Why is the investment always in facilities or equipment but not in the people? Look through the local or national newspapers in almost any country and you will find countless stories of clubs, NGB’s & Governments announcing the dawning of a new era with X or Y facility now being built. This facility will undoubtedly lead to better players and that can only be good for the game/sport/development – right????. Has anybody actually looked at the correlation between facilities and performance? I lifted the following quote from the English FA’s website about their new facility St Georges Park;
“Everything is the best; there is the best equipment, the best facilities, the best medical facilities, the best food and hotels. Every one of the pitches is of the highest quality of anywhere in the world” – Sir Bobby Charlton.
I’m not having a go at the FA in particular, they seem to do a lot for Coach Education but it still amazes me that the quote above should get prominence. It may not make the papers but wouldn’t it be great to see a headline like “XYZ Association is delighted to announce a £1m investment in staff training and upskiling”. Maybe this does go on and just doesn’t make the papers, but I doubt it really. When Chairman and CEO’s retire they want to leave a legacy and unfortunately a picture of a brand new facility is much easier to put in a frame than other peoples skills.
In every business book or business interview I have read the founder/owner/CEO talks of the importance of hiring the best people. The all cite how hiring A grade people made there business completely different. Clubs hire endless coaches and sports scientist to improve their (on-field) staff but how much is spent on training and mentoring the off-field staff? The extent of this training usually means trying to sneak away from work (probably on your day-off) to attend a one day conference. There is no great scrutiny put on the content or the learning but as long as it doesn’t seem expensive you can probably manage one or two a year.
I have seen snippets of clubs go above and beyond the norm, professional presentation coaches are one example; We are all presenting something, whether it’s to a team or our bosses so, this is a good idea but I do wonder how much of this really goes on. Most analysts I speak with tend to learn by doing. Most (like myself) operate in a bit of a vacuum, the very odd time bumping into another analyst and trying to pick their brains for a few minutes. But shouldn’t clubs put in more rigorous training structures for the off-field staff? Shouldn’t their be a budget for CPD training? Shouldn’t that CPD training consist of more than going and listening to people talk at conferences? Even a quick scan of the EPPP Academy Plan, launched by the English FA recently, refers to the fact the analysts within a club should receive CPD training but it’s very light on any detail after that. What format, how much, quality control, preferred skills etc… are all left to the clubs (to do or not do I suppose). CPD shouldn’t be about ticking a box.
Professional Development can be expensive and time consuming but if done right isn’t it worth it? Perhaps ‘high-performance’ sport doesn’t allow for such medium to long-term thinking so perhaps we have to take responsibility ourselves. One idea I really love is the recent tour undertaken by Ross Munro Williams who is a Rugby coach in South Africa. He packed up his things and decided to tour around England, Scotland and France to learn from other coaches who were willing to share ideas. If you don’t already you should keep track of Ross’ progress and experiences through twitter or his blog.
The tours purpose is firstly for me to grow as a coach before I tackle new challenges next year with Villager FC in Cape Town, and secondly for me to meet, connect, learn and share with as many coaches that I meet along the way so that we can all hopefully learn something from each other that can aid in our own coaching.
For me there is probably no better way to learn new things (or reaffirm your own beliefs) than this type of trip. Ok not everyone can take off for a month but social media means this type of experience is easier to achieve. Personally some people have been very generous to me with their time and people always like to be asked for their opinion & help.
Perhaps the 80/20 rules is a good place to start. The next time the analysis department sits down to budget for the year work out what the split is in terms of equipment v staff training? Rather than rush out and buy the latest toy with all the features, think about what an extra training and development spend might do for you or your team. Maybe being better at your job is more important than having better equipment??
I never profess to have all the answers, Ross’ example is just one idea for developing you as an analyst or coach, I’m sure there are numerous other great examples. Don’t just plod along to the next analytics conference, think about pushing the boundaries and doing things that seem outside of your remit as an analyst. Some of the best learning can happen in informal settings and you never know what skills might be useful.Follow