Learn from the top – Focus on the Individual

“When building your philosophy on coaching, its important to seek knowledge and guidance from the very top coaches in the game”

The quotes below are ones that guide my belief that individual development is key to managing talent effectively – and ultimately creating a winning team.

When I discuss individual development – people automatically believe I am talking about creating “showboaters” and players who can do twenty step overs before making a pass.

What I’m actually talking about is – FOOTBALL IDENTITY


A players football identity, is their vision of themselves playing at their very best level and having a positive impact on the outcome of a game. When a player has this clear vision in their minds, they can set about working to create this level as much as possible and also using this as a basis to improve further (in all areas of their game).

Therefore, your football identity is similar to your personality, its a very personal thing and something that you need to take ownership of and develop/grow over time.

Its my experience, that young players need a strong guide/mentor in order to assist them with this process of discovery.

“It’s about unblocking peoples limits – allowing them to have greater self belief – and then fulfilling their potential”

For example – all people have a personality outside of the pitch, built up of strengths and weaknesses and often how we see life is a direct line to how we mentally associate with things. It’s the same for footballers when inside the pitch. So whether it’s technical, tactically, physical or most definitely in young pro’s  – psychological – then we need to get inside this and open up possibilities rather than closing them.

It sounds very complex, but its really about being an effective communicator and giving your time to the players both outside and inside the pitch. Its about “going the extra mile” 

It begins with the 1 to 1 relationship and develops each day via open questioning and then clever planning around the training on the pitch, basically understanding people and applying good communication skills.

What is your playing identity/personality?
How do you train it every day?
How does it fit inside a team? 
How good are you at building relationships?

Are some of the key questions to discuss with your players in order to begin a process of making them less dependant on you (coaches in general) and more independent as a footballer.

The next process – Go inside these answers and develop a plan of action, work at it daily, revert back to it when required and most definitely review and amend as time progresses.

Its also worth remembering that the best players, are the best because they are obsessed with their profession and wanting to improve. Coaches are often scared to coach/guide these types of players, but these are the ones that want it the most!!

Its my personal opinion, that all players are developers and this model is just as important with young developing players as it is with senior professionals who are striving to stay at the very elite level of the sport.

“Its about creating a growth mentality amongst your players”

That is why the Jose Mourinho quote below is so interesting to me “Football is a human science” 



My Journey of discovery

“South America is still the supplier of the worlds most talented players, especially those who play with freedom, creativity and invention”

A big part of me coming here (Brazil) was to understand the culture of South American players and football in general. I have been lucky to work with South American players in the past – but predominantly, I have worked with players from across Europe – therefore, this is a missing link in my development and a fantastic opportunity to learn more about people, which is the key.




  1. I’m neither a coach or football player but I am the soccer dad of a developing 8 year old. Your approach to developing yourself as a coach and your football development philosophy is inspiring.

    For the last 6 months I’ve been asking my son to emulate other players he sees doing well on the pitch and now I realise that has shackled his own personal development and freedom of expression.

    Thank you very much for this blog!


  2. I find this topic fascinating as it is something I am constantly thinking about. My son is of a decent playing standard (he is at Cat 1 academy in the UK) but is at the beginning stages of discovering his player identity. Are there things I can do to better support him in this?

    At the moment I look at the player’s he is drawn to and use them as the starting point for exploring whether his attraction to their ‘style’ resonates because it is a clue to his emerging playing personality.

    Also what role does ‘context’ play in developing a player’s identity – and by context I mean the prevailing style/footballing culture of the environment a player is developed in?

    I ask because I recently watched an England U20 World Cup game against Argentina. While both teams were filled with technically and tactically accomplished players, I couldn’t help but wondering if each team’s style of play (i.e. the way football is played in each country) had an impact on the ability of the players to express their playing identity.

    I was also left wondering if each player’s ability (or license) to express their playing personality would have been different had they been in the other team.

    I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on this.

    Thanking you in advance!


    1. Thanks for the comments

      Firstly – Good luck to your son for his journey and development.

      Your are right, the club style, the culture etc all have a big part and influence over a players opportunity to progress and how they see themselves. This can also be changed from coach to coach in an academy and also in senior football when a coach is under pressure.

      What is important is not to completely change or lose yourself as a player in order to adapt 100% to something that you are not.

      To do this, would not be beneficial for the player as inside – they will not be happy or comfortable.

      I think what more important is to focus purely on – What you are good at – and never lose sight of this. This is why you are at the level you are playing at.

      The key is to use this as a model to improve around your strengths. So rather than talking about areas you need to improve (as a negative thought) – you focus on maintaining and enhancing your strengths (number of ways to execute them).

      For example, a good wide player that is one footed, must continue to dribble and cross on their best foot and also strengthen their qualities by improving dribbling and crossing on their other foot. They also must go into what types of cross they are good at, what types they must improve and recognising the best type to use in different areas of the pitch.

      Strengthening your strong points is a much better way of thinking about improving.

      Another aspect to consider is – as young players grow older – they sometimes become anxious about their pathway or next step. I think having clear facts and understanding of what comes next is very important in order to remove this anxious feeling and almost liberate the player via greater understanding.

      thanks again


      1. Hi Michael,

        Thank you for taking the time to reply and thanks for your advice and insight.

        I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this at #nextgencoaches virtual conference.

        Until then…keep up the good work!


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