The Player Centered Approach, When was Football not Player Centered?
The above quote, is no doubt something you've either said or heard, as you've stepped on to your local football pitch, or in to your professional football academy training ground. Now I'm not here to tell you that I don't believe the players shouldn't make decisions. But this approach and this quote has seemingly become a fashion commonly used by coaches who have 'picked up' the approach from fellow coaches or social media influences.
Who ever thought on a Saturday afternoon as a 15,16 or 17 year old, I want to pick the formation today, I want to be in charge today, what players want is support, guidance and involvement. So commonly we see stand alone 'Player Centered' events and 'Player Lead' days, if these days are times where learning is left unsupervised, how can we be confident it is taking place? How can we build these events and moments in to our program more rigorously, where players are able to take ownership, and accountability, with out us needing to provide sporadic and unexplainably random events to prove we are player centered.
This makes me think deeper in to my psychology background, and makes me question, what is a player centered approach? I believe the role of the coach is far greater within a player centered environment, it requires a coach who is confident enough to allow decision making, whilst knowing how and when to challenge the decision, and support the decision.
Consistency is so important with player centered approaches, if the coach is at the centre of 85% of sessions, but occasionally we allow true empowerment, will we ever get athletes who want to be empowered. If you let a taxi driver use a sat-nav for 85% of his/her journeys' and them empowered him to make his own way there on the 15% would he benefit, or freeze under the pressure of a changing environment, or would that driver benefit, from being allowed to mix his own knowledge with the sat nav, 95% of the time, so we was confident enough to make decisions under pressure?
But lastly, on what is almost a rant around the current state of the 'player-centered' approach, when was the game ever, not 'player-centered', when players cross that white line and begin to compete, are our instructions as impactful as we speak, or do we as coaches over exaggerate our influence, and not recognize that the decision the player makes, is 80% instinctive to the random practices they have competed in, previous to this moment. I think we over exaggerate the influence we as coaches have, a fail to recognize the amazing capacity players have to make decisions, it is likely under our pressure, that these decisions are limited