A Coach's Choice of Words Means Everything
At the most recent NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, I had the opportunity to moderate roundtable discussions with Avram Grant, Stuart Pearce, and Michael O'Neill, all accomplished coaches at the club and international levels. While there were many interesting stories and experiences shared, there was one by Stuart Pearce from his career that stands out as something for coaches of all levels to contemplate.
Stuart told the audience of an incident early in his playing career when he was first selected to the England National team. I am writing from memory so I may not have every word recorded perfectly, but you will get the idea.
When Stuart got his first call up to the National Team, he was filled with doubt. He knew he was a good player, but he was not sure if he was of the level necessary to represent his country.
At the time, he was playing for Nottingham Forest, who was coached by Brian Clough. Stuart told the attendees of the time that he had gotten a call to report to Coach Clough's office. Stuart knew that the meeting was probably about his national team call-up, and he was filled with apprehension about how he would perform with the national team. He knocked on Coach Clough's door, and when he entered, Coach Clough said, 'So you got called for England. Do you think you are good enough?'. Stuart replied honestly, 'I don't know,' to which Coach Clough replied, 'Well, I don't. F*** Off!'
Stuart's story caught the entire room by surprise, but as the laughter subsided, Stuart continued. He said that 1) While he as a player walked into that room with uncertainty, he walked out with an attitude of how he was going to prove Coach Clough wrong; and 2) he did not know if Coach Clough's purpose was to challenge him, or to keep his feet firmly planted so the call-up didn't go to his head, or something else, but there is no chance that this encounter was not thought about and planned by Coach Clough prior to occurring.
Stuart went on to earn 78 caps for England and to manage the England U21 and GB Olympic team in 2016, and I am sure he has more positions in his career path.
His story certainly made me think - how often do we as coaches measure our words during preapration in order to motivate our players?
Thanks to NSCAA and LMA for the opportunity to host the roundtables.