Judge The Coach On The Journey

Too often I hear parents ranting about their child’s coach and if there is one thing I’ve learnt is not to judge and not to believe everything I’m told. One thing is for sure, adults get into coaching in kids football (sport) to help the team in question. Many enter with the right intentions, to try and improve the players they’re working with. The ones that choke under pressure are thinking about living up to the expectations of everybody else, instead of just doing their job the best they can.

“Parents, coaches and players should realise that they are all on the same team. Enjoyment and success can be assured if this is a harmonious 3-way partnership. When all three are working together for the benefit of the player and his development, there is a much greater chance that this young talent will reach his full potential”. – Horst Wein

I’ve also learnt that winning is not the be-all and end-all of everything you do. I would much rather see my team playing a beautiful brand of football and lose, than play horribly and win. That might see strange to most, but it’s true. I focus on performance, effort and  most importantly the journey to get where we want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love to win but, I coach my players to be successful and to do their best every-time they play. That is what success is, doing your best each and every time. This is under the control of the players with guidance from the coach. The very best coaches, do not coach the sport, they coach the child, they are able to connect with everyone and know that everyone is different.

“Those who are quickest to judge are often in possession of the fewest facts”


So what I’m saying is, judge the coach on how he’s teams plays, judge him on how well he/she prepares the team. Does he/she mentor the kids, is he/she a good role model. If he/she has improved the players both technically and personally, what more can you ask for. Parents (not all) put huge demands on voluntary coaches. Let us not forget these coaches don’t get paid for what they do. They give you their personal time to coach your child and in many cases they have children of their own – but they devote time to yours. Which in turn leaves less time for their own children (I’m speaking from experience).

Parents need to look at what these coaches do, how much effort they put into helping other peoples children. Without them we would not have a game, so don’t be quick to judge them. As a parent, once you are confident that your child is in a safe learning environment, one of the most important things you can do as a parent of a young player is to let them go and let their sports experience belong to them. Release them into taking control of that experience and allow his/her efforts belong to them. What ever success they achieve will be as a result of their hard-work. If you control everything your child does, they will never take responsibility. The worst thing you can do is compare what you want from your child  experience with what they want. You can be sure that children do not have the same reason for playing as you might do. Children don’t value winning as much as adults do. Get them involved, allow them to take control, be supportive and back off.

“You can’t give 110%, you can only give what you have and you only have 100%”


The problem with success in kids sport is that, the more you succeed the higher the expectations. As soon as you win something, everyone expects the same next year and when you don’t win it again, you’re deemed unsuccessful and people start to cast an opinion of what you’re doing. In some ways you’re better off coming just close, people tend to be less judgemental and they might even say “wait until next year”, ” you did great”. The higher the achieving team the more critical people are. The more they seem to know, then you.

I’ll refer back to the journey process. Life is a journey and we make some great decision and some wrong ones along the way. In life people tell you to ‘keep going and don’t look back’ but can the same be said for coaching in youth sport?

Don’t micro manage every single game, judge the coach on the entire season. If the kids are improving and having fun and if the coach is fair to everyone and has the best intentions of all the players. That is success, what more can you ask. There will be time during the season that he/she will make a wrong decision  but that’s how we learn. Things don’t always work out. It’s also true in life.

“Don’t be over concerned what people think about you. Be concerned with what you think about yourself”

If we focus on the process (what you are doing) and less on the losing and winning, we are able to develop much more. If you are too competitive, then you are over worried about the final score. Development of a child in sport is a long journey, the process must be short steps to mastering the game. A successful (journey) one is where your real accomplishments lie is keeping the child in sport and loving the game.

That is why we must teach kids that ‘doing the best you were capable of doing is success’ that should be the message. Their best last week may not be the same as their best this week but if we focus on effort first then you will never lose.. You can never reach perfection but you can reach maximum effort through hard work, every-time.

“Children who are given control over their sport experience are more likely to enjoy the game more and stay playing for longer. They’re also found to embrace the process more rather than focus on the result.  It can also allow them to focus longer on improving and develop an interest outside of training, where they will take upon themselves to work harder and get better (More success). This way children learn to value it because the game belongs to them not you”

The next time you think about criticising the coach, think about all he/she has done for your child. Your child probably won’t be the next supper star but who cares, he’s playing sport and there are a lot of benefits to playing sport in life. Think about how much this journey is worth in life lessons!!




I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Coach Talk

Exporting the Barca method by Paul Grech (Blue print Football)

This Article was originally published on blue print football, check out the site here Blue Print Football for more interesting articles.

Throughout the history of the game of football, there have always been teams that have helped shape the way that the game was perceived and played; from Herbert Champan’s Arsenal to Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan going through the mighty Hungarian national team, Helenio Herrera’s catenaccio driven Inter and Ajax’s total football.  Yet the influence that every one of those great teams could exert was limited for the simple reason that very few could get to watch them with the frequency needed to be influenced by them.

It is in this that the current Barcelona team is truly unique because they are perhaps the first team to have come up with a different philosophy for playing the game and who have been watched regularly by a global audience.  Barcelona’s football hasn’t simply shaped how their national rivals play but is shaping how the whole world plays the game; everyone is looking to reproduce to some extent what Barcelona have done.

How it all began…

Wanting to copy Barcelona and actually doing that, however, are two very different things.  Because the road that led to Barcelona’s current way of playing didn’t start three years ago with the appointment of Pep Guardiola and much less six years ago when Frank Rijkaard was put in charge.  Instead, the seed of this team was planted twenty five years ago when Johann Cruyff began reshaping how football was played at all levels of the club.

That the seed planted by Cruyff was allowed to grow in an industry as obsessed with short term results as football is astounding.  Because the real secret of Barcelona’s success is that: TIME.

It isn’t about putting in place a way of doing things but all about giving the system time to mature so that the whole club thinks, breathes and moves in the same way.

Barca 1That certainly is one of the man messages to come out of an interview with Enrique Duran Diaz.  Having spent almost a decade absorbing the Barcelona philosophy at their FCB Escola, last year Duran was asked whether he was willing to take on the challenge of trying to do what Crujff did at Barca by planting the seed of a distinctive playing style at the South African club Mamelodi Sundown.

He is therefore one of the few individuals who can talk with authority about what it takes to replicate Barcelona’s way of doing things and what he says provides real insight as to whether that philosophy can be transplanted elsewhere.

Enrique was one of the two coaches who came to Ireland with Albert Benaiges in 2011, the first ever Barcelona 2 day coaching clinic in Europe.

How did you start at Barcelona?

Ever since I was very young I’ve had a great passion for football and seeing that I wasn’t exceptionally good at it I decided to start coaching when I was 14.  After a number of years coaching neighborhood teams I got the opportunity to collaborate in an FC Summer Camp in Barcelona in 2003.  At the end of that activity the person responsible for it offered me a contract to become coach at FC Barcelona.

What was your role there?

My duties were always related to FCB Escola, Barcelona’s football school for children between 6 and 12 years. There I stayed for seven years, occupying different positions. For the first three seasons I worked as a coach before being offered the chance of heading the school that FC Barcelona wanted to open in Saudi Arabia – Rhiad – and was there for two seasons as head coach of the project.

On my return I went back to being the co-ordinator FCBEscola for young players (11 to 12), and took part in various international campuses in countries like South Korea, England, China, Bangladesh and Singapore among others. Ireland also!

Why have Barcelona been so successful in developing players?

The key to success lies in that FC Barcelona is committed to a policy of getting young players through, where the players get to create that dream of one day getting to play at the Camp Nou. This philosophy was implanted in the club for over 25 years and in recent seasons we have seen that great players have emerged from the grassroots to the first team.

“It is a complicated process that requires patience, besides having great professionals to help identify, train and educate the young players who come to the facilities of FC Barcelona.”

barca2Can the Barça method be copied?

Barca’s style is unique and to be successful you must believe in it. All youth football teams play one system and from when the players are very young concepts are introduced to help bring them closer to someday becoming first team players. To create this structure takes time and many seasons without success. Clubs seeking to copy the Barca method look for short-term results and it is very difficult to reach them. A good set-up, a good program to identify talented players and good coaches can help create a good structure but it is hardly possible to achieve the same results as FC Barcelona in recent years.

How did you get the job at Mamelodi Sundowns?

During 2009/10 I was able to do a Master in the Johan Cruyff Institute, and at the end I was offered the opportunity of working with them on this sports project that had emerged in South Africa.

What is your role there?

My role is Technical Director of Football at Mamelodi Sundowns’ youth system. My main task is to assist the development of coaches and players at the club. The coaches receive the programme of coaching that is to be followed, as well as courses that help them to form and understand the philosophy I want to introduce. On the other hand, players must learn to be professional both on and off the pitch because we believe that training should be complete so that they can achieve their dream of being footballers.

What is the difference you’ve found to work with Europe?

The lack of structure at clubs to develop players is what struck me when I arrived. Players do not begin to be introduced to the technical and tactical concepts until they are 16 or 17, something that children in Europe have mastered by the time they are 8 or 9. For the future of South African football it is key to create programs for youth players that will help them grow athletically because with the current system much talent is wasted.

How are the players compared to players from Barca?

Barca 3

I have met players who are as skilled with the ball and possess excellent physical conditions for this sport but with large gaps in their knowledge of tactics.

The South African player spends many hours playing in the streets on pitches that are in very poor condition. This helps them improve their technique but can sometimes be harmful as they tend to pick up skills that will not be beneficial in the professional game.

At a physical level there is no need for specific work for players with very good inborn qualities. However at a tactical level the scope for improvement is large because as I said, players don’t receive any training in this area and sign with a club when they get to 17.

Finally, an aspect that needs to improve a lot is mental because due to lifestyle full of difficulties we encounter players with disciplinary problems.

“Sometimes they are not aware that they must make a huge effort to achieve the goal of become professional footballers.”

At Barcelona a lot of attention is devoted to the technique of players. Is it the same in South Africa or is physical strength given more importance?

I’ve been in the country for a year and half now and have observed how teams always try to prevail due to their physical strength.  I’ve seen crazy games where long balls and counterattacks were constant. Players just do what they have confidence in and in South Africa that trust is in their physical qualities. Once we analysed this we got to work to introduce a philosophy where you can try to win a game without having to run all the time with the ball. Therefore, we focus our work so that technically and tactically players get better thanks to exercises where everything revolves around the ball. At first it was not easy for the players as they had to adapt to new training.  However, with the passing of the weeks they have become aware of the importance of these exercises to improve their qualities.

At Barcelona there is a clear philosophy of how to do things. How important is this?

At grassroots level it makes sense to trust and believe in young players who train with the sole aim of becoming professional team players someday. Patience is key here, where the players have to be aware that there are easier ways to get short term results but the longer, harder way may make you the best resource for the team.

Was it difficult to work in a club where there is this philosophy? And how to go about this?

It’s complicated, having to introduce a philosophy is never easy. Every day you come across many problems you did not expect to find you and hinder your work. Also people are not accustomed to a situation where results are not immediate so it adds significant pressure on you with which you should be able to coexist. Nevertheless, there comes a time when despite all the difficulties you have to find the ability to change your mind for the benefit of the young players that you train.

“I’ve learned to focus on those things that I can have direct responsibility and forget about everything that does not help me improve or keep me from doing my job 100%.”

How long does it take to establish a system and philosophy that provides the talent regularly?

It would be wrong to set a specific number of years since I’d probably be mistaken. In my opinion to create a grassroots structure can be relatively simple but getting results isn’t. There are many elements that are important for the youth structure to makes sense. One of the most important for me is to know the policy of the first team, because if the club decides to sign new players each season without taking a look at the youngest we have a problem because the project probably never be consolidated, while if each year the Club seeks younger talent among those coming to join the professional team and we will be giving them more opportunities to consolidate the structure’s reputation. Clearly, time will be a necessary, but if the team does not believe and there isn’t commitment to the project it will not reach the objectives established at the outset.

What you want to do at Mamelodi for you to consider your time there a success?

The most important thing would be that the work can continue until the end of my contract (June 2014).

“I would feel that my time in South Africa has served some purpose if coaches continue to be good professionals, club scouts continue to seek talent and especially following the guidelines that players will continue to receive excellent training both on and off the field.”

Now there are months of hard work to try to consolidate the concepts introduced and those I consider to be key to the club so that it can be a leader in the African continent in the development of young talent.

Enrique Duran Diaz is currently technical director of football of Mamelodi Sundown’s Youth System and can be followed on Twitter

Article by Blueprint for Football’s, see their Twitter feed or else like the Facebook page.  Even better, you can subscribe to the free bi-weekly e-zine for exclusive articles straight to your in-box. By 

Thanks Enrique for notifying me about this article and for allowing me to post it.  TCD