Bez kategorii

Interview with Rafał Kubów

Przemysław Mamczak: This is the Teaching Football podcast, episode number 35.


PM: Przemysław Mamczak…

Paweł Szymański: … and Paweł Szymański.

PM: Welcome to the thirty-fifth episode of the Teaching Football podcast. Next up on our long list of guests who had to wait very, very long for their invitation to our studio is Rafał Kubów. Hello Rafał.

Rafał Kubów: Hello everyone.

PM: Rafał is a mental coach of the Mental Pro brand. I think a lot of our listeners know you from Facebook, but could you please begin by saying a few words about yourself…

RK: Of course, above all I’m a football coach who spent a lot of years at the professional level of the game and then moved on to working as a mental coach. I still consider myself as a football coach, specialising in mental preparation. I used to work with Poland under-19 and under-18 national teams as well as both the first team and the reserve team at Legia Warsaw.

PM: Today we should probably add GKS Katowice to the list…

RK: Yes, I work with GKS Katowice, but my main responsibilities at the moment are with senior Poland internationals and players from all three top tiers of Polish football who I work individually with.

PM: I started from the long wait. Tell us, does a mental coach need to be patient in your view?

RK: Of course he does. And it is difficult to find any patience in today’s world because if you wanted to buy a book in the past, you had to go to a bookshop, it wasn’t there so you had to order it. Now you sit down, you make a few clicks and sometimes you’re complaining about the book not arriving in your house the following day, but in two or three days. So patience is in short supply today and to achieve anything, you need it. A mental coach needs to be calm and patient himself in order to persuade others to be patient.

PM: How can you work on patience?

RK: Let’s focus on the word patience first. Diligence is a capability to work and patience is a capability to suffer. You suffer because you want something you’re working on but it doesn’t always come. Sometimes you work very, very hard and you reach that moment when you get no results. Then you either keep working with the same intensity or you give up. If you keep going with the same attitude and workrate, by doing that you become a different person. Patience comes with age because older people benefit from what they worked on at the age of 20, for example. If you are 30 and you worked on something for five or ten years, you benefit from it now. A young person does not have any reference points so that they worked on something for a long time and can now enjoy it. So patience is something that you can inspire players to using words, but you can’t instill it into them. This is an experience they need to go through. Big things demand time, so patience is needed in every profession you take.

PM: Is there any way you can accelerate the process?

RK: For sure, you can break your big, results-based, inspiring target into stages, very little parts. How to eat an elephant? Bite by bite. To eat a big target you need to give yourself the rungs of the ladder. Before going to bed, I always recommend to remind yourself of all the good things you did during the day, what brings you closer to your target, rewarding yourself. Sometimes it flies by, we look into the future all the time, we wonder why we are not where we should be and I believe that appreciating the small process, the small progress is something that can keep a player on the right track.

PM: You mentioned the cohesion that you, as a coach, need to be patient yourself. You need to be confident, too. How do you control your own emotions?

RK: You’re right, but on the other hand, I’m also only human. But to speak about what I speak about with belief, you do certain things no one can see, but I know and I can speak about them with confidence. Words are cheap, everyone can say them, but the most expensive thing is cohesion, so you do what you say and your results confirm it. I put a lot of effort to look after being disciplined, to positively influence my own control of emotions, my own attitude, but I’m also humble enough to know that it’s not always possible and I tell players that they will not always be motivated and confident. If you’re not motivated, do it without motivation. If you’re not confident, do it despite your lack of confidence. I don’t always need to be a superhero, I don’t always need to be great, I know a lot of my shortcomings but I also know my strengths and everyday I do something for myself so that the control of emotions is getting better and better.

PM: We will come back to your work with players. But I would like to move on to something perhaps untypical. How can a mental coach help a football coach? What I mean is how to help a coach who has his own problems and dilemmas?

RK: The very ambitious coaches are very committed to their profession while, in fact, our life is not only about our professional careers, it’s also about family, friends, hobbies, spare time, spiritual development. If we forget about other aspects we will not be happy anyway. I always tell the coach who says that he has thrown it all away and concentrates solely on work, not caring about other aspects, something like: if you win the Champions League and go back to an empty apartment, there’s silence, you have nobody to hug, nobody to talk to. I would say that, of course, in our lives a coach and I did it myself, now I’m also at a stage where I’ve decided to make a conscious extremism, but I’m doing it deliberately, I’ve put a deadline for myself and I encourage other coaches to do it. Up until a certain point, you work under such an intensity, sacrificing other things in your life, but you can’t go on like this all the time. There is that Buddhist story and what Jacek Walkiewicz said at the famous lecture, the difference between commitment and sacrifice, for example, scrambled eggs on bacon, the pig made sacrifices and the hen committed. That’s the difference. I’m in favour of committing yourself, but in different moments of life making sacrifices, too.

PM: And what about fighting with yourself when it comes to earnings and finances because we know it’s not great, especially at the initial stage. Many rely on their patience and perseverance, but many also fail along the way. How to support such a coach and do you think it is necessary to support such a person?

RK: I’d say that every coach needs to go through his own experiences. I worked for free for the first half a year with under-15s because my coaching licence had not arrived in time and the city council were not able to pay me. If you don’t have a licence, work for free, they said. After half a year, I got a payout of 381 zlotys and I was an ambitious coach, I did four training sessions a week with one group, two training sessions with the youngest group and I would still go to two matches a weekend for that amount of money.

PM: You had enough to pay for your monthly ticket then!

RK: I always bought them bananas after a game so that they had some kind of a reward. I knew very well that it had to be bananas and not chocolate, but yes, it was my job. I fulfilled myself in it and I started taking other teams and at one point I was in charge of four teams at my peak and there was still a women’s team, so five. I just spent the time in the car, 12 hours from Monday to Friday, three matches at the weekend, I was in charge of senior players at the time, so there was no time for other aspects of life and now I’m saying this to inspire coaches, but no one will live their lives for them. If you’re in a situation like this, do what you can do best. This is the easiest thing. And sometimes give up a team, focus on what you have, maybe lower the costs of your life, but make sure you don’t miss out on things. If we drive from team to team, I remember myself, for 14 years I didn’t have time to talk to a player after training, perhaps he needed something and I figured it out. I was in charge of four teams only for six months, then I focused on two and started to think creatively how I could do it differently.

PM: And nowadays you talk a lot about mindfulness. I know it from your courses and lectures I attended.

RK: Yes, not a lot is being said about mindfulness, there’s a lot more about motivation, self-discipline, confidence. But looking at our brains, if we don’t go outside our egos, we will not be able to solve some of the problems.

PM: So why is it worth being mindful?

RK: Why is it worth being mindful? Because we will not lose anything from our lives and it is mindfulness that stops our brain from looking so much into the future and makes it focus on what it has under control. It makes us focus on the next step. Mindfulness provides us with gratitude for what we have, we are focused, we are a little bit away from our emotions and on the other hand, I would say, be happy but never be satisfied. It may be called Buddhist thinking and it’s not enough to achieve anything in football, but be grateful, mindful and unsatisfied.

PS: Can you tell us why mental coaching and not, for example, tactics? Where do you take inspiration from? Was there a person who encouraged you to become a football coach and then a mental coach?

RK: I get this question sometimes and I say that I was saved by my transient ardour. If anyone says that they don’t have it, I would say that they are connoisseurs of many tastes rather than just one. This is some kind of a personality trait. Not a transient ardour but more of an openness to new events… Of course, I’m a coach, I also did opposition analysis at Legia. And then I realised that in my spare time I would read psychology books, that I was always interested in them. And at one point I followed it deeper. I tried different things… People ask me how to find their passion. Don’t look for it, try different things and then answer yourself what you want in life. You will know and you will see what inspires you. I always have a book with me when I travel because it interests me. There are books I read a number of times but books are not everything. Books are something extra to the experience you gain by taking action and they systemise it all. Theory alone is not enough and nor is practice alone. I noticed it was something that I was interested in. Some, when watching a game, look at the position of a holding midfield player and I observe how a player reacts after losing the ball. I’m not the youngest, I’ve tried a lot of things and I know that this is something, on the basis of my experience, that I can change other people’s lives a bit with.

PS: Speaking of books, what are the top five books that made the most lasting impression on you?

RK: If I had to recommend a book, I would always ask a player what he has most recently read and what made an impression on him. And only then I recommend one.

PS: If he said nothing, what would you recommend then?

RK: I don’t recommend anything anymore, but initially I used to recommend “The Power of your subconscious mind” by Murphy. This is a book where you read than you can think more positively. If you really believe in it, then you will change your mind and realise that you can influence yourself. Then it will not be enough because you think positively, but the world is good and bad. I have a lot of books that I read because I want to remember many things that are in them. I don’t always do and this is a normal function of our brain that we focus on things we can’t control, we strive for some kind of an illusion of perfection, so I want to remember about things that can be found in those books. I read them and once a player reaches a certain level, I recommend them. Earlier on I recommend reading the “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”.

PM: We have a question from Twitter: is it possible to achieve success in football dividing every 24 hours into three equal parts – work, family, rest?

RK: I think the “work, life, balance” rule is a myth in my profession…

PM: You have “work, work, balance”.

RK: Yes [laughs]. In a coach’s life it’s not easy to plan everything because you really work a lot. Then you only feel at fault. I would say if you spend time with someone, then spend thirty minutes with them, but not next to them, with them. You don’t have to watch TV with that person, but ask nice questions to each other which will make you feel closer. Half an hour of such time with another person can be better than five hours together in front of TV.

PM: Mindfulness, again.

RK: Mindfulness to another person and to yourself.

PS: Thirty minutes out of 24 hours, is it enough?

RK: Of course it’s not. But I would really like to spend those 30 minutes with another person and if possible, more. Sometimes you spend the whole day next to someone and not with them. Mindfulness to another person is important and it’s good to divide the time consciously. And coach’s life, especially at bigger clubs, you spend most of your time away from home. Even when you play home games, you have stationary camps and when you play every three days, it means once you spend time with your family, you really need to do it in an effective way.

PS: Ok, let’s go back to basics. How do you define mental coaching? What is it and who is it for? It’s clear that you work in the football industry, but you can link it to your personal development too, can’t you?

RK: You can, of course. It is some kind of personal development. I believe that a player – alongside things that happen in his life – should raise his awareness at the same time and ask himself a question how they can help rather than restrict himself. Initially, when I speak with a player, it’s important to listen to him and make sure he simply stops restricting himself. So that he looked for his winning recipe in previous victories and simply repeated what he did then. It’s about checking whether what you did and what you are going to do will result in any change. Mental coaching is a capability to consciously influence your thoughts and attitude because the world impacts on us in different ways. There are fans, sometimes there is a coach who is under pressure, he has good intentions and I would say he wants to do well, but not everyone is capable of doing well, so at the end of the day, every player should be an expert on their thoughts and emotions. Or he should be an expert on their thoughts and emotions if he really wants to make an impact in professional football. This is why raising the level of awareness when it comes to mental competences such as self-regulation of emotions, attitude, so specific strategies in specific moments of a game, which help him, visual training. There’s loads of it.

PS: There’s a question from Facebook: how much time per week should be devoted to mental training and how to do it most effectively?

RK: I think… I’ve learned a bit how to answer such questions because I often get them and everything I say is some kind of generalisation. If I say: try to meditate tomorrow for a minute, in two days time for two minutes and so on until you reach ten minutes and then keep it going for eight weeks, you will see a change and you will start answering more and reacting less… So if you sacrifice even a minute, two minutes, then ten minutes to develop your muscle awareness, if you find out what meditation is, if you read some books about it… but I would say that a book is like a boat that takes you to a shore, but once you’ve reached the shore, leave the boat, the words, the teachers and try it for yourself. Everybody has their own mind, so at one point just listen very strongly to yourself. If you read a book but it doesn’t make you interested, stop reading it. In this case we shouldn’t torture our muscle will too much and read a book when it becomes painful. It means that this is not a book for you, the time will come for it. Read something that you’re interested in at the moment and what is less scientific because scientific content can probably very rarely absorb us, even though it absorbs me, but read things that are well told and that go into your head, so maintain some kind of hygiene, a few pages every day, meditation. Going outside of your mind, but at the same time feeding your own knowledge – this is what will provide you with good results.

PM: Do you think you need to be gifted in some ways to become a mental coach?

RK: I believe so. You need to be gifted in any profession, otherwise you will tire yourself.

PM: What are they?

RK:  I think you need to like people, you need to be kind, not just nice to them. If you’re just nice, you will want to be liked and not useful. It’s important to be kind and really want to help and be convinced that another person’s success will also be your success. When it comes to my level of being an extravert, it is rather low, I’m more of an introvert.

PM: Actually, we spoke about this in the city of Nowy Sącz and it’s difficult to believe it and I think our listeners are surprised because we’ve been talking for half an hour and let’s say you’ve taken over the microphone!

RK: Yes. It’s interesting but developed. I’m more of an introvert, so I also like to be alone, I can become absorbed in reading a book. It’s not easy for me to get to know people, I don’t seek their company, but I know myself and I’m working on it. If I didn’t, I would close some possibilities to myself. I believe you can work on it, but by nature I’m more of an introvert. Actually I wouldn’t say extravert or introvert. For sure introversion makes me more reflective and that helps because it means that when I go down the street with a phone in my pocket and all of a sudden I get an idea, I write it down and then use it when I prepare content for my training courses or my Facebook fanpage.

PM: We’ll come back to your fanpage, but tell us, have you done any personality tests to establish whether you’re an introvert or an extravert? Can you recommend anything?

RK: No, I haven’t done any of those tests. I try not to do any tests with players, I prefer to take information out of them by speaking to them and then somehow put it into a table in order to help the person as much as possible and what their personality, temperament and dominant traits are. It’s not like you come to a meeting with me and fill in a questionnaire. I don’t work like this neither with the team nor with the players. I respect that model of work because some use the DISC model and if anyone read the book entitled “Taking Flight” and were an owl, they will like it a lot and will create good systems. I think I’m more of a combination of an eagle and a pigeon and I don’t have much to do with an owl and I’ve already accepted that with myself.

PM: Please tell us then how you work with players. What are the first steps you take together?

RK: The first steps are about listening. I try to listen very carefully, ask questions and not impose my knowledge and listen patiently because sometimes one micro change can provide a macro effect at the beginning. Going back to patience, the way every human works is that once you do something right at the beginning and provide some kind of a change, then it’s easier for that person to then accept things that demand patience. Big things demand time. I try to listen, look at where change could be made now, so, for example, whether to get rid or start doing certain things so that they could see themselves in the near future that something is going in the right direction. Then we look again at the most important things they could work on. I don’t give any comments, I just try to listen very attentively. This is not coaching, I’m not a coach. I simply provide solutions sometimes. If somebody comes to me it means they’re open-minded, they want a solution and sometimes I do give one in a strong way.

PM: How much time is needed then to see some real effects? You’ve said that sometimes even after the first conversation with a player you are able to find something, but does it take longer on other occasions? Do you also meet with players, say, twice and that’s it?

RK: It happened that I did individual sessions every now and again when a player, who is at a very high level, had a very important game ahead and decided to come to me. Every time before the actual conversation I spoke to him so that we got to know each other because what if there was no energy between us, as it should be? That’s important – for me and for him. It’s important to get to know each other at the start, it makes our work comfortable and then individual sessions happen, but this is not my standard work, my standard work is professional player mental preparation and it’s a rather longer cooperation. I definitely don’t want for a player to depend on me, I want something more than just motivation because what’s the point in me motivating him if he then goes out for a dinner, talks to someone, watches a film or his coach treats him harshly and he needs to have a game strategy and know that once it’s six o’clock, he needs to do specific things that could help him. So more of a four-to-eight session cooperation or more later. Some players need less frequent contact then, but they still do need it.

PM: Have you ever rejected anyone? What I mean is you met someone, you started getting to know them and straight away you realised they were not open-minded enough to try new methods and there was no point in continuing working with them?

RK: Churchill once said that a lot of people want to learn, but very few want to be taught. They want to learn, but when it comes to the actual learning, it only sounds like learning. Sometimes it can happen that you meet a player and you can see that the glass is full and it’s difficult to start working together but I have to say that I don’t remember meeting anyone who I would talk to and then reject.

PM: Perhaps you like a challenge?

RK: I like a challenge… Perhaps I’m flexible and very often we start working together. Sometimes it happens that a parent comes to me and complains about their child and after a few sentences I already know that it would be equally good talking to parents rather than to the child. With very young players the parent should never restrict the child in their development.

PS: Have you ever worked with parents and a child at the same time?

RK: I mostly work with players aged 15 or older, it happens that I do lectures for younger players and I try to inspire coaches and parents. Coaches in Poland are prepared to mentally influence players in a positive way, but I naturally work with players at the highest level. Of course, it also happens that I work individually with Poland youth national team players who are at the top academies.

PS: What difficulties are most common among players who come to you? When you first speak to them, do they present a specific problem to you, something they want to work on or do they call you and say: Rafał, we’ve heard you’re good and we would like to work with you? Do you then ask questions or do they say, for example, that they’re struggling with concentration or control of emotions, they reacted to the referee for instance, and they ask you for tips?

RK: The initial conversation provides me with some information, I try to ask questions that will give them to me and then I know what we can work on. Players can sometimes see that their mind restricts rather than helps them and they come. It happens that we strive for suffering rather than enjoyment, but there are more and more players who believe they’re OK. I’m neither someone who dwells on the past or solves problems, but as I say – this is professional preparation for the profession. A lot of sportsmen, especially footballers, come and they’re curious where they can make further progress because they already have a dietician, a fitness coach but they are convinced that there’s one more aspect where they don’t have everything under control. Then they come with curiosity and later recommend it to one another and this is one thing I stick to that I don’t say who I work with even though I believe this is always a praise for the player. If anyone nowadays is serious about their career, they work on their mind. I’m not saying throughout the whole career but they still train mentally to fully take their chance.

PS: And why did you adopt the rule that you don’t say who you work with?

RK: I mean… The easiest thing is to say who you work with, they will become successful and then I will say it’s down to me. Being a football coach myself, I have a lot of respect for coaches and this is also their success. And I would say that this is the players’ success and I added a little bit to it. I won’t be saying that it was down to me if a player was successful. No, I simply played a tiny part. Sometimes a smaller one, other times a bigger one but it is the head coach who works with the player who can say it was down to him, I only helped the player. I respect other coaches and I’m not someone who promotes themselves this way.

PM: I keep getting questions on Twitter. Have you ever met a player who is not doing well after retiring from football? How do they cope with changes to their lifestyle? Could professional football be an addiction?

RK: I would say that overall sport is a very good addiction. Exercise provides you with endorphins and it’s good. If you miss it after retirement, there are other things to provide you with endorphins and dopamine, but I would actually recommend exercise. Even if you’re retired, go for a run, if you’ve had enough of football, play tennis or any other sport. Just keep being active, keep your regime in order to maintain your body in good shape. You don’t have to train as hard as you used to, but still, upon retirement, I always say to coaches or ex-players who don’t play anymore but will soon become coaches, to maintain their regime and keep making progress in their lives.

PM: Have you ever worked with anyone who struggled upon retirement and didn’t know what to do at that stage?

RK: Not individually, but for sure, people like that come to my training courses after which we sometimes talk and then I encourage them to keep setting themselves further targets in life, because there are still wonderful things to be done after retirement. If anybody has a vision that they will work hard during their careers and then live off their savings, it will never happen like this because everyone likes to be active, see their progress, strive for something and even stress, the positive one, makes us live longer. To live longer, you need to have some stress until the end of your life.

PM: We’ve mentioned a lot of advantages of mental training. Are there any disadvantages?

RK: I’m very reflective when it comes to my work. I wouldn’t like a player to become addicted to it. I always say: don’t take away stones from below one’s feet because they will slip on the sand. This is why I don’t try to protect players I work with from difficult challenges. This is not my job. It’s also not my job to provide them with additional, difficult challenges because life will do it for me. Sometimes when they have a problem, I only ask them what solution they have, but I’m not a pillow because everybody needs to experience their own things, positive and negative. The important thing is to guide them to good conclusions. If they’re going through hell, it’s important they don’t become a devil.

PM: Do you think that could stem from the fact that players may not have a partner or the right environment, which is why they report themselves to people like yourself?

RK: You’ve asked an interesting question. I never thought about this, but I think that most players I work with have a wife or a girlfriend. So I’m not the person to socialise with them, but to help them develop. At the end of the day you need to see progress. When it comes to mental training, despite the fact players need to be patient, they will not always achieve their results-based targets, they also have big dreams and it’s nice for them to feel their progress within themselves and simply do everything to do well, take their chance and for their mind to help them more than restrict them.

PM: Listening to you, it looks like our lives are like one big mental training, doesn’t it? You’ve read a lot of books, you’ve spoken to a lot of people, you have a lot of thoughts and this is your job. The mindfulness and observation of what is going on around us, even our own emotions, emotions of other people, empathy and it’s all related to our lives. Has mental training become a trend recently?

RK: I think we started to talk about mental training in Poland a few years ago and over 10 years ago in Western Europe. Sometimes everything is overstated and mental training will not replace standard training. Mental training could help. If you come to me and think that mental training will replace hard work put in on the pitch, I always say I’m not your man, even though it could sound uncomfortable. Training, preparation, the physical aspect, technique, tactics are all very important. Going back to what you said, Przemek, that life is like mental training, it is – it’s true. There is even a saying that we learn from mistakes. But I wouldn’t agree with it because not everyone learns from mistakes. It’s like the older you are the more intelligent you get. Sometimes you only get older. If anyone draws no conclusions from their mistakes and makes them again, they don’t develop. They get older, but they don’t mature. You can make a mistake, but you need to avoid making the same mistake again. You learn from mistakes when you’re aware of them. This is what can give a player an advantage. They all train the same amount physically, they have the same diet, but they win or lose and draw conclusions that don’t serve them well. They say that they’re just like this. That’s partly true because thanks to their ambition and drive they got to where they are in the first place, they wouldn’t be there otherwise, but now it’s time for a change to keep the right proportions.

PM: You often talk about a twenty-year-long experience…

RK: I do and what I mean is that some have twenty years of experience, but in real terms it’s the same year repeated twenty times.

PM: Do you think that, say, fifty years ago there was also demand for mental coaches but they simply didn’t exist and therefore people, footballers were not able to cope with their problems or is it more of a sign of our times that new challenges have appeared – along with solutions to them?

RK: For sure, in terms of footballers, the international level is so high… The level is going up, we keep saying that the level of the Polish top-flight is going down but I think that if one of the top Polish clubs were to play one of the top Polish clubs from twenty years ago, they would win comfortably. In the past teams weren’t as well prepared as now when it comes to their mental preparation, the physical aspect, diet, regeneration. They were successful, but the level has gone up since and mental training also provides an advantage. For example, in Poland there are nowadays very few starving people or those who live in extreme poverty. Looking at the Maslow Pyramid, once you fulfill your basic needs, you want more, you strive for self-fulfilment, spiritual development. This is why most people who have coped with the most important things, want something more because they realise that it hasn’t necessarily brought them happiness in life.

PM: We’re talking about mental training and, as we’ve already established, mental training is equal to life, so we’re moving in the right direction. I have a question regarding your own everyday life. What does the life of a mental coach look like? What does the life of Rafał Kubów look like?

RK: At the moment every day is different for me. It used to be more repetitive but nowadays I try to be flexible because players I work with are often away or they have an important issue, so I try to adjust to them. Of course, I try to maintain some kind of a framework. Recently I’ve been travelling a lot and if I work for a club, I follow their plan, so it’s difficult to find any repetition. But I still try to find time to stay fit, for self-development, reflection, writing something…

PM: What do you mean by self-development?

RK: Self-development, so most often meditation, reading an interesting book or listening to an interesting podcast, such as Teaching Football.

PS: Our pleasure.

PM: Right, do you have any routines or habits then? I wouldn’t believe a mental coach wouldn’t have any!

RK: Yes, they help us survive amongst all the other things. For example, it’s good to give a call to somebody kind to you, not just when they celebrate their birthday or around Christmas time but simply to ask mum or dad how they’re doing. I try to do it every other or every three days not because of feeling alone but because I know it’s also nice for them. I try to remember about that. As I said – meditation, staying fit, reading, writing, reminding myself before going to bed what things I did well during the day, a habit of getting back to belly breathing, perhaps it’s not obvious but, for example, I try to do two or three of them before an interview. When you’re in a hurry, sometimes you’re so absent-minded that it’s difficult to achieve that state of “here and now”. Of course, I also have several alarm clocks set during the day, they are all specifically named, thirty minutes before a meeting or simply to check where my mind is at a given time. These are things that I introduced step by step, not all at the same time and even now when I work a lot, I always find the time to take care of them.

PM: Right, conferences, training courses, you also do online courses and there’s been one entitled “twenty-one days with self-discipline”. Tell us how to build such a habit?

RK: Yes, the number is symbolic because research shows that twenty-one days may not be enough to build a habit, you may need even two hundred eight-five days to build certain habits. In terms of self-discipline, I would again practice mindfulness, why are there things that I want to do and why are there things that I don’t want to do? What’s the reason? It’s the same for people who struggle with alcohol and start their treatment, when they want a drink, they have to ask themselves, why do they want it? Is it because of joy or do I have a bad day? Self-reflection. You may want some chocolate, but why? Do you want to escape from doing something, is it because of your emotions or do you need some pleasure?

PM: I just like chocolate.

RK: I just like chocolate – we like to explain things to ourselves in different ways. Perhaps you lack magnesium? It’s secondary whether you eat chocolate or not, the important thing is not to become addicted.

PM: Let’s stay on this subject. Any other exercises?

RK: According to studies, mindfulness, meditation makes our will power grow. These are things that make our brain ask questions rather than react. Asking yourself what you want makes you aware of what you do and it’s good to make notes, to think on a sheet of paper. If you go for anything the following day, you may then make yourself believe that you didn’t want it but once you’ve written it down and you can see the sheet of paper, you may give yourself a bigger chance. It doesn’t have to be an Excel spreadsheet nor any tables, if you do it on any sheet of paper you have with yourself, using a pen or a pencil, it’s fine. Even if you do it on your phone, it will do. It’s important to make notes for the following day.

PM: Have you measured the effectiveness? There are so many things going on in our daily lives, we’re constantly in a rush, it must be very difficult to maintain the habit. And even, if I fancy a beer or some chocolate, why should I not have it?

RK: Self-control means that you don’t do what you want to and it doesn’t serve you well in the long-term while self-discipline is about not doing things you agreed on with yourself. If you fancy a beer, I would always ask myself why I fancy it and whether it’s not because of the fact I had a difficult day. If I had a very difficult day and I fancy a beer and I go for it, you create some kind of a path for yourself when it comes to dealing with difficult moments in life. Perhaps you drink a cold beer because you’re thirsty, but maybe ask yourself a question then whether sparkling water or anything different wouldn’t be better. The awareness that you have it under control and not the other way round. This is what makes you human, the space between stimulus and reaction.

PM: Any other habits you have?

RK: Writing down, for example when anyone calls me and says: let’s do this, then, first of all, I do it, I write it down that the meeting is tomorrow but I usually do it on my phone, I use technology. This is, for sure, my habit so if you called me and we made an appointment for four o’clock today, straight away I wrote it down on my phone and set an alarm clock for thirty minutes prior to the time. This is one of the habits that helps me control reality.

PM: Good job you were in Warsaw rather than Katowice when your alarm went off. Otherwise you would struggle to get here in time! This is the Teaching Football podcast, mental coach Rafał Kubów is with us, we’ll be back shortly.


PM: This is the Teaching Football podcast. We’re back after the break. Mental coach Rafał Kubów is with us. We spoke a lot about life before the break. Let’s resume by talking about GKS Katowice. I know you’ve been working together for a short time so far, but can you briefly tell us what you do for the club and how did it happen that a second-tier Polish football club hired mental coach Rafał Kubów?

RK: I was contacted by head coach Dariusz Dudek and by the club’s board, too. They spoke about the same things, I went to Katowiwce, we talked, I saw that they were hard-working people, committed to the cause. GKS Katowice were then in a very difficult moment, they still are, but I believe that things are moving in the right direction. I have met people there who want to develop and are genuinely open-minded. I have also met players who believe in themselves and who have some fire within them and I simply thought that an extra tiny part in the shape of mental training could provide a very nice change.

PM: I don’t know how much you can tell us as we’re entering professional football here, but do you do any practice sessions, regular meetings or individual sessions with players?

RK: In terms of working with the team, I’m part of the coaching staff who obviously speak to players and also take care of their mental development. Everything I do is consulted with the staff, I support them, but the main job is still done by the head coach and his assistants.

PM: You can’t tell us too much then! Rafał, I first got in touch with you on Facebook. You have two pages there, a private one and a professional one, let’s say. What value does the page give you?

RK: What value it gives, it would probably be good to ask people. For example, yourself, Przemek. There was a moment while working with Poland youth national teams… I would always make some notes, I like to reflect by nature, so I thought why not to share with people. Perhaps I could change their thinking, motivate them or make them interested in the fact they could influence themselves and that it’s not like you have to function on your random settings until the end of your life. I try to share things regularly and it’s stayed like this.

PM: Very regularly even! You’ve been posting every day at nine o’clock in the evening for how long, over three years?

RK: It started on the ninth of September, so three and half years ago, more or less.

PM: Wow, that’s over one thousand days ago!

RK: Yes, because I created my personal account only then and only to then create the professional one because otherwise I wouldn’t need it. I need Messenger now to contact players, for example. It was created, it’s still working, every day at nine o’clock in the evening I try to post something unless there are some problems on Facebook.

PM: It happened that you didn’t post anything?

RK: Yes, there were some problems on Facebook two weeks ago and a scheduled post wasn’t published and I was busy so I only realised it later. But it’s okay, no problem.

PM: It was scheduled, everything was under control.

RK: It was under control, I either schedule or publish it, it depends. I’m a normal guy who has his own life and I believe that if sometimes a post on Facebook can release some positive attitude, it’s worth it for people like this.

PM: But how to keep such high consistency levels? A lot of times we read very long stories on your page.

RK: The content is more inspirational, I don’t want anyone to think that this is mental training, that I simply tell stories. A story can brilliantly make any piece of knowledge stronger, it surely has an effect on emotions, inspirations so this form of communication is needed on Facebook and I keep doing it because… I receive information from people that it helps them, sometimes they ask follow-up questions and this is what makes me think good about it. The consistency was born out of the fact that I’ve had no break and I simply keep going.

PM: We have one of our listeners on the line. Hello?

Listener: Hello, I would like to ask Rafał: what problems do you encounter most often while working with young players? There was a case some time ago at the Zagłębie Lubin Academy, one of the best in the country, where one of the players was maltreated by some of his teammates for which they were later thrown out of the academy. I’m wondering: what is the main problem of today’s children who need to grow up quickly to become footballers?

RK: Thank you for the question. I work with players aged 15, 16 and older. In terms of challenges they come with, at that stage of awareness, they often come and say they want to work on their confidence and then it turns out that it was their own diagnosis and sometimes there are completely different things that can be changed and taken to a higher level. I would definitely say that nowadays there is a big problem with dispersion. This is our biggest addiction, that we very rarely do one thing at the same time. We used to watch a game and now we are both watching the game and checking our Twitter feed. We used to cook and now we are both cooking and listening to a podcast. We used to laugh at women who were both driving and making themselves up, but to be honest nowadays we are all doing three or four things at the same time. On the pitch the player should be doing one thing and be able to focus on it. Young people don’t know the times when you would do one thing at a time. As far as what happened at Zagłębie Lubin, I heard of the situation and I believe that it was a unique one. The awareness of players, coaches, parents is such that there will be exceptions and there was more to do for the police than for mental coaches. The fact that the boy was maltreated, a mental coach wouldn’t make him inert to it. It doesn’t work like this. I always say that you find yourself in a specific environment, so let’s work on influencing ourselves more than the environment would influence us, but for sure, if the environment is pathological, you can think like this at the beginning but then look for a change because there is no point in going through things like this. Sometimes changing an academy is a good idea. Of course, when it comes to the Zagłębie Lubin Academy, I have the best opinion of it, there is a lot of wonderful coaches there, probably a great board and they produce good players and a situation like this can happen in any academy really because academies are formed by people and I think they dealt with the problem very well.

L: This is what I wanted to touch upon. Do you think that young players who make it to the best academies such as Zagłębie Lubin or Lech Poznań are aware at what club they are and that this may in some ways be too much for them mentally?

RK: It depends on their character traits such as openness to new experiences and sensitivity. Some players are more sensitive, others are less so. But every player who thinks about making it into professional football needs to be aware of the fact that he has a price to pay. And the price at that stage is that sometimes they need to move five to seven hundred kilometers away from their homes, they have none of the most important people in their lives around them in such a vital moment and at the same time they decide to compete and this is the challenge. Sometimes they are not ready to pay the price. Of course, you can play for the club that is nearest to you but if you’re the best in your dressing room, at one point you should change the dressing room and yes, these are mental challenges to be able to keep in touch with family and friends but at the same time to know that now is the moment to work on your own future and focus on education, on making progress. This is not an easy situation, but the important thing is the awareness that there is a price to pay if you want to become a professional sportsman.

PM: Thanks to our listener. Rafał, you need to clarify one thing, about cooking and listening to a podcast…

PS: … and driving. How to deal with it? Do you think it’s wrong or, if we do it consciously, it’s OK? I understand when you suggest to turn the podcast off and simply enjoy the drive. Let’s say I’m aware of it and I do it but how to pass it on to other people who believe that driving alone is a waste of time?

RK: Recently, and not even recently, but a few years ago one research showed that multitasking is a myth. We simply switch from one activity to another one or we focus on one and automatise the other one. It happens that we do something, we talk to someone and either you automatise what you’re doing or, worse, you automatise the conversation with your girlfriend and she will soon notice that you’re not listening to her. Always, while cooking, I listen to a podcast. But I’m not a cook and I don’t need to be a specialist at it, I simply do it. But if I was a cook and worked in an expensive restaurant or was preparing a meal that had to be well done, probably I wouldn’t be listening to a podcast, I would be focusing on the task in hand. But if I eat a meal, I try to turn off the podcast, the TV, my phone and focus on myself because I do something for my body. This is how I do it, more or less. When I drive, of course I listen to a podcast… or, more often, music rather than a podcast but this is what I’m like. If I was a racing driver and wanted to make the best time, I wouldn’t listen to a podcast. If you’re a footballer and you’re working in the gym and you need to make sure you maintain the right position of your body, I wouldn’t advise listening to a podcast either. If you’re doing your warm-down after the game, not a problem, but if you need to focus on your movement, feel your muscle, forget a podcast because this is the part of the day when you need to fully concentrate. If you’re doing your rehabilitation and you’re recovering from injury, you’re doing an exercise your physio arranged for you, forget about scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, but do it as well as you can because this is part of your profession.

PS: Understood. I move on to another topic.

PM: And I turn the podcast off [laughs].

PS: Let’s move back to parents and children. As a mental coach, what advice would you have for parents? Not everyone can afford going to a specialist, they may not even know there is one, what should they focus on?

RK: First of all, if any parent has any comments about a coach, it would be good if they spoke to the coach rather than to the child and asked certain things. Adults talk in a different way and it’s very nice when a parent and a coach have contact with each other and when the parent trusts the coach because the coach is a specialist and he often uses different methods. The parent may have seen some methods, the coach uses different ones and you can simply ask about certain things but trust those people because they are often well-educated, the courses keep getting better and young coaches use them very well. I think it’s important to simply support the child, unconditionally and ask them, the children, about their path to success, for example: if your friend loses twenty kilos, you don’t have to tell him that he’s lost weight, but you can also ask him: o, you’ve lost twenty kilos, how did you do it? If he tells you how he did it, there will be less of a chance for the yo-yo effect to appear because he will remind himself of the journey. It’s great that you’ve won five-nil, but what did you do during the week to then win five-nil? What was your path? I think any parent can support their child very well in this way, show them that it hasn’t come from nowhere. A win or a goal didn’t just happen, you made it yourself. Above all, and it’s not easy, sometimes we transfer our own ambitions to the child and not every child has to become a footballer. If you see that a child is being forced to go to training, despite the fact that they’re quick, for example, it doesn’t mean they’ll become a footballer. This is our child and it’s nice that we guide them because they have their own talents and if they work on them, they will become their strengths and we can consciously take part in the journey. I will never tell a parent how to bring up their children because every parent deep down knows it, but through such reflection and information, they may help their child rather than restrict them. Nobody wants to do anything bad, but not everybody is capable of doing well.

PS: I have one situation in my head. What advice would you give to the coach when a player has reacted aggressively towards the referee. Quite often a coach simply shouts to the player to calm him down and he does, but there is no reflection and the situation repeats in the following game.

RK: This is often a player’s habit, there is a situation on the pitch and the player reacts in a very repetitive way. It’s good to put a different strategy in place, so every time when you feel anger, go back to your position, recover and then, if you have to, react towards the referee. Make the first step, stop the old pattern. I don’t tell him not to shout at the referee, but surprise him a bit, tell him to get back to his position and then he will be fifty metres away from the referee. Recover, do it with a lot of energy, so that he loses some of it and see if he still wants to do it, he won’t. This is the first little change that may provide good effects with some players. Above all, every player can spend five thousand four hundred zlotys in every game. Five thousand four hundred zlotys means five thousand four hundred seconds. If somebody steals five zlotys, you will not spend the remaining five thousand three hundred and ninety-five zlotys to get that fiver back. Okay, you can’t go back in time, you wasted that time but don’t lose any more money, invest them in the future and in what is happening now. You can use a metaphor like this or a specific strategy, of course and I say it straight away, these are tips that can provide a coach with a solution, but there is no guarantee that a coach says it and it will work, but you can try thinking in this way.

PM: We’re complementing each other well with Paweł today – he keeps asking you about working with a child or a player and I keep doing the same as far as coaches are concerned. I will ask you one more thing. You’ve spoken about long-term targets which you divide into little parts, how do you set yourself targets? What should it look like when it comes to a coaching career? I’ve just graduated from a university, I’m starting my career… Could you give an example, how can I set myself a target and how can I then divide it?

RK: It’s important to fulfil your own rather than somebody else’s dreams. I remember when I did training courses for coaches five years ago. Then, I would ask coaches who wanted to work in senior football and 95% of them would raise their hands. Nowadays it’s only 50%. The other 50% are doing well in youth football and they already know they want to keep working there because they like it and they are satisfied with it. Sometimes those targets are about ego, about being keen on being the number one on the bench and everyone is pursuing becoming a head coach and not everyone is competent to do it. You can be a great youth coach and you can play a bigger role than while being a senior coach, it’s equal. It’s not like a senior coach is better than a youth coach. Just find your own domain, see what your competences are, what you like to do. Working with children really can provide an awful lot of satisfaction. Not everyone has to work with senior players, so the first thing is to direct yourself to a target and then to try different things. Try doing a bit of analysis, if you get a challenge of being a head coach, do it for half a year, if you get an offer of becoming an assistant coach at a young age, try it and then you will know what you don’t and what you do want and follow it step by step. It’s important to know that any target you set yourself never depends hundred percent on you. So then from your results-based target set yourself task-based targets, so do everything you can control every day, do all you can because the one who does everything what they’re capable of every day will not have to worry about their future.

PM: We still have two minutes left, so let’s keep going. Give us an example. I’m going for youth football and now, what target can it be, how can I divide it?

RK: You’re already doing well because, for example, you only target courses that are dedicated not to senior coaches but to a specific age group, you do internships by people who are in charge of the same age groups that you’re also in charge of. You keep developing, you get to know yourself, you see your character traits, how you can tweak them so that they serve you better. You accept yourself the way you are and at the same time you try to notice whether, for example, your ambition, it serves you well of course, but in what aspects does it restrict you? What can you do to control it a little bit better? If we keep looking to develop step by step, at one stage it will give you good experiences, but at the same time, try different things in football. It’s the same when we talk about a goalkeeper and say that if he wants to be a good one, it would be good if he also played as an outfield player. If you’re a young coach then, try different things. Don’t look to specialise yourself too much. You may see a head coach on the touchline who they take pictures of and see yourself there in your imagination, but really, it may not be your perfect destination nor what you’re interested in.

PM: Rafał, what do you value most in life?

RK: Recently? Mountains.

PM: Why mountains?

RK: Because this is some kind of a metaphor of life. This is where you can’t be unmindful, if you get tired, you only have some water and a sandwich, you see beautiful landscapes, you’re offline, you choose one peak to reach, you pursue it, you get tired, but suddenly the weather changes, you need humility to go back, a good attitude is not enough because when the weather is bad, your life is in danger. You learn how to give yourself a miss, pursue your aim but it’s the last day of October, you can’t go any higher, you need to wait until July. The Polish Tatra Mountains are a wonderful place that has recently given me an awful lot of inspiration. I also value people. I like people, I never attach myself too much to symbols, but I always look at what people are behind symbols.

PM: Mental coach Rafał Kubów – thank you very much.

RK: Thank you, all the best to everyone.

PM: This was the thirty-fifth edition of the Teaching Football podcast. Your hosts were…

PS: … Paweł Szymański…

PM: … and Przemysław Mamczak, we will hear from you soon.


Bez kategorii

Interview with Marek Śledź

We have met a unique man. Marek Śledź is the head coach and academy manager of RKS Raków Częstochowa. In the past he also worked as coordinator coach at Amica Wronki and academy manager at Lech Poznań.

Why are you unique?

Marek Śledź: I was surprised I was announced like this. I think I am actually normal. If a certain image of my work or an image of my personality, which follows quite important values in my life, arouses a uniqueness, then I probably can’t agree with it. It seems to me that in our community these should be ordinary attitudes, that is, everyday, natural. I think I am a person like this.

During the Football Conference, you were presented as a professional, eloquent, but also controversial person. Is the final part of the three true?

I would take a… controversial look here, too! I don’t feel like a very controversial character, I just use values that are very transparent in my life. If I talk about something, I talk about it the way I feel. I say it from the bottom of my heart. I say it from the depths of my thoughts, my knowledge, my skills and I tell the truth. I don’t do politics. I absolutely disgust it. I don’t try to manipulate, because I think it’s something that can do too much harm. If someone is hurt by the truth, then it can be considered controversial, but I don’t recognise it that way. Of course, I have my attitude towards many topics that concern my work, but also those concerning normality, everyday life.

What we mean – and you talk about this in interviews – is quite a specific training methodology that you work in. Can you expand on this because Marek Śledź is not known for trends which are common in Polish football, he has his own way from which he does not retreat but which he consistently follows and develops.

My way is surely about certain working standards. However, when it comes to the development of the methodology or the methodology itself, it is subject to evaluation and then evolution. It is not that I am locked in some space of my work. Every project that I have built and implemented I have tried to implement in a systematic way. I tried to introduce an idea for training, and there were many ideas. It’s not that I have functioned in one parameter from the beginning. Today, however, by adapting the tactical periodisation to the training as a whole, I can consider it a project that is unique. One which in Polish realities is probably impossible to implement. I mean, it is possible, but not in any other place apart from the one managed by myself. Of course, it is not that I am the only creator, the originator of such a system of work. The whole adventure with this direction of action started in Lech, with the formation of a programme department. I was probably the first manager, head coach, originator of the idea to create a program department within academy structures, to appoint and assign coaches to program work, to analyse football trends. How do they go? How are they developing? We tried to systematise and introduce one very significant and evolving training programme. Such a program department functioned. It obviously brought a lot of value to my work. It was under my jurisdiction, under my control. I think it was the beginning of the work in tactical periodisation, as a theoretical basis for a training project or a training program operating in the academy. That curriculum department was also changing. There were more people coming to this department. There were already other coaches at Amica who worked with me. At Lech, a coach who had his origins in Portugal played quite an important role. He introduced us to many elements. I agreed, I showed directions, I adapted them to the value of the whole academy project. Then coaches such as Przemysław Małecki and Marcin Salamon brought great value. These are coaches who inspired model activities in a given training structure. This happened both at Lech and later at Miedź Legnica. Those were the years when a certain training idea was created. But I make no secret that I was also formed then. Despite my age, I am still open to education. I’m still very keen on education. On self-education. It’s not like I’ve locked myself in a training space today and I don’t want to leave it. Indeed – I experience a lot of training goods, a lot of ideas for training, but what I try to do and this is the most important thing is not to copy but to adapt it to my vision of work.

And where does you passion for tactical periodisation stem from? You’ve mentioned that this is a systematic process from an early age to senior football. Have you always seen it that way?

For a very short time in my career I was just a coach. A very short one. Actually, after three years of work, I was already combining coaching with training management. Quite quickly I became a manager, a coordinator, so I got the privilege to decide. I also had the duty to look at the training process not from the point of view of my training group, but of the whole centre I was managing at the time. This is quite a big responsibility, but there is also the need to create a certain model of work, which is a model built from scratch. From the foundation right up to the top! This role accompanied me from the beginning, but it’s not that I was accompanied by tactical periodisation right from the start. This technology has not always existed. It was once initiated. Someone was the first to introduce it. We know who because we know where it comes from. We know what Professor Frade did to show another perspective into football. Of course, working a bit earlier, at other stages and in other centres, I experienced learning many effective training projects. After all, we know very well how technical periodisation used to work, which was a typical Dutch school. But this school had been celebrating its triumphs for many years and Dutch coaches have worked in practically all European centres. I also experienced it, especially at Ajax. But there came a time when this methodology started to „fail”. On a global scale. We started to see the football world change and the Iberian Peninsula suddenly became dominant. It started to dominate for a reason. Someone came up with an idea to see football a little differently. It turned out that seeing football differently was more effective. That it brings a specific dimension of a sporting success. My openness to follow modernity and efficiency has led me to explore the subject. I am not saying that in this methodology, so to speak, I will die as a coach. It is possible that there will be something in the world that will bring other values again and that will go towards an even bigger sporting success. Then you will have to adapt your idea to what is most effective again.

So we are talking about tactics, brain, decision-making. This is what we rely on when it comes to tactical periodisation. Do you think that this may change in the coming years? That someone will come up with something entirely different? That there is something even more important than decision-making?

We all know where the biggest room for improvement for any human being is. Not in the strength, speed or motor activity. Not in their abilities. But in their heads! This is where the greatest potential is, so if someone will be able to bring to every sport even more aspects connected with, so to speak, brain, I think such methodology will triumph. I think today’s tactical periodisation is developing as a very defined methodology, both in terms of its impact and interpretation. Today it is a methodology that affects an intelligent player. It is not a methodology for players who are not intelligent. You have to think, you have to be able to make the right decisions. In relation to these correct decisions you have to perform specific actions. And to do it in the smallest units of time, under great pressure.

And to what extent are you able to accept any modifications to the periodisation of Vitor Frade? Tomasz Tchórz, who is fixated on the Portuguese, does not accept any concession from this path.

I’ll put it this way: Tomek is a wonderful young man. He’s a boy who thinks outside the box which is not common in our daily coaching thinking. However, it should be remembered that he is a young coach. Today he operates within the parameters of a very enriched football theory and I can confidently speak of myself as the one who put this theory into practice. That is to say, to a specific effect. I’m not talking about tactical periodisation as a pattern of a narrow corridor in which I function. I’m talking about periodisation as a theoretical foundation for the training programme. My interpretation of tactical periodisation touches upon its philosophy of football, touches upon its principles which define it in many moments. However, in order to translate it not into a training process – it is not about a microcycle or morphocycle in which we will function – it is about those decision-making processes, those elements connected with making tactics a foundation of the training programme. Tactics understood wisely. Not one that a parent could understand. One who says: if you work tactically, my child will probably play a certain position from the beginning. No. Individual tactics is a choice, for example when a five-year-old player dribbles with the ball to the right or the left side, he makes a decision. That’s his choice. That’s his tactics. Either I go with the ball in that direction, or this direction. My target is to score a goal, but I’m going to look for a way to score that goal. We’re talking about a completely different view of tactics and that’s the basis. The basis, as I said, is theoretical. First you have to write the whole methodology of work, the whole systematics of work, forms of teaching, adjust the structure of the training unit, do many things to divide it into stages. Say how these stages correlate with the age of the child, with his or her ability to acquire knowledge. It all needs to be systematised and introduced into the program, which will function as I said: from the foundation right up to the top. I see many activities in periodisation that accompany my person on a project built in this way, but it is also not that I am closed to the experience of other methodologies. Introducing elements of Coerver Coaching into the structure of the training unit, such as elements of mastering the ball, will not conflict with tactical periodisation or the idea for training. If you can bring something that is better, that is bigger, that will allow for something more, then of course we use it. I assume that there must be a certain theoretical base, which will be the basis for me. We must have macro rules, that is, there must be something to which we always find a reference. And we must not break those macro rules. You can modify the options, but you can’t break the macro rules.

This unified work system you are talking about is probably only possible if the whole academy works as a unit. Is it not possible for a coach in a given age group to work according to a specified system, without continuity in teaching?

There is a chance for such coach, but if I am in charge of the project, it will be a short-lived chance. I always repeat to coaches and to myself that when it comes to projects which I am responsible for the academy is most important. Not Śledź, not Nowak, but the academy. We all have to identify with it, this is our common success. If a player ever makes it, it is not a success of one coach. This is the success of the whole academy. Of all the coaches who work and have worked for it. The important thing is that this kind of thinking is also recognised by the owners of the club. So that they know that the coach working with a five-year-old is no less important than the coach of the first team. He is a very important coach at the club! He is actually one of the most important coaches, because it is him who instils passion in the child, at the same time he selects him, introduces him. Great, if someone understands that.

You say that an academy is like a table. Could you expand on this?

I once had the pleasure of participating in lectures of quite a well-known mental coach – Pawel Habrat. He made a reference to the table. Why did it inspire me? Because we entered into a dialogue with the coach about how to treat the legs of this table. He shortened and then lengthened those legs, but obviously he saw the table a little differently. He compensated one leg for the other. I, looking at the table we are sitting at now, see four legs of the same length. I can’t imagine us sitting, talking, drinking coffee if one leg was much shorter. It was a kind of an inspiration to compare the academy to the table and to define all the main factors that determine its functioning. I divided them into four areas: the first leg is infrastructure. We have a great training methodology, we have passionate coaches, we have someone who will organise it superbly well, but we have nowhere to execute the plan. How are we supposed to educate a player, to a specific level of ability, if we have no place to train? Or if we train on an uneven playing field, on a bend, between park benches or in the school corridor? Pathology. This is pathology! Of course, I’m placing up on the pedestal all the enthusiasts who do it because they do it with great commitment and don’t look at the fact that there is no place to train, but they still do it. And I praise them for it. But unfortunately that doesn’t create a system in which we will regularly create a complete player. So can you train without infrastructure? Not in my opinion. Infrastructure is not just pitches. It’s dressing rooms, it’s showers, so the whole sanitary aspect. It’s offices for coaches who need to work. They need to sit down somewhere and prepare for training, they need to have a TV to analyse matches, they need to have a camera to record the matches and trainings. All these things affect the infrastructure. I talk a lot about standardising work, because it just has to be there. The conditions must be created. The second leg is the organisation of work, because if we have a great infrastructure, great coaches, but we get into chaos, for example: somebody will train two teams on one pitch, because somebody didn’t plan it, we won’t have good organisation. Also the effectiveness of the project will decrease. The third leg is the training methodology. The infrastructure and organization themselves are definitely not enough. If I work in such methodology today and I require players from a given position to do something that is dedicated to a specific space on the pitch, if a player has to read information right, left, ahead of and behind him, because he is a midfielder, then I can’t provide him with the same training exercises for ten years. If we have these three things – great, but for all this to work, we need people to execute it. It doesn’t matter that you have those three things if you don’t have people who can implement it. The coaches I work with must be prepared, open and willing to learn. It must be a selected team that will believe in the whole project and will follow it. This begs the question – can we cut one of these legs so that it still is an effective project? Maybe it will work, but it will definitely not be complete and hundred percent efficient. And after all we want it to be complete.

„I distinguish between Polish football and football.” Do you know who said those words?

I use it often!

So what do you disagree with in Polish football youth development system?

I disagree with many things. I disagree with the treatment of youth development. I disagree with the way people in charge of clubs regard youth development. If someone sees a club, it’s not like the club is just the first team. This is the whole structure. Wherever I can, I condemn this approach, where the first team is most important and the rest is neglected. A sports club is a powerful institution. This is the foundation that is the academy. Which is the training of children and young people. Training in appropriate standards, with appropriate treatment of the coach, with appropriate remuneration for this coach, with identifying the coach in his profession, with shaping his path of development and, most importantly, with building the ideology that I speak of in general – the youth product. But the youth product is not only a football player. Academy is a university. Social factor, educational factor, training factor. The youth product may become a good school teacher in the future, a very good physiotherapist who will work at this club, he may be a doctor, a chairman of a bank, that will soon be a sponsor of this club. Because he grew up there. This is a youth product. He’s not just a football player and you have to be aware of that. If someone sees a club with a mission, that’s how you have to see it.

Your dream, which you mentioned in an interview for „Przeglad Sportowy”, was an own school by the academy. How do you see this in connection with the education system?

I said this a few years ago because our general education system did not respect much of what should support a child’s passion. That is, his sporting path. I see football as a spectacle, not as a primitive meeting of people and some kind of a war on the pitch. As a spectacle. As a theatre. As a unique spectacle and this vision of football also provokes me to see many other organizations that should support the passion of a child. I would like the education system to be correlated with the sporting path of a child or a player. At the beginning it was very difficult to correlate many activities. Then at Lech we found some solutions, for example we wrote, together with the coaches, the so-called pedagogical innovation at various levels, establishing a system of sports classes at a state school. This innovation allowed us, for example, to do one very important thing: not to identify it in the physical education lesson system, so our training with an age group, but with a training group. If a player needed to train with the appropriate training group, his age was of no importance. We had the possibility and permission to move players. In the normal system there was no such possibility. So we open sports classes and the player has to be at classes with his year group. But why can’t we raise the requirements for him? Since he should have an even higher bar in his artistry today? At Raków, my dream, to an extent, has come true. We opened a Sports Championship School at the level of high school, which is a school completely in our jurisdiction. The school’s governing body is RKS Raków Częstochowa. Legally, the chairman of the club is responsible for this school, while on the daily basis – I am responsible for it. I had the privilege to choose the headmaster, teachers and we are at the beginning of the way. It is a very joyful beginning, arousing some enthusiasm for further actions. We have set quite big educational requirements, so we have already had a case of one pupil leaving the school due to not meeting those requirements. But we believe that tactical periodisation and the whole model of our work require a process of intellectualisation from the player, require his brain, thinking. If he is not able to correlate the knowledge of geography with the history of Poland, he will also not read the information on the pitch correctly, he will not be able to link it together with himself.

So what we hear about an ambitious project that was created in Częstochowa, going in an interesting direction, is confirmed by your words…

We made a huge effort. At the conferences to which I am invited, I present a slide about the room for improvement at the club. I touch on the owners, chairmen, people managing clubs. I openly say why I see Polish football functioning like it does and where the room for improvement lies. I would like to delete this slide one day and experience an owner, who is a very noble character. May his business career accompany him in a measurable way. With such an approach, it may evolve towards a great deal of patience and a certain systemic solution. It is essential for the project to succeed. We have taken up a peculiar job, and I must honestly admit that the first three months of my work, the audit and the preparation of the project from next season, were the most difficult period so far in my career. Large logistic projects: Sports Championship School, sports classes, expanding the selection criteria at Raków, so the negative selection, which we had to do. Because I’m not afraid to say that we wanted to get out of the ubiquitous commercialism in Poland – as many children as possible, as many contributions as possible, and an average quality. One coach, 40 players on a bend. It’s a simple fraud! A child and their parents are cheated. Children come to training and have dreams. They want to become footballers. If there are 40 of them, how can one coach teach them anything? Parents often don’t understand it, but if they enrol their son to extra English lessons, what group would they want to send them to? A small group, to make sure he’s taken care of. This is a lesson! We want to do that too. But I’m off topic… The negative selection was very difficult. We had to make a decision to move some of our club’s players to partner clubs. We created a system of work and expanded it with an effective transport project. We were once on an internship at Ajax Amsterdam. They asked us – how many buses do you have? We cheated that we had two. Oh, we have 21 – they answered. Twenty-one buses with drivers who took children to the club and then picked them back up after school, every day. In Częstochowa we have created something similar, four buses go up to 40 kilometres from the city and take the kids home from school every day. In the system of sports classes we have five dedicated training units per week, and at four or five o’clock in the afternoon children are already at home and have some spare time in the evenings.

How many children do train in each training group following the process of negative selection?

The number of training groups can be unlimited as long as such are the infrastructure and financial possibilities so that coaches can be employed to work with these groups. Again, I’m going back to the table and the legs – you have to put this into an organisation that we can handle. We have so many coaches that we can’t stretch this out indefinitely. The important thing though is not how many groups we have, but indeed how many children there are in those groups. I have made that very clear. If I am talking about children’s groups, the number of children per group cannot exceed 12. This is also closely related to our training methodology, such as the foundations of the game. Everything is correlated with each other. Groups that play in seven-a-side and nine-a-side football consist of 16 players, and in 11-a-side football we can have from 20 up to 24 of them.

So after coming to a club, it’s not evolution, but revolution? Because some people talk about Śledź in the context of the latter.

I make a big protest, Przemek. Let me put it in another way… You come into your house, you have unwashed, there are dirty things lying somewhere, there is some dust, what do you do? Revolution or order? Or are you just cleaning up? If cleaning up certain things is a revolution, I disagree slightly. It’s not a revolutionary element. I’ve touched a lot of projects that were in chaos. For example, I’ve touched training places that someone has used in commercial relations. It was about quantity, not quality. I assume that quantity will come to the club, but based on quality. First, you need to create a quality elite, a project that will work greatly and that everyone will want to come to. Because everyone wants to play on the pitch next to the Polish champions. But first there has to be this magnet. We have great training sessions, we have high ethical and moral standards and on the basis of this pyramid we can have 1000 children. But training groups cannot have more than 12 players! Because we cheat a child who cannot be cheated. At the youngest level it is difficult to verify the development and carry put a selection process. Today I realise that we can make a mistake and get rid of Jaś Kowalski, who will soon turn out to be a very talented player at another club. Then we will have to get him back. But today we have to sort it out, that’s what we can do. We can fit jumpers into the wardrobe, so we can’t put 20 of them there, because they will get crumpled and there will be one big mess.

Apparently, many people are afraid of you…

I’m hearing the same thing. When there was once a rumour that I could become manager of one club, one of my coaches, who worked there at the time, was approached by a lady from the laundry. “Do you know Śledź?”, she asked. “I’ve heard he will come here and fire everyone!” It happens that I do this, it’s true. But it’s not easy for me. I take away a part of someone’s life, I decide their fate. But I always emphasize that it’s not me who fires people, it’s because of their working standards. I introduce a certain culture of work. We stand at the foot of the mountain, everyone gets a bag, and I keep putting stones into it. But at some point someone stops and says: „I don’t keep going, I don’t want to carry that bag any further. My legs hurt, I don’t fancy it.” Then they have to leave the group, because it will be a burden for them. Those who can do it, simply keep going.

What are you looking for in the coach and the person who you would like to work with?

A strong determining factor is knowledge. Preparation for work. But this is secondary, because I can take the burden of preparing the coach for work. The first aspect I look at, however, is personality and passion. Following something that will be a challenge. Devoting and making sacrifices for it. Besides, openness to education. I also pay attention to loyalty, but a well-understood loyalty. Not idolising and telling me what I want to hear every day, but loyalty to the project. This should be characterised by courage. Somebody wants to do something, decides, agrees on conditions that he will work with me in a specific way. So he can’t then say „I would do it differently” behind my back. He signed on to something, so he must be loyal to the project… If he disagrees with something, he must come and tell me. It can also lead to some modifications, because it is possible that his opinion is very constructive, of course.
I have been very lucky to people in my life. On my journey I met many exceptional people who followed me as a signpost. If we hadn’t talked about the players, the youth products, then my life winning match is these young people. The coaches. These are the beginnings of their young careers, but I believe those careers will be extremely enriched. These are the victories! Exceptional characters, top coaches, but also great personalities. Fantastic young people who have also followed human values. My controversy, which you mentioned at the beginning, may have such a reference. I don’t tend to respect people for their positions. I may respect someone for what they are like, but I don’t tend to kneel outside of the chairman’s office. If someone is an honest person, I will give my whole self for them. I’ll always put in a word for them.

How would you relate to the work of a coach and their earnings in Poland? Most of them combine their roles and by noon do something completely different than football.

It all depends on the level. Football isn’t just about professional clubs and academies. It is also about making the sport popular and that should take place. It is common all over the world that, for example, someone works in a bakery in the morning, but he is passionate about football and runs a training group in the afternoon. And great, there should be a lot of this. At professional level though, this is not acceptable. That’s why I criticise club structures so hard… If a club owner or chairman does not realise that the training of six-year-olds is as important as the training of the first team, it’s scandalous. In a while these people will be expecting a footballer to come from the academy. The right idea for the club is a place prepared for a boy from the academy in the first team. But how do we prepare him? If the one who leads the team doesn’t care about the boy to go through the training process properly and get there?. Then how is he supposed to get there?! But it’s a typical Polish attitude, everyone sees the tip of their nose.
If someone thinks more long-term, they will never hire a coach for 200 zloty and for the afternoon hours so that he or she can be a postman or sales representative. The work of a coach is not only two hours of a training session. It is also preparation, time to prepare the session, to discuss it. The head coach must divide the tasks – with the second coach, assistant. If someone builds something professional and wants to have professional results, he or she must take into account that it costs money. This is the most normal thing in the world. I’m talking about this pathology, because often the economic value of creating a professional academy is equal to the value of two contracts of average footballers at first-team level.

What advice would you give to coaches who would like to work at a professional academy? How to function if the pathology you’re talking about is omnipresent?

I don’t feel like I can heal the whole world. I can’t tell what they should do. I think everyone should have their moral backbone. The truth about people is reflected in critical situations. The wife of one of my coaches once told him when he asked her what to do after Śledź was fired: „you must never let yourself be treated like this.” That’s a beautiful sentence. He already knew that the following day he would hand in his notice and would not work at a place where something we were aiming for was destroyed. I would urge young people to follow their passion, but in the name of an essentially built hierarchy of values.

Are you open to internships at the Raków Academy?

I would like to treat coaches on an internship as I would like to be treated on an internship myself. I don’t need to feel recognised, I don’t publish many things, because I think it’s better if someone wants to learn something, just come to Częstochowa. You can spend a week, two weeks with me. I’m open to it, I’ll show you everything we do. The intern coach puts on a tracksuit, doesn’t just stand on the side with a notebook, participates in training, goes on the pitch. He’s at all the briefings, at all the activities. He is with us, we treat him like another coach on our staff. We also have a standardised idea for their social functioning. We have an agreement with our hall of residence, where we can accommodate the coaches. There, the food and social rates are very low, dedicated to them. Those interested are therefore invited to contact me by e-mail – marek.sledz@rksrakow.pl – with information about what they would like to experience during the internship, a CV and the proposed date of the internship.

Bez kategorii

Interview with prof. Huciński & Wilczewski

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?

TH: Yes.

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.

TW: akademiaeps@gmail.com

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.