It has been said over the years that the best coaches are the best communicators. These communicators not only manage to convey their messages to their players but also have them carry out those actions on the pitch. That used to be hard enough but in todays modern world it would appear that this task is becoming that much harder due to technology.
As mentioned on this site back in 2011 it is vital when a team is on the road that the hotel they stay at has free wifi for the young players, as if you do not give them access to the internet they feel as if they are in solitary confinement. Yet this has its problems too as witnessed at the London Olympics where Australian swimmers expected to medal admitted spending time on twitter in the early hours of the morning before key races.
Now Colchester United Manager Joe Dunne has bemoaned the fact that his players no longer communicate and interact together.
“When the players come into training, they are on their phones,they train and then when they finish they come back into the changing rooms and get on their phones again! I’ve already banned phones from the canteen.Players sit on a bus with tables, four of them. We [when he was a player] used to play cards and talk, but they don’t talk, no one talks any more.” Dunne is quoted as saying. “Every manager will tell you – no one talks anymore. They are tweeting and phoning instead.”
Some could say that there is an irony to this whole situation, that the ‘geeks’ who came up with the technology, have finally put one over the ‘jocks,’ who if movies are anything to go by were always the popular good looking guys who got the money, the cars and the girls.
The interesting fact is technology is not only destroying team spirit and the ability to listen and comprehend verbal instructions, but it appears that it is also affecting players abilities to see what is going on around them, their peripheral vision. It has been said recently that young players who sit at home after training playing Playstation or on their X Box are losing the ability to pick up movement around them. They are developing ‘hard vision’ and can only see what is directly in front of them. What is interesting is that the poorer nation’s athletes, who cannot afford computer games, are showing a much higher level of ‘soft vision’ than these players, in other words are much more aware of players around them and the movement of team mates.
Dunne has also revealed another problem with the dawn of technology, and the insular world it creates. ” Players put their head phones on, get their iPads out, and off they go. I’m thinking – ‘sit and talk to each other!’ – I think in 20 years’ time the art of conservation will be dead.”
He believes that this modern world has meant that players no longer accept criticism in any form,“Players don’t like it – ‘criticise me?’ – they say. They don’t put their hand up and say that was my fault. But that’s how we got respect, by responding to criticism and coming out of it the other side. I think a lack of social interaction off the pitch has an effect on it. It is a lonely existence. You are communicating with a phone, it can only be an addiction, it’s like drink and drugs and cigarettes.”
Certainly Colchester fans will agree with him as based on their current run of form, the players have lost the ability to communicate. However he makes some very valid points, just last season one ex professional coach was giving a young player constructive criticism, and the youngster, who had never played any level of representative football in Australia, apart from being involved in a development program, had the gall to say to the coach, ‘you have no idea the standard I have played, so don’t try and tell me to change my game!”
Coaching may benefit from player tracking devices and various monitoring systems, but when it comes to communication, the job has become a whole lot harder, and club Chairmen need to be aware of that fact.