Przemysław Mamczak: This is the Teaching Football podcast, episode number 32.
PM: Przemysław Mamczak…
Paweł Szymański: …and Paweł Szymański.
PM: Welcome to the thirty-second episode of the Teaching Football podcast. Our guests today are people more connected to basketball than football. I personally called one of them the star of the weekend in my report from the Congress of Psychology and Sport last October. A very warm welcome to Professor Tadeusz Huciński.
Tadeusz Huciński: Good afternoon.
PM: And alongside him his assistant – Tomasz Wilczewski.
Tomasz Wilczewski: Afternoon.
PM: Gentlemen, shall we start by introducing yourselves to those who may not have heard about Imopeksis? Could you please say a few words about yourselves?
TH: In terms of my experience, over the course of 35 years I was in charge of men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as, at the same time, the national team – nine years as assistant coach and nine years as head coach. Ten final tournaments of the European Championships, including one second place and final tournaments of the World Cup, including one third place. At the same time, I was continuously in what I call the scientific practice, rather than literature. I would transfer my experiences from science to practice and from practice to science and some of those experiences led to the emergence of the method we spread – called Imopeksis. It is about ways of judging players, usually a coach who approaches a player doesn’t know whether to do it through his intentions, motivations, emotions, concentration, but maybe I will explain this later.
PM: And Tomek…
TW: Well, I was lucky enough to play basketball at the professional level for a few years, earlier I had gone through the full sporting pathway and that was how I met professor, at coaching courses, and it turned out that I did not know much about being a coach. I would make huge mistakes in my coaching practice, everything came to light. So today I am professor’s assistant and we are building a National Game Model in basketball and not only basketball because we are trying to adapt the methods, which we are going to speak about, to other sports, too.
PM: Exactly, I don’t think it would be wise to turn off your radios right now, because football coaches are also going to find something for themselves in this episode. I’m not sure I can start from anything other than Imopeksis. I have received as many as a dozen or so messages about where you could actually get this book from in recent weeks and months. Tell me gents, is there actually still any chance of being able to read this book, what does it look like?
TH: I’m employed by the Koszalin University of Technology who published the book and as it stands last month I agreed to a reprint because the book had spread around, so it may have already been published but you can download and get it on the website of the Koszalin University of Technology Publishing House.
PM: Well, I think it is a weight off many coaches’ minds. So what is Imopeksis?
TH: This is so many years… You could say that working and having direct contact with players for five, six hours every day, in difficult situations I often used to approach and, so to speak, waffle, mostly about what I was thinking rather than putting myself in the position of a player. That was my basic mistake. Not for the whole of my career, of course – for half of my career. After the first fifteen years you could say that I had matured into the fact that you had to get through to a player. In connection with the above, while continuously studying psychology and pedagogy, I also have a degree in philosophy and so on. I kept looking for a kind of one idea into how to get a feel for a player, whether they had positive intentions towards me, whether I had not given them too big a task, how I adjusted their motivation and at what level their anxiety, disordered thoughts, confidence and uncertainty were. Above all, I used to work a lot with women, so in that way how to put yourself in a woman’s emotions and the basic thing I often ask coaches is: listen, show me a methodology, how to concentrate, so in what way a given player is concentrated at a given moment, in a given situation in a game, in a difficult situation, before the game, during the game, after the game, concentration keeps, you could say, accompanying a player and the coach should put himself in such position. But not from his own point of view, but from the point of feelings of the player. This is common to all games – football, volleyball, basketball, handball. And the processes are always the same, so you could say that a psychological look into a player, from the player, I mean his feelings, leads to a situation where suddenly the player begins to function on his own, and is not menial to the tasks of the coach. Imopeksis helps in this.
PM: If anybody of you has listened closely, you may have already decoded the words forming the abbreviation.
TH: Indeed. Intention, motivation, confidence, emotions, concentration, group cohesion, intuition and finally effectiveness.
PM: Okay, but I would also like to ask you about another word that has been spoken about – player empowerment. What is it and how is it different from objectification because you write a lot about it in the book?
TH: Great question, it is clear than you have understood this well because this is the fundamental question. It is communication with a player, if a player comes to me, he will listen to me in 60% and is empowered. If I come to a player and impose myself, I objectify to him and he listens to me in 30%. Every coach would like a player to listen to them, so they need to wait for the situation. They need to listen and then refer the player back to the player. In football this often happens. Referring back by using key words: “think about how to do it, Joe”, “think about how to do it, Anne”, think it over, do as you think, and not making them going back from us with a menial piece of advice. Under no circumstances. And then a situation occurs where the player begins to play without technique, without tactics, only what he can do because he plays by himself.
PM: You educate coaches, don’t you?
TH: We do. Basketball ones, but recently we’ve been having more and more contact with football coaches. Above all, I have been working together with a club from the city of Dąbrowa Górnicza for a about four years now. There are about twenty coaches there who try to instil the Imopeksis. I mean they are convinced of it. I was in the city of Katowice at a recent, you could say, football congress, 300 coaches listened to my lecture. It was well received, I’ve been invited to give other lectures, but I started with football when I was invited for the first time six years ago, where for the first time I passed on Imopeksis through a coach, mister Szyngiera, an employee of the Academy of Physical Education in Katowice, who invited me to his football studies. It may have been a group A or B, I don’t know those rankings. And then you could say there was the first step of interest in this way of player management, because it is not a question of football, volleyball, basketball, I mean technique, tactics, but of empowerment and player management.
PS: Before we get to details around the words forming Imopeksis, I would like to ask you Tomek now, what problems and difficulties do you most often see in coaches who arrive at your camps, what difficulties do they have in adapting to this method or what mistakes do they most often make?
TW: Well, the answer is actually very practical. The coaches who we meet are knowledgeable when it comes to the theory of training, basically they have technical and tactical knowledge, they know something about the physical aspect, about nutrition, but the least about psychopedagogy. And the whole plan of the training courses of our clinic is about putting as much emphasis as possible on those psychopedagogical aspects which provide 80% of success, according to the Pareto principle. This process works with anyone from a nursery school pupil to a professional. Technique, tactics on the same level, not a problem to take and watch Real Madrid’s tactics. Nutrition? Everybody already knows exactly what, when and how to supplement themselves and so on. The physical aspect? We know the most recent findings here. And psychopedagogy, called Imopeksis is being fully shaped, thanks to professor’s publications you can train and shape it towards such a common direction that we have no influence over it. We have no influence over intelligence, temperament and if we do it is to a very little extent. And the whole Imopeksis from empowerment, so from intentions, everything can have its order. And now I will respond lightly to this empowerment. It often occurs, what professor has said, that we impose ourselves. After a few years of working together, a coach who imposes themselves every day “corrects this, corrects that, play in this direction and not the other, well done now, better now” and so on brings about a situation when the coach forms bad intentions towards a player, towards a group, forms an unofficial group, a conflict occurs and generally the team falls apart. I have oversimplified this a lot, but the whole process often ends like this and unfortunately at a cost of young players.
PM: Having read the book, I am wondering… Our whole system, at school, football and basketball trainings is turned upside down…
TH: We are still under the influence of the so-called socialist education. I will use this expression… I mean authority, this is the foundation. Because if I have the power, I can use it. Imopeksis shows the first step – give the power back to the player, activate the player, do not judge the player, get rid of their fears and concerns. You help them in gaining confidence and then, when they gain the confidence, they will start to function on a higher level that the coach expected. The problem is we often do not give them the chance, the coach imposes themselves. I don’t want to have a player who does what I want him to. I organize the thinking process, I organize exercises. Not the language of talk, but the language of exercises is fundamental. In a weekly training plan, in a training session, I get the feel for what a player needs, he will often tell me, but I don’t say it in words, but through exercises. And during the exercise I observe what they choose. In the 2000s we had Real Madrid coaches come to Poland. One of my colleagues had a 10-year-old son and he said: listen, do you know what’s happening? They show him a movement and look at what he chooses for himself. And they guide him. And they don’t tell him to go left and right. The majority of our coaches, who were watching those Real coaches, did not understand the whole methodology of Spanish training. This one example shows that you need to give a player a chance to choose in relation to their personality. Football or volleyball are only a tool to develop a personality. This is why parents send their children, even though they think about the likes of Lewandowski and Piątek, you need those star players, so that children activate their passion, but in reality parents mostly also do it in order for their child to develop their personality. Even though not everyone understands how to work together with parents, but I will share my experiences on this when you ask me later.
TW: I would now also answer Paweł’s question about how we work during the Polish Basketball Clinic. And this relates to the whole concept of professional sport. We divide coaches into a system of technical coaches, so a level at which they supervise all the technical elements, observe a right execution of movements and so on. Above them there is an assistant coach, not a head coach yet. The assistant coach helps coaches adjust training exercises, right exercises to a given group, adapt a lot of variables that support the training process. But at the highest level there is a psychopedagogy coach, like Mourinho, Phil Jackson, Kazimierz Górski. And now how to divide this? Often a head coach takes everything upon himself, starts to supervise the technique, takes charge of a warm-up and so on. This is a fundamental mistake. To be a proper coach you have to skip observing the technical system, selection of training exercises and not until then concentrate on the child, how they react when they’ve succeeded in doing something, when they haven’t, how to react, how to finish training. At the very beginning what twos and fours to select, who with whom and why and what comes from it. So it can be said that there are three levels of being a coach. At the beginning you are a coach of simple technique, later a coach at a higher level connects everything and at the end you see what is the furthest away from the ball.
PM: Ok, professor, is it your own concept based on years of experience and some science from your own pathway, or is it perhaps drawn, I don’t know, from abroad? And I would also follow this up, because you’ve talked about our political system, is it different abroad?
TH: I will answer the first part of the question first. The experience does not come from literature, I don’t like to pattern upon anything… This is my full empirical experience, 1830 professional games, 400 matches at international level and those experiences, I would say, stemmed from each day. For 15 years I was a trainer and then I became a proper coach. And at the end I said that I had to share this knowledge to all team sports because you cannot divide this, the principles are the same. So for a couple of years you could say that I have been sharing this. And going back to the socialist education, in other countries such as Spain and the Scandinavian countries, where socialism was not dictated so much, yes, it is easier to understand another person and a player.
PS: What was the path-breaking moment when all of a sudden you wanted to become a coach, rather than a trainer? I think this is probably quite an interesting thing.
TH: Yeah, well… The third place at the World Cup was the path-breaking moment, in the sense that we played a World Cup game when we could have reached the Top Four and I didn’t know what to do as a coach, I mean to win. We played China, technically outstanding players and so on. I took senior players, three girls and said: girls, this is a cassette, watch it and decide how you want to play. They did, the following day they were in charge of training… And then we went out to play. I didn’t believe we could beat those Chinese players, out of fear I surrendered my power, out of cowardice. I lacked a plan and knowledge for that game. Every time a person has a barrier like this in front of themselves, they develop and look for solutions. At the end of the second quart, we jumped out to press all over the pitch and won 12 points in a row. I would never put pressure, no coach would have done it, against better-trained players. Then at the break I didn’t let my assistants into the dressing room, I only stood at the back and they gave themselves a team talk. What an atmosphere there was, how much they wanted to win and keep that 12-point advantage. And they did. I confessed then in front of them that they won that game. For so many years I had kept imposing myself, my selfishness and narcissism, all the worst things, yet for 17 years I was working for the same club, for 18 years for the national team, so I don’t know why, maybe my knowledge let me stay so long. And too long because maybe I would have matured quicker. I did mature and then it went well with ease because I won the Polish Championship in the city of Gdynia. I would function a lot better and then I was trying to pass on this knowledge more and more. By the way, I have already written 28 books.
PM: Is it key to take that step back and understand that we, as coaches, are not the most important ones here?
TH: This is the most difficult thing. I mean… I look and speak to coaches and I really, really like all of them and so on, but when I see that selfishness… When coaches come to me and begin the conversation from the word “I”, I say to them: “please leave and come back in again because you’ve begun from ‘I’”. Notice how many times we come in and begin from “I”. First of all, you always have to look at the situation. How many times Tomek, who by now functions very well, but I will use his example, comes in, doesn’t see the situation, but has already seen me. Huge success, but he also needs to see the group. So first the situation, the group, so I come in to the dressing room, first I see the situation, I start looking at the worst player, what form he is in because he epitomises the form of the team, a regular starter always hides it because he’s experienced, you can’t see it through him and so on. But I talk about the team. I look from the worst to the best, then I look at the group which functions and should function in the game, I look at, so to speak, regulars and I’m almost not there, there is no coach. The coach is five steps, six steps… The proper coach is like from the team to me, and the ordinary coach and the trainer is the one who, when comes into the dressing room, imposes themselves, fresh tie, boots, haircut, brilliantine and so on. And they yell on the pitch. I’ve done so much work with coaches in order for them not to raise their voice. If you’re yelling at a player, it means that you’re yelling at yourself. I also give the example with Tomek. Tomek, if I give you a task and say: ‘do this and this’ and Tomek does it wrong. I say, who is responsible for this? The coach. The coach because he gave the task, Tomek did it, so why am I shouting at him? I am shouting at myself. And when I’m shouting at myself, I’m calling for help. Every coach who is shouting at a player is calling for help. He needs to be helped. This is the first thing. And we teach coaches this, I mean… It is a shock sometimes, but when they do it for the first time, they will feel a wholly different atmosphere in a group, sometimes coaches change completely during one lecture, one contact, one training observation and so on. I haven’t yet met any who would try and then negate this method.
PM: Professor, every time when we are not in a majority we seem to be perceived as odd. I don’t know if this is the right word, but are you a kind of an innovator when it comes to the process of coaching in team sports?
TH: I’m a practitioner. Most coaches, once they’ve read five or six books, they take the definitions and not from their own experience because they don’t have any kind of large experience, using those definitions, it could be said, they gain the market in a way. But because they come across people who are completely unprepared, whatever they say is good. They will use some foreign terminology, make a couple of jokes. Everybody benefits from knowledge and in my case, you can say, it is a radical practice. A radical one that produces results. I believe that it will take five, six years until everybody will be functioning on the principles of Imopeksis. I’m convinced of it because it brings results.
PM: Wow, do you think it is possible to turn people’s heads so quickly?
TH: If they want to, then yes.
PS: But how to convince others when in reality it seems to us that you work in quite a niche circle and when it comes to football, this circle seems probably even narrower than certainly in basketball. It will probably be hard.
PM: And for one professor Huciński there are fifty or hundred practitioners who prefer other solutions.
TH: Well, constant dropping wears away a stone. I already have examples right now – two coaching groups are striving for activating this on their blogs. The interest is huge, so we are launching those blogs to share information. There are two, in a moment there will be another two, I think. So it is a matter of time because then, it could be said, it goes very quickly. The important thing is to plant the seed and we are doing it strongly at this moment.
PS: Let’s hope it will translate to this approach in the not too distant future.
TH: There is no other way.
PS: Right, it’s been said not to raise your voice. How to transfer this though to senior football? I kept wondering, while reading Imopeksis, whether we should in any way change our coaching process, the relationships with players as senior football coaches in comparison to youth football coaches?
TH: Indeed, it’s the same everywhere. Take a look, Nawałka is calm and Probierz goes crazy. I spoke to Probierz once and told him to stop going crazy and so on. I say this on air because it’s true.
PM: And what did he say? These are different styles too, right?
TH: It was a short contact. I remember that the then owner of Lechia Gdańsk, who was my friend and national team coach, asked me to speak to him. He didn’t quite get it, but I’m sure he will change, it’s a matter of time. Just have a look at Kazimierz Górski. I remember that we were in charge of the national teams at the same time. Górski would always walk around, look at how the likes of Szarmach, Gorgoń and Deyna were. And do you know what opinion was shaped? That he had to have Strejlau and Gmoch around him because he couldn’t take charge of training. This was shaped, how malicious. But he was a proper coach! And that’s why he had success. He was natural, from the city of Lviv. He was a proper coach, he had that feel for everything. There was also a coach called Mięta in women’s basketball, I would learn a lot from him. Phil Jackson who would sit in the fifth row and keep looking at relationships between players and so on. What Tomek has said, it is not that you come and judge a player on their technical ability. Not at all, you need to get the feel for their needs and desires. You need to understand their emotions at any given moment. I learned those emotions because for most of the time I was in charge of women – they taught me how to sense emotions.
PM: We should probably dedicate another episode to relations between men and women.
TH: I believe women’s football is developing a lot. It is a matter of time until we have women’s football at a high level. I think there are more registered female footballers than basketball players of both genders. The time will come.
TW: There are more female footballers than male and female basketball players put together. This is the number. We have spoken here about cultural conditions, why is it that Imopeksis is good? What professor has in himself is such innovative traits, he invents and is ten years ahead of the situation. In Poland in all sports we try different models. In basketball – a Spanish, American, Balkan model. In football too – a Dutch model, for example and generally we keep imitating something, we make a copy of it and every time unfortunately it ends in failure. And now the whole Imopeksis is built on professor’s practical experience so that it is optimal for our young players, but not only. Hence the confirmation that in both youth and qualified sport those processes can work. A recent example of handball. Unfortunately, an unsuccessful international tournament as a result of an approach that was different to the Polish mentality. We do not like it when anything is imposed on ourselves or someone tells us what to do. We will always fight as a great nation, but we will also activate our intrinsic motivation. Hence Imopeksis… The main aim of Imopeksis is to release the whole potential of a child, young and professional sportsmen and women.
TH: After three days of a training course, mostly, it could be said, we start at 4PM on a Friday and finish at tea time on a Sunday, everyone understands Imopeksis.
TH: Tomek doesn’t want to listen to me sometimes because has his own opinions, he is stubborn and that’s good because I really, really like autonomous people. I love children who are stubborn. They are outstanding but we are not capable of managing them. You can’t shout at them, but you need to make them interested. As I remember from football, coaches come, a granddad comes – what to do? They complain to the coach and tell him to shout. How much work needs to be done to convince the granddad and the dad that you cannot shout at the child, that you need to make them interested, if you cannot, then you begin to shout.
PM: You’ve opened the door, so we’re coming in. What to do with a naughty kid, how to deal with them?
TH: Above all, you need to motivate and show them what the purpose in a given technical element is, give them a chance to work on their own. The fundamental thing of Imopeksis is tests. Tests of technical ability. They used to be very popular in Poland, then they would only make fitness tests, how far they jumped, how far they ran and so on. Everything is important, but that was secondary. And now a child marks themselves on their own. If you come to our camp, the first thing you will see is a diagnosis. There 326 technical details and a child can mark themselves on their own with the help of their coach first. But after a week the child knows what they are learning. We had examples – a daughter of the outstanding Agnieszka Szott had zero points when she first came. After a week she left with 118 points, in terms of her progress. And these tests, if I can make the naughty one interested, they will want to be the best possible. The fundamental thing is that so that a child judges themselves on their own, the naughty one does not like to be judged by the coach. The naughty one will not judge themselves under the dictatorship of a coach’s will, but they are the valuable ones because they are creative. If you are creative, you have your own world and you know how to develop it and suddenly somebody comes to you and tells you how it should be. This causes a protest. Resistance. Then violence and you are no longer naughty. Whose fault is it? The coach’s. And if you give it to him, they will accept it and choose what they want. The most important thing that they will feel they make progress, the child begins to develop and becomes the best. Otherwise we have everybody being the same. Tomek was once in charge of a group of young players and all of them ended up being similar to him. After three years. He says: damn, only little Tomeks are running around here [laughs].
TW: After three years of judging, imposing myself, valuing and so on.
PM: Listen, how about a specific, football example now? Of a specific problem you solved. Could you even quote how specifically you managed to get into the head of a boy or a girl?
TW: Let’s look at games. This is an interesting situation because we will refer to parents. In basketball, but you can also transfer this into football, children who are on the bench manage children who are on the pitch. Children on the bench could be under lots of different emotions. One may think why they are not playing, that the coach may not like them, another one may think about their partner, that they were better than them but were not playing, the third one may be afraid and wish they were not able to come on, the fourth one may not be interested in anything and be thinking about going to a family party or another negative thought about a partner twisting their leg so that they could come on. These are lots of different emotions. If a child who is on the bench manages another child who is on the pitch, they automatically play. In simple causes, for example the number of passes, interceptions, vertical passes, runs.
TH: Indeed, but pay attention to causes, not results.
TW: Of course. We do not analyse the fact that one child scores a goal but what I said. The number of passes forward, backwards, first touches and either they make notes on their own on the bench or they tell them to the coach and he makes notes. The relationship with parents would be exactly the same. There are ten parents and every single one of them is under different emotions. The coach is poor because my son doesn’t play. I once gave parents sheets of paper on which they were asked to make notes of grips on the ball. A simple grip on the ball by a child, the level was such that we were not interested in points or anything else. One mum refused saying that she would not be observing that, that this was the coach’s role. I told her that in some time her child would have nothing to talk to her about. She was incensed asking how, why and so on. Because you will be no partner for him. Your child will gain the knowledge quicker than you. Children outpace us, adults, many times when it comes to learning. And now I think six weeks have passed, so six games. The woman visibly wrote: “minus four grips on the ball, later minus to, then six, eight, four” and after a few weeks came and said that her son could now grip on the ball. She didn’t account for the score, whether the match was lost or won, but for that small element where over the course of 10 years there are hundreds of them. And, truth be told, in this way you can train a complete player. But I will go back to the parents. If parents write observations, they will be able to judge their children properly. Let’s say I would like my child to be a great striker. But it turns out that in all causes, everything in attack is negative, but they are a great defender. So I will no longer wish for my son to score goals, but I discover defensive qualities in him. Then I will understand his position on the pitch and so on. Going further, there will be a common language to speak at home and not one like: bad when you lost, good when you won. Even then when you win against a poor team, it is still bad and when you lose against a strong team, you can forgive it. These are mistakes.
PS: It’s true, but there are also other situations. Sometimes children are judged upon whether they won or lost and the one who’s scored a goal or two is perceived as a better player than the one who hasn’t scored. But how to explain this in a simple way? You have nicely said that there are a lot of technical elements and parents can make their own observations to see the progress, but sometimes a parent comes and says, for example, that it is all too well that their son made five passes in the game with the inside of his foot, but what is it for if his team have lost eight-nil? How to explain to parents that the process makes sense and that children are developing?
TH: You don’t explain this. It is children who explain their motivations to parents. This is what we have said, the diagnosis which arises. The parent arrives and the child explains to the parent what they learn. And now the parent comes to me, I listen to the parent until they finish, I don’t tell them anything about the progress of the child and so on. But I send the parent back to the child. I may say: ‘Dear Madam, please speak to Joe, look at his recent monthly tests and take notice of what he’s now working on.’ She will answer her questions herself. I will send her back twice, the third time she will not come. But if I give a parent just one piece of information, and coaches let it happen, mums will come, admire those handsome coaches and so on. And then they pass on a bad piece of information into the child and what happens? The child loses trust in the coach. It is enough to tell a woman one sentence for her to forget that she has just insulted me and she will only think about that one sentence that I have said to her. If I do not say that sentence, she starts to think about herself. Exactly like a mother. If I do say that one sentence, I’m left with no way back. Does she want to? ‘Please go to Joe.’ The child guides and leads. Speak about the latest NASA research, Tomek.
TW: NASA did a study in which five thousand five-year-olds were tested for creativity and imagination. It was established that 98% of those children were geniuses. They obviously gave up on the study. They thought it had been mistakenly constructed. Somebody then went back to the study five years later and they repeated it with the same children involved. Only 30% were geniuses. Another five years later it was 12%. Then without waiting, they did the same study with people aged 20 and 2% were geniuses. Two percent was left. And that genius thing was about creating something from nothing.
TH: As an example, I say to coaches: ‘by what right do you want to impose yourself on the child when they are at 30% of creating and you only have 2%? They feel everything on the pitch 15 times better than you do. You only need to organize an exercise for them. Give them a chance to choose. Everybody is different. Krzysztof Piątek is different, Robert Lewandowski is different’. Are we supposed to train like Tomek used to, so that everybody ends up being exactly as he is?
PM: What is the key: asking the right questions or taking that step back?
TH: As I said right at the beginning – sending the child back to the child. Listen to the child until they finish and send them back. Say to them: ‘think about it, think it over, do as you think’. I organize an exercise but I give them a chance, within this exercise, to reach the full, desired movement thanks to their own capabilities. And then they may have six solutions to strike the ball, they try all of them but at one point, after some time, they choose what they feel is effective for them.
PM: Gents, we haven’t prepared for this, but could we perhaps play out a scene where for example Tomek acts as a player and you give me an instruction by asking questions and showing what a coach should do in a given situation?
TW: So let’s give the following example, we often come across a situation where children tell on one another. Please tell on Paweł.
PM: And Paweł was late today, by the way!
TW: And how are you going to deal with this? I have already sent the player back to the player and how are you going to deal with this? The most common situation occurs when you say that it was not you, but him. I repeat the question – how are you going to deal with this? You may go and hit Paweł. If you went and hit them, you would have already settled the situation, there would be no “you” in me. So again: how are you going to deal with this, what are you going to do with this? And the kid needs to plan for the situation. They put themselves in the situation again and need to resolve it on their own, whether they come to an agreement, go into argument or cooperation.
PM: Okay, so let’s take the direction of fist fighting. What then?
TW: There is no such situation, we’ve tried it a thousand times but if there was, we act as cover.
TH: There is no such situation because emotions have already passed.
PM: In what moment did those emotions pass?
TW: By the time you’ve come to me.
TH: Indeed. You might have hit him, but once he’s come, emotions had passed. By then Tomek had guided you so that you were thinking about how to solve the problem.
TW: And by now I have sent you back to yourself but in the next step I will try to prepare a set of exercises. If you have an argument, I will help you to come to an agreement through cooperation, some questions, I could add a third person, a mediator and so on. But without words. If the situation looked negative, you came to tell on Paweł, I may have attacked him. ‘What have you done, why have you behaved like this?’ Punishment. ‘I am calling your mum.’ Straight away there would have been negative intentions towards Paweł because he may have been thinking: ‘what do you want man, I am practising here and you’re coming to me’. And what would the other child have learned? A lie that an adult would solve everything for them. I would not have given them a chance to develop themselves.
PM: Could you repeat those key questions again?
TW: ‘What are you going to do with this now?’ – this is my favourite question.
TH: ‘What are you going to do, think about it, think it over, do as you think’. The fundamental thing is to send the child back to the child, to force them to think. They need to put themselves in the situation. And now there is the following stage. If the child does it and solves the situation together with a partner, the coach becomes a role model. In such moment Tomek is your role model. And this is what coaches do not understand.
PS: And what if a child has already got a spanking from another child and comes to us crying that they’ve hit Joe because Joe had hit them, how to react and what to do?
TW: Everything through the language of exercises. Such situation is difficult because it follows the results. For sure what happened earlier is the responsibility of the coach. After the results only through the language of exercises, no explanations. The language of exercises.
PM: So let’s continue on this. Paweł comes to you crying and… ?
TW: First of all, I ask Paweł because I understand it is you who have given him a spanking?
PM: Let’s presume so.
TW: Again, indirect communication, so without an attack on the one who has made the attack, so a conversation with the punished one, how we can help the one who is at fault. He listens, there is no point in giving him an extra punishment, extra burden – leave him in the sense of blame through the fact he’s had to listen.
TH: But the fundamental thing is to do it without emotions. You need to soften your emotions. I had a situation when two ten-year-olds started a fight, the coach jumped in and shouted at them. Of course, you have to jump in so that they stop fighting, but I told him: ‘take both of them by your hand, keep going as long as their emotions pass, sit on the bench so that the children are in a higher position than you, they are already empowered. Make your voice lower and quieter and ask each of them’ what Tomek has said. And then put them two against two, three against three, cooperation and then the coach is a role model and you are even closer to yourself because you have solved the situation. And you will be further away from each other if you use the coach.
PS: But what about the parent then? Joe comes home, the conflict has been solved, but he has a black eye, his mum comes to the coach and says that something has happened and suggests to temper the other child because it was not the first time.
TH: ‘Dear Madam, everything has been solved, please ask Joe. Goodbye.’
PM: Right, let’s move on to punishments through sport. Why not to do it?
TH: This is a tool to develop children’s capabilities in Imopeksis. My motto is the following: the more mistakes a child makes and gets out of them on their own, their value increases. Let’s say that a child does something wrong and knows it. So they punish themselves. I have no right in such moment to punish them too. I leave them and they need to get out of the situation themselves. It’s the same with praises. You should rarely praise a child and only when they expect it. And then the even better thing is to pretend not to notice that they do something well in order to force them to praise themselves on their own. This is coaching. The child gets out of a mistake themselves and praises themselves. This is the peak of coach’s abilities. And now, how to control your coaching emotions in order not to praise them or not to give them 50 extra push-ups? My son finished his swimming training at a Centre of Excellence when aged 11 or 12 and as a punishment he had to do 16 laps around a stadium when it was cold. This is an extreme example.
PS: Quite often it is not necessarily about doing something right or wrong, but in another way to what the coach said.
TH: They do their tasks. The coach accepts this, guides them to his own right, but they need to get to that right.
PM: Does this also concern the youngest children? Four- and five-year-olds?
TH: Above anyone else. The fundamental thing is that the younger somebody is, the easier it is to teach them this. It is easier for the youngest ones to praise themselves and get out of a mistake. Parents do not understand that what the child learns at that age in the social sense, stays with them for the rest of their lives. It will not change. It is better to develop personality through football than the imposed learning of a history, a biology or a geography. Easier. It is easier through passion, but you need to have the right coaches.
PM: Are the methods we are speaking about today suitable for everyone? There are different temperaments, different kids and I can imagine that leaving some of them…
TH: This is exactly what it’s all about. As we are sitting here, every one of us has a different temperament. And now I, as a trainer, may impose my temperament upon yourselves. And if I give you authority, everyone will still have their own temperament. There are no differences.
PM: And the quieter, more reserved children, will they not end up being sat on the bench all the time?
TH: No chance. The system needs to be well refined. If there is a system, you know how to behave within it. In training, for example, there are the following groups of children: the outstanding ones, the very naughty ones, the normal ones and the weakest one. You have four types of them and you need to organize a training session so that the weakest one will finish it being the happiest and the naughty one will end up being interested. And the outstanding one, that stands out, needs to have an extra programme but we usually adjust him to the rest. We need to give the power back but we still organize the session.
PM: You have just spoken about the talented player. I remember an extract from the book about a player with the biggest ego. If he makes a mistake, we cannot show it to him, but instead we need to stop the game when another player makes the same mistake. Why?
TH: Every contact made directly is always met with refusal. And it is not because of what a player is like, but it is a process that every one of us has in ourselves. If I directly impose myself on Tomek, the brain always directly says “no” and only then starts thinking. And by this moment, before the player began to think, he has already got nervous and has said something to the coach. If I want to bring something into Tomek’s focus, I will pass it on to yourself, even though you are not as good as Tomek, but I will improve that element in a way that Tomek listens and it gets to him. And then I will put you in a pair so that you improve yourselves together. And then Tomek will receive a task not for himself, but to improve yourself because you’re struggling with it.
PM: But is Tomek the talented one?
PM: I’ve spoken about your book and on that particular subject with Jagiellonia Białystok head coach Ireneusz Mamrot and he pointed out that he would see a problem in the fact that the whole dressing room could say that you did not stop the game when he had made the mistake, but did when I had. The honesty within the group may become shaken.
TH: It won’t be because players are always honest. It seems to us that it could go that way, but it won’t. I didn’t point it out to Tomek, they may even not feel the situation…
PM: But I, as a person whose mistake was picked out, may think that Tomek keeps making the mistake but it is me who has been brought into the spotlight.
TW: I will jump in. This is one of our twelve scenarios. I might also whisper. In such case the resistance would be a huge lot less strong. So whispering the mistake. Next, I do not tell the player directly that he has made a mistake but I tell him to notice that his teammate has done it. I say: ‘Look after him so that he does it right’. Another situation. A whisper to another player, so I tell my teammate, who I am exchanging passes with, about their mistake, automatically your selfishness and interest in what we talk about come into place. You analyse yourself and, by doing that, improve it. You have loads of scenarios like that. Next, I bring a third person to help me rectify that mistake. And again there is an exchange situation, if you play well in attack, I give you somebody who plays well in defence. And the other way round.
TH: One makes one mistake, the other makes another one. I say to them: ‘listen, you help him in this and you help him in that’. And there is no longer a conflict.
TW: I position myself so that the player with the big ego is right in front of me, but I talk to the kid who is the furthest away from me. As such I improve the whole team. The one at the front hears it and it’s clear that it is about him, but the one at the back can also improve that element.
TH: Or we come, do not say anything until the team talk when we mention: ‘listen up boys, we have such technical problems’. We talk broadly. When we speak to everyone, they will all pick it out for themselves, but we do not attack anyone personally. And we go into training and everybody knows it.
TW: You could also reach the player by showing the same mistake made by a famous player. As long as there is no direct attack. A direct attack lead to a conflict. If a coach keeps attacking the same player for three years, this is exactly the type of conflict that it is then impossible to escape from.
PM: We have one of our listeners on the line. Hello?
Listener: Afternoon, my name is Łukasz and I have the following question to you…
PM: Hi Łukasz.
L: Regarding giving the child the freedom to choose the best pass or shot so that they learn on their own, how to do it in the best way? This seems like asking the child to open the door while it has already been opened.
TH: Why? In fact, it’s the opposite because I do not know what their qualities are. Łukasz, you do not know what their qualities are. You cannot for one moment look at yourself. You have the biggest chance to give that child a freedom of choice. The child decides because if it is their choice, they will then enjoy applying it.
TW: We have loads of ex-players on basketball courses and the process could be well seen there. I mean we have a player who is tall and has played under the basket all his life. Suddenly during an exercise I ask him to show his ability to bounce the ball and it appears out of nowhere that he can do it more naturally than all the rest who have doing it all their lives. All of a sudden, he starts to trust himself, discovers it and today I got a call that the guy had won the game because he had started to believe that he could do it despite the fact he never used to do it. It took him until the age of thirty to discover his potential which should have been discovered when he was ten.
TH: You are not able to discover the potential of a child. You are not able to. You can only guide them and the whole art of this quality is about giving the power back to the child so that they manage themselves on their own. With your methodological help, of course.
TW: And what I will add into this is that while observing children in such unconstrained conditions, we will find that quality, we will start training from that element and in reality, the programme will become accepted. If I like to pass the ball and the coach tells me to do some shooting, straight away I start to train a bit reluctantly. And if training starts from my ability, I am interested until the end, I want it.
TH: I always ask coaches what pathway they have chosen and usually they choose how they think. No, the player should show you what their quality is.
TW: And coaches at the highest level do it. A top-level coach arrives and for the first week he only observes players. When Vital Heynen started his job as the volleyball Poland national team head coach, he came with all his authority, everyone expected for him to show the players how to play. And he said: ‘no, you tell me how we are going to play’.
TH: A great example.
L: I understand what you want to pass on to me. I took it a little bit in a wrong way. I thought they the child should choose on their own how to make a punch technically, for example. But it’s about in which moment to choose the best solution. Now I understand.
TW: The whole process is such that the role of a coach is to provide a path of progress, hence our technical circuits. The punch needs to be divided into elements of hand, head and so on. Later the ability will be trained further and then there will be variables thanks to which the child will make progress. Finally, and only at the end, there could take place a fight in which the element from the beginning could be used.
TH: Used to the ability. You’ve asked a great question. This is the most important stage because then specialisation starts.
L: From what I have understood it is about the coach teaching the child to make a punch in a specific and not any other way and then the child must choose which punch to choose. I have understood now.
PM: Thanks Łukasz. I keep listening to you and I think we are entering new territory. We had Mateusz Ludwiczak here when we spoke about nonlinear pedagogy and we can find a lot of common patterns here. Even at national coaching courses the training is not at the level like here today.
TH: I don’t want to judge but since the last congress I think we have been invited into the next three editions. I feel there is a need to complement what you have said. I am happy with that because I have a lot of practical things to pass on.
PM: So how to keep your tongue behind your teeth? Even in our daily life…
TH: Please take number twenty-three and keep subtracting three.
PM: Out loud?
TH: Quietly. In what moment are you at two?
PM: I’m at two now.
TH: Do you see what I’ve done? I created a situation in which I’ve changed an area of emotions. I switched you over to a completely different situation. And you are now calm. If you are nervous you can subtract bigger numbers. The fundamental thing of a coach is the emotional resistance and the second one, permanently important, is the emotional immunity. Let’s imagine a player comes to you, he is honest and can’t lie. He has full trust in the coach and confides something to you. And now the fundamental thing for the coach is not to pass that confidence to anyone, not even to his assistant. The probably has no contact with his parents, he has nobody to confine to, so he comes to the one person he trusts. If the coach does not give away the confidence, the player will trust him even more and will tell him even more. This is a second way of gaining authority by the coach. And please notice how coaches tend to react, somebody finds out and rumours begin. He comes to the dressing room and starts to observe the player and everybody around knows what is going on. Please have a look, the outstanding coaches speak little. They listen.
PM: I’m sorry, perhaps I am oversimplifying, but it gets to that turning point when you must speak.
TH: Speak by sending the player back to the player. I keep waiting all the time. You go to a briefing and straight after speeches everybody goes to the dinner table. And the experienced coach stands on his side, takes a glass of wine and waits until one or two approach him. This is a proper coach.
TW: He observes how they eat, whether they are in a good mood. This way of self-management is about stopping thinking about yourself. And then there is no problem. Because if you do not think about yourself, you switch your emotions off. If you approach a partner, and the partner approaches you, do you think about yourself or about the partner?
TH: Good job that you’ve reminded me about this example. I lecture at the Koszalin University of Technology, I have about 200 female students. In my first lecture they write an anonymous diagnosis. ‘When you approach your partner, whether that’s your fiancé or husband, do you think about himself or yourself?’ Ninety-five percent think about themselves. After the whole term I did another anonymous tests and by then 65% thought about their partner.
PM: But only women?
TH: Men as well, but mostly women. This is what Tomek said. It is so difficult that sometimes you pretend that you think about your partner but subconsciously you have your own ego.
PM: Your ego is always there as a barrier.
TH: But do you know that when a child is born, it is only later that we make them selfish? Empathy is killed. A child is born with an advantage of empathy over selfishness. It is then being spoken about getting rid of the ego but it is difficult to get rid of it at the age of 18.
PM: So how to train yourself away from training sessions? How to control yourself, to make that step back?
TH: The fundamental method is an internal dialogue. For five minutes a day, in the evening, take your beer, sit down and analyse your day in the following way: how many times have you gone into anger, how many times have you been angry, have many times have you shouted? And now the whole thing, not the results, but the causes. Why did I get angry? And even write it down. If you can find the causes, it will then be a lot easier. You must always think first about the situation, then about the partner and then about yourself.
TW: And this is all being shaped during the courses we do. Often these are our shadows, how often we judge somebody, compare each other and it is true that when I started to work together with professor, I would tend to score high on points so there was an awful lot of anomalies. Now, after a few years, my level is around 10 points out of 60 so you could say that everything is there to be learned. Above all by working together with people or your wife.
TH: I have an advantage over you, 40 years in marriage, if you reach that, well done.
PM: Does your wife not tell you sometimes that you’re testing some kind of psychological games on her?
TH: No chance [laughs]. Everyone has a partner, a fiancé or a wife. When can you talk to a woman? When she first talks to you in the morning. This is the first step of learning. Some speak about the weak gender, I disagree with that. We only look at the fact that men have a physical advantage.
PM: I’m an extravert and always talked a lot. I think Paweł also likes to talk, so here is a question: is it more difficult for us?
TH: For sure.
TW: It is for me, too. If you are a coach at the professional level, your every sentence needs to have a purpose and result from something. You can’t just speak for the sake of it. It is the same in children sports. Professor has already twice pointed out that after three years of working with kids, while I didn’t know Imopeksis yet, they were same as me, laughed at the same things, were afraid of the same things, took shots in the same way. This is a bad touch. I made a basketball group of little Tomeks out of them. I put a ceiling where I wouldn’t allow them to jump above themselves because they were forced. With the following group I was in charge of I was withdrawn, I was careful about what I would say, I would send a player back to the player, the result was that when kids came to me, they were natural and they stayed natural. And more reach basketball-wise.
PM: You speak about extraverts. When you meet an introvert, is there that embarrassing silence?
TW: This concerns training processes again. The polite one with the naughty one, the quiet one with the loud one. I had a situation when a young player, aged 11 or 12, ran around the ladders while I was speaking. Another one could slam the door. Three years of working together with them led to each of them gaining confidence, everything that could have been developed.
PS: And how do you work together with parents? We don’t have a lot of time left, but let’s touch on this. It seems to me that in football training sending a player back to the player can rarely be seen and so on. And parents could wonder: oh dear, perhaps this coach doesn’t know what he’s doing.
TH: And why would you be interested in what a parent says? You are interested in the child. The child is the parent’s coach. You are always nice and kind to them, you listen and send them to the child. Then it is a question of the coach’s personality. Whether he is able to stand this emotionally in order not to tell parents one sentence too many. My colleagues in the city of Dąbrowa Górnicza told me that they had a situation when one father came to a coach and told him to shout at his child because he would shout at him at home. Is the coach supposed to tell him that the parent shouts at himself? That he needs help? Send him to the child and the child will explain the parent that he has an example of the coach who does not shout.
TW: I will add a little bit onto this. If a child comes to us, they do not do it because of a theory of teaching, explanations, tips and so on. The child comes to us in order to be listened to. If a parent comes to us and we start to instruct him, we have a 100% guarantee that they will do otherwise. Especially mothers. Out of their love for the child they will behave in a completely different way to what you’ve advised them to. Who will they blame? Yourself, the coach. This is why you need to send them back…
TH: And you will lose trust.
TW: This is why you need to send the parent back to the parent so that the parent could solve the problem with their child. If they succeed, excellent. If they come to us again, they are at another level.
TH: There are three things that every coach needs. Do not judge, do not put any blame and do not compare. The parent comes exactly for these things but the coach cannot say that. The child must judge themselves and compare themselves to themselves.
PM: Just finally, one more question. There was one burning topic, before we started. It’s about the whistle. Why not to whistle?
TH: I got rid of a whistle. It is about respect. Throughout my whole career in education I never used a whistle. Sometimes I would observe a training session and I remember once an assistant coach stopped the session on seventy-nine occasions. Seventy-nine times. And do you know how? He stopped and noticed one player make a mistake and gave him a bollocking in front of everyone. Seventy-nine times. I counted.
PM: Some would say that bollocking would have motivated him.
TH: If I shout at you and you need it, there is already a kind of pathology that you have such a need. It means that you are not independent, you will never activate your creating. Only that you will be menial towards me. Shouting leads to servitude. And this is what it was all about in old education. Let’s be as far away as we can from that. I remember ten-year-old girls playing in Sopot, the coach screamed, I went to him at half-time and said: listen, spend two hundred zlotys, buy some chocolates and apologise to the girls for the screaming and stop screaming. If you have problems at home, call your wife.
TW: No shouting and no external stimuli will activate the intrinsic motivation. This is fulfilling fifty percent of a player’s potential.
PM: Guys, unfortunately, I’m sorry to say we need to call it there. Please promise that you will visit us at least one more time.
TH: With pleasure.
PM: I’ve forced it, so I hope that we will meet again. You were listening to the Teaching Football podcast with Professor Tadeusz Huciński…
TH: Thank you very much. Tomek, give them your details if anyone wanted to get in touch.
PM: And Tomasz Wilczewski…
TW: Thank you all.
PM: And many thanks to all of you from Przemysław Mamczak…
PS: … and Paweł Szymański.
PM: We will hear from you soon, take care.