Practice what you preach?


As coaches we often analyse training sessions and match’s in order improve our understanding of the game, therefore improving our players. Whether it be technique, communication, awareness or positional play we can cast a critical eye and advise accordingly.

It can be perceived that standing on the sidelines is easy compared to being on the pitch as one of the eleven players you are normally coaching. There are no opposition players closing you down; no split second decision making whether to shoot or pass; you’re not running at pace with the ball down the wing – basically, you have time to analyse and influence with minimal pressure.

I recently found out the transition from coach to playing, especially with players you have been coaching for the previous six weeks, can be a difficult task to undertake.

I often highlight to players how quiet they are on the pitch and encourage them to communicate vociferously in training – ‘Man On’, ‘Push Up’, ‘Time’ – all the common sounds you hear at pitches every weekend. Whilst I was on the pitch, I was surprisingly quiet, leading to the traditional banter I think all coaches have received; ‘Practice what you preach!!

Coaching points I had put across in session failed me such as getting the ball out my feet with my first touch, chest on to the ball at all times, head up when playing a pass… I believe there was one reason these failures occurred – PRESSURE.

Pressure to impress. Pressure from the opposition. Pressure from team-mates. Pressure to set an example. Pressure to ensure I could execute the coaching points I had been putting across. It highlighted to me how much influence the ‘P’ word could have on a player.


Trevor Francis, Graeme Souness and Bryan Robson were all successful player managers. Imagine how many demands they were under when crossing the white line onto the pitch. In addition to the pressures I mentioned they also would have had the fans, chairman and media on their back. I have a deep rooted respect for these professionals as to ‘multi-task’ in such an effective way, at such a high level, they must have drawn on every ounce of experience they had picked up in the game.

Using my experience I may be a little more understanding when players trudge of a pitch saying a team-mate was out of position for the goal conceded; I was that player last Sunday. When they say they shouldn’t have dived into the tackle; I was also that player last Sunday. Instead of playing the simple pass and going for the ‘Hollywood’ ball; I too was that player last Sunday!!

When I play again (if selected!) I will consider this article and try to take the points onboard I have highlighted. Let’s be honest, it’s inevitable, I probably won’t and you know what I will blame it on – ‘PRESSURE!!’


Article by Chris Stygal

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