When I found myself coaching in the university environment a few years later, I decided to try and get a Masters, too. In Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.
When I looked at the curriculum of the course, I realised how much of it fitted with football. I’d done my A Licence, done my ‘practice’ for four years. This was a way for me to theorise the concepts of leadership.
Self-awareness. Empathy. Responsibility. Motivation. Relationship-building.
You need to know about football to coach, but you need to know about people, too. Sometimes that can be the difference. It’s about how you bring a team together. How you communicate as a team. How you understand each other. And, ultimately, how you unite the group for a common cause.
I was the only person on the course from a sporting background. The others were mostly surgeons who recognised the need for extra awareness around emotional intelligence. And the lecturer had a military background. It was fascinating to learn how different environments looked at different concepts. One thing that really resonated with me was thinking about how we deal with failure.
“When I was doing my coaching badges, I never thought I’d end up singing a cappella or performing to Swan Lake in a theatre full of people”
In football, we focus on the mistake. We want to blame something, or someone. But in the military and the operating theatre – life-and-death situations – it’s the opposite. It’s about how you deal with the mistake. And creating an environment that allows you to learn from it.
In my first season at Östersunds, this was key.
Negative results would spiral into negative feelings. Negative attitudes. I had to get the players to enjoy their football. To come away from the traditional blame and fear culture. To understand that mistakes, failures, losses will happen – but that we have to try and respond in a good way.
I had to find a way to develop that side of the players. To develop the human being outside of the football pitch.
The chairman came up with an idea.
A ‘culture academy’, exposing players to aspects of life they wouldn’t normally experience. Every January, we announce a performance art project that everyone at the club – myself included – works on throughout the season, with scheduled rehearsals and workshops. Then, come November, we perform.