The Challenge of Enjoying Coaching

This article was originally posted at DanAbrahams.com and is a guest post to Dan's blog. Read the Original Post. 

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist helping people to high perform. Dan’s book "Soccer Tough 2: Advanced Psychology Techniques for Footballers" introduces soccer players to more cutting edge tools and techniques to help them develop the game of their dreams. 

Read Dan's latest article, "Gaining Player Trust," in Best of Amplified Soccer Training Volume 1.


So why do you do it? Why do you stand out there in the rain and the freezing cold temperatures or the intense heat? Why do you coach when so many aren’t grateful for your input or are ready to criticize at every opportunity? In this article Calgary Rangers coach Graham Marjoribanks gives you his thoughts on why he does it..and how he deals with the BS that accompanies the role.

There’s a lot written about football psychology – ways to get players and teams to perform better, all of which are fundamentally important. Your coaching armoury is incomplete if you fail to learn some methods to motivate your players effectively – to help them develop their belief and performance confidence, to help them focus and to help them deal with distractions better.

But there is something missing, something I have not seen addressed often enough. And its arguably even more critical to the long-term development pathway we are all part of. What about us, the coaches? How about we do some psychological analysis on ourselves?

Is coaching a logical choice?

Many of us give up countless hours for, quite frankly, little return. Arguably the return is often negative. Criticism from parents, the hyper-critical social media brigade, the lack of understanding from your friends and family about why you would choose to spend your time trying to improve other people’s children who, at the best of times, seem more than a little ungrateful for your unpaid efforts.

When I take a step back and think about motivating myself to coach (and be the best possible coach I can be) these are the kind of mental challenges that get in the way. Why bother? It’s tough…



X-Box to box midfielders

And let’s face it. Today’s kids are the X-Box generation. They are not bad kids…they are not lazy kids. They are kids being kids. But many kids of this generation love nothing better than to play the part of Messi on a computer game than strive to be Messi out on the pitch come rain or sun, hot or cold. Not all of them…but a lot of them.

I am entirely aware of my limited role in their development. Without the right attitude towards personal development, which is influenced heavily by the child’s environment, there is very little I can do to help them progress. If they don’t want to learn they won’t.

I’m a 10%er – all Coaches Are

How do we motivate ourselves to continue? I had a discussion about this topic with a fellow coach this morning. It was during this conversation that I worked out what I do and how I do it – what sustains me as a coach through the ups and downs.

I’ve worked out that I motivate myself through a form of self-delusion. I am extremely confident in my abilities to coach and improve children who are willing to listen, learn and work hard every week. I believe in myself – I know (or at least feel) I can make an impact.

But note what I said above about the type of kids I work best with – they have to be willing to listen, to learn and to work hard. And the reality is that you don’t always get that kind of child turning up to training. But when you do you can really make an impact…

…and when I say ‘really’ I mean about 10%. I see myself as the 10% guy. I can accelerate their development in a way that they would struggle to do on their own or just by playing countless hours of street football. Let me be clear – my contribution is 10% at most.

The obvious link between youth football and beheading concubines

I used to be guided by the adage from the book ‘The Art of War’ (by Sun Tzu) where he beheads the concubines who do not listen to his instructions; if I explain it once and you don’t understand, it’s my fault. If I explain it again and you still don’t do it, it’s either because you can’t or you won’t and, either way, you are not capable of improving.

I don’t follow that any more. It’s too depressing. So I try and try again, trying to find out ways to modify my explanation in the hope that I see improvement. I know deep down where the issue likely lies and that 9 out of 10 times I’m wasting my time. If the child doesn’t want to practice and learn, they won’t. But if the tenth one does learn, it makes all of the other fruitless attempts worth it.

So that’s how I see it – I delude myself that I can make an impact always – and I always strive to – with the deep lying knowledge that I probably can’t make in impact with the kid who just doesn’t want to be there. This sounds strange but it’s how I deal with the challenges of coaching.

My psychological toolbox

So that raises the killer question; why do we subject ourselves to this? That one is easy. When one of the kids scores a last minute winner using something you taught them, there are no words to describe the emotion. All the negativity and criticism gets momentarily forgotten for that fleeting high. That sounds awful like addiction to me.

So there you go. I’m basically a delusional addict and it helps me get through the day. If only I got paid, perhaps I could afford to see a real psychologist in later life.

Please comment on the good, the bad and the ugly

What tools and tricks do you use to make it through the hard times? Do you feel you play more than a 10% role in the development of the kids you coach?


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Dan Abrahams

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist who works alongside some of the leading players, teams, coaches and organisations in the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating easy to understand and simple to use techniques and performance philosophies. A former professional golfer and PGA golf coach Dan has a First Class Honours degree in psychology and Masters degree in sport psychology. Academically he is visiting lecturer at several universities and he holds registration with the HCPC (meaning he is legally safe to practice as a psychologist). Dan works in all sport but specialises in football/soccer and golf. He is Lead Psychologist for England Golf and he works with players from leading amateur through to Tour players. In football/soccer psychology he is regarded as a leader in the field. He has some of the leading turnaround case studies in Premier League history and he has written two international bestselling books. One of these books, Soccer Tough, has been heralded one of the most important books in football. He currently works with players, teams and organisations across 'Planet Football.' Dan also works in the Corporate Sector delivering his sport psychology techniques and philosophies to individuals and groups.