03. Performance

Forging Team Training Culture

December 11, 2018

In professional sports culture bonds teams and wins games. But how to foster this elusive aspect of performance, especially when you want to change it? Here is some advice that can help coaches navigate their players' mindsets to help get the most out of them as a team.

The Challenge of the New

Introducing a new training paradigm isn't easy. Especially in sports strongly rooted in tradition, like football. When I first took my knowledge as a power development coach into professional football, it was surprising to find out that strength and conditioning training barely existed in the Premier League. In fact, there were still old-fashioned myths that doing weights stiffened you up. It can be tough to change mindsets at the player's level, especially if you have a mentality of 'if it's not broken then don't try to fix it'. Even when you convince players of the benefits, it's still not easy to introduce new routines into the bread and butter of an athlete's daily life.

Focusing on Influencers

With my experience at Manchester United, I learned it was crucial to first get key players on board who were role models - personalities that could instigate a change in thinking that others would follow. The case in point was Roy Keane, who was a critical influencer in the club. Not only was he a strong and tenacious character, but he held the respect of all the players and led by example. Getting the respect and understanding of what you want to achieve with just one key player, can make a huge difference.

Adapting to Mindsets

It's pivotal to get to know each athlete's needs. With Roy, he had been into boxing in his younger days, and after having a one to one discussion with him it was clear he wanted boxing to be part of his power development training. As soon as we started working on the pads in the gym other players actually came just to watch him train. Then they wanted a piece of the action. Step by step we integrated more exercises around that starting point, which then grew into fully fledged physical conditioning sessions.

A New Culture

With each athlete coming on board the first thing was to find out their needs, what drives them, and then customize sessions around that. The scenario quickly grew from a group of players with little or no interest in the gym, to most of the club turning up voluntarily, and after training on the pitch, to get their personalized workouts done week in week out. The likes of Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs adopted a new approach and way of thinking about their performance into Manchester United's glory years. This showed the power sculpting team culture through leaders.

The leading soccer magazine Four Four Two recently interviewed me for an article on this theme at Manchester United's Gym Club, which can be found here.

If you'd like to read more from Mick, then check this out.

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