There's a famous story from the early 1960's when President John F Kennedy was touring the NASA Space Centre in America for the first time, he approached a janitor working there and asked him what his role was. He replied 'Mr. President, I'm helping to put a man on the moon'
Collaboration between all departments at a Football Club is vital if you want to be successful. From the Owners, the Board of Directors, Manager, Coaching Staff, Medical & Sport Science Department, Analysts, Kit Technicians, Groundsman, Chefs, Administration staff tucked away in an office, the sizeable Academies we now have, the Cleaners, Media, Commercial and Community Departments, the Coach Driver and between the Players - in the team, out of the team, young players making their way along the pathway to the team.
It doesn't matter how big or how small the role is, if you're involved, you have an important role to play in making the Club a success.
Successful families are successful teams. The spirit and culture of everyone connected and collaborating, understanding the big picture of want it is you have set out to achieve, where you want to go to, valuing and respecting the people you surround yourself and work with, it can take you a long way if you are, Together as One !
As many teams are away on pre-season tours at the moment, a couple of examples of collaboration from Southampton's successful 2011 tour to Interlaken in Switzerland are below. Firstly our Groundsman Andy Gray playing his part in laying the foundations during pre-season for our promotion winning season.
I had the pleasure of travelling with Andy to assess our training camps well in advance. In 2012 we had a trip over to Evian in France in preparation for Southampton's pre-season tour. It was good to spend time with our Head Groundsman. We had spoken most days at the training ground at Staplewood in Hampshire, however with just the two of us travelling this time, a longer period without interruptions was beneficial. Andy and his staff were good at their jobs and spending time with him I was able to fully appreciate his expertise as a groundsman and get to know him a little better as a person and family man.
It also reconfirmed to me that we had good people working with us at Southampton.
Another example of collaboration from the tour is with long standing Club Physiotherapist Mo Gimpel, who was now the Head of Medicine and Sport Science, and some of my other valued coaching staff. Every morning at breakfast, Mo would touch base with every player and using an Ipad would take a very simple wellness check of the players asking them a few simple, however valuable questions. Marking themselves out of 10 the players answered 1. How well did you sleep ? 2. Muscle soreness if any and where ? 3. Joint pain if any and where ? 4. Motivation to train this morning ?
Mo would then sit down with Assistant Manager Andy Crosby, 1st Team Coach Dean Wilkins, Head of Sport Science Nick Harvey and myself, and we would go through every players scores. This allowed us to have an idea as to the players condition going into the planned morning session and any changes Nick, Andy, Dean or myself felt we needed to make to implement it.
It's vital you work smartly during pre-season. I would want the players to train every day, however with my experience of 35 years of pre-seasons and 10 years as a Club Physiotherapist at Scunthorpe United, that the increased risk of injury during pre-season, a period when you are overloading the body to improve fitness levels, is high. Previous data from an FA Audit of injuries has proved this.
Given the information gathered by Mo a discussion would then take place as to the risk factor to the player. We had a planned periodised training programme for not only pre-season tour but for the whole season.
If a player had marked that he had had a poor nights sleep for example, Mo or one of the staff would have asked the player why ? It could be that the room was too hot and he was restless or the mattress was not comfortable or his room mate was snoring ! This wouldn't stop him training, and would be a simple solution for the next evening. Sleep is vital to recovery, especially when in a high intensity period of training like pre-season.
If the player had marked a 9/10 for muscle soreness, this would be flagged up. Again asking a question to the player why ?
Listening to a player who knows his own body is vital. A player should take notice of his body and how it is responding to training. I used to say to the players 'you are a self employed businessman and your body is your business, take care of it. We can surround you with expertise and educate you into why things are beneficial however it is you the player that must take responsibility'.
A simple explanation for the players muscle soreness could be that the previous days training session was very hard for him. A player could score a 9/10 on his R.P.E ( Rate of Percieved Exertion ) This is a simple mark the players record after a training session. He had then developed DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) today. Why was this ? Had he gone through his recovery protocol after training ?
We called this 'Taking Care of Business' Several things that aid recovery following a training session.
Re-hydrate, fluid intake - water or an electrolyte. This will have been lost with training especially in hot climates.
A protein or carbohydrate shake to aid muscle repair.
Food ! Nutrition is so important to an athlete especially for recovery. We had the excellent Mike Naylor of the English Institute of Sport educate the players on Nutrition.
Swim - After every morning session in Interlaken we would bike back towards the hotel, stop off and jump into the beautiful ice cold lake. Water immersion is beneficial to muscle recovery, what the correct temperature is though is open to debate.
Sleep, get your feet up and rest.
Had he missed something ? If so why ? He would then be assessed by the physiotherapist to make sure there was no muscle tear. On the back of this information we would decide his part in the mornings training session. I want every player to train every day, missing a single session is a wasted opportunity. However sometimes you can modify a players load during a session. For example if the session involved 12 sprints maybe we reduce his to 8 sprints.
Mental toughness is a major part of Elite sport. Sport hurts and a player needs to push himself to be the best he can be. I've mentioned in a previous post on pre-season testing, and gauging the attitude and character of a player when asked to perform a VO2Max test on a treadmill, and if he has the desire to truly push himself.
Planning and preparation are key to success however the ability to adjust the plan is critical. Our daily breakfast meeting as a staff allowed us to make sure we could maximise the time during the next training session. Be smart in how you train, and when you train make sure your intensity is maximum. Otherwise it's a wasted opportunity to improve.
I've highlighted the tour to Interlaken in Switzerland with Southampton in 2011 as a small example.
I've been very fortunate to work with some very good people. I believe it's important to surround yourself with good people. To develop the culture that can bring you the success you desire. There's a book by Jim Collins called Good to Great. He mentions about getting good people on the bus with you, and then deciding what seat they will take on it.
Whilst at Reading the late Eamonn Dolan would say to me, 'We have good people here at Reading' He was right, we did,