good player; you’ve got to sign the right player.
Sam Morsy, Player, Chesterfield FC
Managers now, they look at personalities of players, and players who can get on together and have the right team harmony because you can have the best players but if the team cohesion isn’t quite there, then you’re not going to have a really good team spirit so it’s important that the manager really does their homework on the certain characters they bring in, and just harness that really.
Ian Evatt, Player, Chesterfield FC
To gel as a team does take time, especially when you’ve got a lot of new faces. Obviously, there’s a lot of different personalities in a football team, so you just need to get to know each other better – probably a trip abroad or something like that can obviously help – spending a length of time together, but it’s something that can’t be built overnight. It takes time. Everyone needs to get to know each other, know their strengths and weaknesses, what they’re like as people, and eventually it will come.
Drew Talbot, Player, Chesterfield FC
Things that’ll prevent a team gelling will be egos. Sometimes, you get the odd player that thinks he’s bigger than the team sometimes, which is affecting, but it’s up to the squad to actually reign him back in and make him realise it’s actually a team game and not an individual sport.
Sam Morsy
Team spirit can break down when players have different ideas to the manager, and all of a sudden, very quickly, they can form cliques in which they’re going against the manager and so on and so forth. That’s when you have to really trust your manager, because he knows what’s going to be best for the team, and when you do that, you can have a great team spirit, but it can quickly break down whenever individuals have different ideas and so on.
Ian Evatt
The most common things to break down between managers and players, I’d say, is either contractual events like if you want a new contract or you’re not feeling you’re being paid well enough, or a manager stops you from being transferred when you want to leave the club, or they’re not picking you on a Saturday.
Tommy Lee, Player, Chesterfield FC
Players, coaches – everyone falls out. It’s difficult when you’re in a competitive business where everyone needs to play but there’s only 11 places. It’s going to happen.
Ian Evatt
When players get brought in, obviously, it’s a dodgy time, especially if he plays in your position. You start to worry about your own place, you start to worry ‘is he better than me?’ But in a team sport, a team game, you need as many players as you can, especially good players, and if the manager believes that he can help the squad and help the team, then you’ve got to trust the manager.
Harry Hickford, Player, MK Dons
It’s like bringing someone into your home. Because everyone’s so close, sometimes, it’s hard for a player to adjust to the way other players act and the banter within the team and stuff like that. So, that doesn’t help.
Ian Evatt
For me and my career, I’ve only played for clubs that have paid bonuses in respect to success – promotion, play-offs, cup finals etc – and it should be stuck to that. I don’t think you should really reward mediocrity with bonuses.
Lee Hodson, Player, MK Dons
When you get a bonus, you get a starting bonus if you play, then obviously, a win bonus, and that gives you more of an incentive that you want to win but, as a player, you want to win every game anyway, and getting a bonus as a player for winning is just an extra little bit into your salary.
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Listen to how their understanding of team work is different to a manager. But also note down the factors, represented by key words or phrases, these players identify as helping explain team success or lack of it.

Post your list and comments in the forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Where possible try and quote phrases or key words from the video and audio pieces and also consider your own examples of ineffective football teams.

We can learn a lot from unsuccessful teams, indeed, as much as from successful teams. The fascinating accounts of players and a manager, as you would expect, differ considerably in the depth of their analysis. There might also be potential differences between club and national teams.

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