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Chapter 6, Part 2:- In The Tunnel Before The Game...,

" There's No I In TEAM ". Whoever dreamed this saying up really does need shooting and you must erase this rubbish from your memory as quickly as possible, as this is absolutely the wrong mentality, forcing you to think in wholly the wrong way.

Football coaching is far, far too concerned with coaching the, " Team ", as opposed to coaching the, " I ". When the, " I ", is as strong it can be, then the, " Team ", will be as strong as it can be.

How an individual player individually prepares for a game is fundamental to that player being able to perfrom to their highest possible level. Understanding this as a coach is essential, because what works for one player may not work for another. One size absolutely doesn't fit all.

When I was coaching Franck there was a game against Arsenal in August of the 2004 / 2005 season where Middlesbrough lost 5 - 3, and Franck was voted the Century Radio Man Of The Match. A few days after that game I was at Massimo's house where he and Franck were sat on the couch listening to my analysis of that game. At a certain point I turned to Franck and told him that although he was made Man Of The Match, that there was an initial period of that game where he didn't play well at all. I asked him if he agreed with me, and he said yes. I then asked him to have a good think and to give me a specific time within the first half where he began to play well. I told him that whilst he was thinking that I'd write down on a piece of paper the time when I thought he began to play well. When Franck was ready he said to me, " About 30 Minutes ". To which Massimo replied eagerly, " Now It's Your Turn ". When I opened up the piece of paper in front of them they were both shocked, and they started to laugh, with Massimo saying, " How The Fcuk Did You Know That ? "

On my piece of paper was written 29 minutes.

So how did I know ?

Coaching The, " I ":

Football coaching isn't just about coaching football, it's about coaching people as well.

So my very first aim when I began to coach Franck was to get to know personally, as much as I could as a friend. We talked. We went out. We went to play snooker with the rest of the guys. I went to his house for a meal, and I saw how he lived. I got to know his wife, his family, and I spoke to his teamates and his friends.

Once I knew Franck inside out I could then put all this information together with the information that I had collected as I travelled to pre season games with his bother, along with Premiership games as well.

So I knew Franck inside out. I knew what motivated him on a professional level, and I knew what motivated him on a personal level as well. I knew his strengthas and I knew his weakness, both on and off the field. I knew how his mind worked on every level, be that in training, during a game, and in his own idividual way of getting ready for games.

No stone of any kind was left unturned, as each and every scrap of information about Franck meant that I could do things that others had never done, because when you coach and focus on the, " Team ", there's little time spent in coaching the, " I ".

Having watched the game live on TV, and then again on Match Of The Day, Franck could be clearly seen laughing and joking at the back of the tunnel, as the players waited to come onto the pitch.

Now, for some people, laughing, joking, or just talking to their teamates, or the opposition, as they wait to come on serves to keep their emotions in check, and from bubbling over, and that's fine. As I said at the start, what works for one player may not work for another. One size absolutely doesn't fit all. However, there are some people for which this doesn't work, and in fact it has the very opposite effect. Franck being one of them.

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I mentioned earlier that I went to play snooker with Franck and the guys, and there was a specific reason why we went there, and not somewhere like bowling. Snooker's obviously a game of great skill, where cue action and the ability to manipulate the cue ball are two key components of being good at the game. But there's also another third key component which determines how many needless mistakes a player makes, and that key component is concentration. It was always clear that both Franck and Massimo needed to work on this, as their ability to remain fully focused throught games was limited. 

Obviously, part of the attraction of going to play snooker at our basic level was to relax and unwind, and that's absolutely fine, as everyone needs to switch off from work from time to time. But even at our very poor level of play, it's so obvious when people are on form because their levels of concentration are palpably much, much higher.

Both Franck and Massimo would be able to start off totally focused, and fully concentrated, but they'd decline markedly as the games went by. This gave you a clear advantage because when you were behind you could easily distract both of them by talking about women, football on the play station, or by cracking a joke.

So the end result from all of this was the fact that there were times when Franck wouldn't be fully focused when he entered the pitch, as a result of his attention being diverted by his own anticks in the tunnel before hand.

Now, a lot of you will no doubt be saying that as a professional footballer, and like all good professional athletes, that Franck would no doubt have the ability to turn his focus on and off when needed, just like flicking a lightbulb switch on and off, and of course you'd be absolutely spot on. Franck may be a joker at heart, but as with virtually all footballers, football's his life, and so like I've said in other chapters Franck's no idiot, far from it. 

So where's the problem ?

The problem's very simple, and it takes me back to the very start of this chapter when I said, 

" Football Coaching Isn't Just About Coaching Football, It's About Coaching People As Well. "

This intern leads me on nicely to the very same earlier chapter entitled,

" Chapter 4:- Let's Begin By Changing Your Mental Approach To Games. "

This chapter talks specificly about Frank's own mindset, and it goes to the very heart of being able to coach, " People ".

Like many, Franck's overwhelming dream was to play for the national team. He absolutely lived for this when it came to football. For Franck, personally, this was the be all and end all, and this is why Franck, in this game, was unable to flick that switch in his brain which turned his concentration back on.

Why ?

Simple.

Because this game was live on French national TV, and there was every chance the national team coach was tuning in to watch Franck, or that at the very least that he'd get to know about it.

Here's a quick quote from Chapter 4.

" This isn’t to say that Franck under performs at every other game. No. But it does mean that at the games that Franck personally attaches an importance to, that he'll perform better there than at the games where he doesn’t apply any of his own personal motivations. Put simply, this means that if Franck was playing against Scunthorpe and the game was live on French national television for the French national coach to see, then Franck would play better in this game than if it wasn't. "

When Franck went onto that pitch and the game started, the worst possible thing that could've happened to Franck, happened. He made a simple, unforced mistake, which gave Arsenal the initiative to attack. As a direct result of the massive importance that he himself imposed on himself because of his overwhelming and burning desire to impress the French national team coach, instead of reacting calmly and thoughtfully, as he normally would've done in this circumstance, he panicked.

Then, the second worst possible thing that could've happened to Franck, happened. He made yet another simple, unforced mistake, which this time sent him into melt down. Two mistakes that took him 29 minutes to recover from.

All's well that end's well then ?

No, absolutely not because Franck, in that one game, by just those two simple errors may well just have lost him his slim hopes of the making the national team.

Why ?

Simple.

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" Harvard University Research States That When You Meet Somebody For The Very First Time That You've 90 Seconds To Make 90 Percent Of Your Impact. "

Thank you for your time.

Slim.