The Importance of Coaching

The coach is often in the background, in many sports you don’t even see the coaches or know who they are. Yet coaches role in the performance and the mental state of athletes is huge. I want to have a look at the case of Claudio Ranieri.

Today the shock of Claudio Ranieri ‘s sacking as Leicester FC manager is still sending shock waves around the world of sport. How could a man who led a club, that almost got relegated the previous season, to winning arguably the toughest league in the world the next, be sacked within 9 months of such a feat?

The rewards for success are greater today than ever before. In sport, especially high profile sports, the rewards are astronomical and don’t show any signs of relenting. With high rewards though comes pressure, expectation, scrutiny and extra interest from fans and media – not easy to manage and cope with.

Somehow Leicester and Ranieri managed a perfect season for a team last season, a great coaching achievement, amazingly consistent individual and team performances, low injuries, no negative off field distractions, everything worked. It’s hard to replicate that, and even harder to find the desire, motivation and above all courage to go again after you’ve achieved above your wildest dreams. The biggest clubs go every year for the titles and cups, with their huge budgets and high player turnover, but for Leicester and their players, this was a pinnacle, something they never dreamt they’d achieve. Their lives are changed forever with huge contracts and sponsorship deals, how do you come back from that with the same desire and commitment? It’s not easy.

So now we’re three quarters through the season, the club are in a relegation battle, the players are looking for excuses and the manager is sacrificed. Yes, it’s easy to feel sorry for Ranieri, he’s obviously still trying his best and the performance of the players is not 100% in his control, but elite sport works like this. Unfortunately it’s relatively easy to replace a coach but not easy to replace the athletes.

I think Ranieri has been treated harshly and I think he deserved to stay until the end of the season, but maybe he tried to manage expectations a little too much this season. Instead of targeting a top 10 finish, he may have been better to keep the confidence and belief going by talking about the challenge of defending their title and how exciting that would be. All professional athletes work hard but need to be inspired and motivated by something, usually a goal or target, if the goal is uninspiring or perceived easy then it can demotivate. What Leicester achieved last season has received such acclaim and accolade that they needed something equally inspiring to focus on this season – then even if they failed, they would have failed well. Now they are just failing badly and maybe that was Ranieri’s downfall. However, as players they have to take their share of responsibility.

Recently I spoke at a Northumbria University coaching forumĀ and it made me think about the impact coaching has had on me. I’ve had 3 main coaches throughout my career – Norman Burns, Ray Knight and my mam Ros Miller. Of course they’re all very different with their styles and approaches, but they shared common values that stuck with me and shaped me into the athlete and person I am today.

  • Having fun.
  • Taking responsibility.
  • Continuous improvement.
  • Learning.
  • Being Positive.
  • Aiming High.

These are very similar to the values we have at SMILE, we want everyone to take part and have fun, making progress along the way, however much that might be. In elite sport we sometimes get caught up in the detail but I think we shouldn’t forget the basic principals of grassroot sport, which can be applied to any level.