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The next evolution: The coaching analyst

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Roar Guru
13th July, 2020
6

Back in the 1980s, football teams had a senior coach, an assistant coach – who also happened to be the coach of the reserves – and a runner. That was the brains trust behind the team.

Nowadays, there are an array of coaches. Every segmentation of the team – the midfielders, the forwards, and the defenders – have their own coach.

Behind the scenes, there are dieticians, fitness staff, clinicians, etc.

That’s the evolution of the game. Just as it’s evolved on the field, the way a football club is run off-field has also evolved.

So what comes next?

Collingwood briefly introduced the position ‘Director of Coaching’ – the role incumbent senior coach Mick Malthouse was meant to move into when Nathan Buckley took over the senior coaching gig in 2012.

Malthouse ultimately declined and moved on. Rodney Eade briefly filled the position, then went on to coach the Gold Coast Suns. As far as I’m aware, nobody has replaced him in the Director of Coaching role.

The position was loosely described as a mentor to the senior coach – it’s not a bad idea for an apprentice coach.

Of course, it does seem redundant in some cases.

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Damien Hardwick, Adam Simpson, Luke Beveridge and Alastair Clarkson – who’ve coached the premiers from 2013 to 2019 – didn’t need mentors.

They served apprenticeships, then applied for senior coaching gigs. That’s how it’s always happened. If somebody isn’t ready to be a senior coach, should they be appointed to that position?

Something I’ve always believed would be useful to introduce is the position of a ‘Coaching Analyst’. They would operate independently of the coaching panel.

Each week, they would provide feedback on how they believe the coaching staff fared on game day – what worked, what didn’t, what could’ve been tried, whether the selections were right, etc.

In this way, the coaching staff could be challenged by an outside party. It would then be up to them whether they take on the feedback or not.

Now some might consider this redundant, given that surely the coaching staff must have meetings where they discuss all this and thrash it out. The one query here is that being immersed in the system, they would – to some extent – lose objectivity.

Think about your team and times you’ve questioned decisions, and are amazed that a certain course of action was either pursued, or persevered with to the detriment of the team.

Your counter might be what do any of us punters know? Or that the club has appointed the best people for those roles. Or we don’t have all the information. Okay to all that.

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But another truth is those running our teams are fallible, and a fresh perspective can provide a new insight.
My own background is that I’ve worked as a book editor.

I’ve read the manuscripts of some great authors. But for all their talent, for all their vision, for all their knowledge, they actively seek external feedback because they want somebody objective who can constructively articulate what they need to consider – issues that they might no longer be able to see, things they believe are working that (for whatever reason) aren’t, and areas they can strengthen.

And the pivotal word there is consider. They might have very good reasons for some of their choices and champion them. I might’ve missed something. They might have a greater understanding of some component than I do. But the point is the discussion itself is worthwhile to get that fresh perspective.

I know supporting my team over 40 years, I wish there were times that somebody in some independent capacity could challenge the coaching staff, and open their minds – if only for an instant – to new possibilities.
It surely could only be for the better.