Galanis Blog: Do Great Players become Great Coaches?

Do Great Players Make Great Coaches?†
ďDo great players become great coaches?Ē†This has been a hot topic recently. The facts show that this is not the case. Perhaps surprisingly, itís the other way around.
Players that have spent time on the bench have gone on to become even better coaches because they most likely lacked natural talent and had to think their way onto the field. When you have blazing speed, athletic ability and decent skills that come naturally to you then that is what you rely on. You donít need to think; you can just walk onto the field and let the natural ability you are blessed with take over.
If we look at some of the best coaches in the world we will learn they didnít play at the highest level. Just a few prime examples are Arsene Wenger (amateur), Rafael Benitez (Real Madrid youth player), and Jose Mourinho (94 senior level games). These coaches have won some of the most glorious European trophies you can get your hands on.†In contrast, if we look at Diego Maradona and Pele, two of the all-time greatest players who went on to coach, we will find they could not come close to the success of Wenger, Benitez, and Mourinho.
Maradona has failed as a coach and was clearly outcoached as his team lost to a less skilled but more tactically prepared and adaptable team (Germany) at the World Cup. His inability to read the game was very evident. The wonder kid Pele has made a name for himself as a poor analyst. After his retirement, Pele was often hired for his expert opinion.†Yet he too frequently came up with inaccurate and sometimes comical analysis of players and games.
So do great players make great coaches? Personally, I donít think so. I think great coaches are made just like great players are made. Great players are made from scratch and spend time honing their basic skills.†Great players work their way up the youth ladder until they are ready to conquer the senior (Pro) level. Itís the same with great coaches. They need to start from scratch, learn the basics, and work their way up from there as well. If we go back to Wenger, Benitez and Mourinho, all three of these great coaches put in their hours in the youth game. They learned the basics of how to teach and break down the game for young minds to understand.†They spent time at the youth level before moving on to the senior level, where more advanced coaching skills are necessary; skills such as player management and tactical adjustments during the game.†
As a professional coach that has worked at the youth level and the pro level, I reflect back to my younger years of coaching and realize that they were the most important years. †Learning the terminology that my mind wanted to express; learning drills that coincided with the style of player I wanted to produce; learning the Tactical Plans I wanted to execute; learning how the human mind thinks and responds.
To learn all these things you canít just walk off the field as a soccer player and all of a sudden be a master coach. I see so many youth coaches that just got out of college/pro team and promote themselves as great coaches just because they played at a high level school/pro team. Thatís so far from the truth. It just doesnít work like that. You need to get down in the soccer pits and learn how to put together a player and learn how to rip the game to pieces tactically and explain it to your team. If you canít rip the game to pieces and put it back together for your players then you will be exposed at some point.
Coaching is an art that takes time. Just because you played it doesnít mean you can coach it. Just because you played at a high level doesnít mean you are automatically a great coach. The two are totally different trades. When playing you put your uniform on and compete. When coaching you manage a team of individuals, improve them, educate them, make them friends, inspire them and help them improve daily. Both as an individual and as a team! These traits are way different to a player and traits that are not automatically inserted into a player that was a great player.
James Galanis

Director of Soccer Operations


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