The more you experience, the more you learn, the more you want to keep improving. My entry into local football began back in 1997 and my journey through the ranks afforded me a wide range of opportunities to work with and for some of the best in the business both in terms of team dynamics from coaches to players and personalities in the media and governing bodies. There have been some unpleasant observations. One of the biggest was the lack of preparation local coaches put into their press conferences and media interviews. Remember these are the individuals who preach preparation,game planning, what's winning about, football is life etc. It made no sense that these same people were at times underprepared for something so important to their overall success, but letting others dictate the content and flow of the interview and the message that would be going out to the world. It is apparent that coaches continue to squander opportunities to position their programs, improve their professional image, and maximize the experience of the players and teams they work with and develop. And it’s not difficult or time-consuming. It’s simply a matter of making the time to prepare for the media. We see it everyday on the television and social media. The best coaches I've worked with, I’ve seen often prepare for interviews without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. They mentally prepare a short list of messages they want to convey, and then do so repeatedly throughout an interview, often finding ways to bring the interviewer back to the subjects and points they want to reinforce. My period with Leo Beenhakker between 2005-2006 taught me a lot not only about his approach but also what I as a press officer needed to do. Following his first set of matches against Guatemala and Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifiers, he began insisting that I bring possibly every bit of information that was out in the Press on our players and the opponents. This was part of the homework for getting ready for interviews or press conferences.
Before every press day or media briefing during the training camp in Rotenburg leading up to our matches at the 2006 World Cup and then for each match, he wanted to know what the major networks and publications were saying about our team, our opponents and our matches. He also wanted to know what the opposing coaches said to the press that week about the upcoming games and when necessary, what our players were also saying to the press. It gave him a better sense of understanding how to craft his statements and what to be prepared for. And I'll say this, if someone of the calibre of Beenhakker who had coached Holland, Real Madrid and Ajax saw the need to do that amount of prep for the media, then why is it difficult for local coaches in the industry to do the same. One on ones, social media blogs and media briefings are among the most common methods to communicate the message. Media interviews arguably reach the greatest number of casual fans to whom coaches want to communicate and serve as an ideal opportunity to persuade “swing voters” to support their team and program in good times and, more importantly, bad. It’s the opportunity to continually convey an image, both the coach’s and his or her program; what is the program’s culture and philosophy, what is special about these players. This is what builds premier programs and coach's reputations over time. And a coach should not waste these windows. While it's good to instill confidence in your team by being positive in interviews, coaches sometimes need to avoid making statements simply because it may sound good. Never mis-lead either the media or your team. Avoid using some of these lines too often - "We know what we have to do." Leave that for post-match when based on the result and performance you can instead say, "We prepared well and we knew what we had to do." That sounds lot better than saying in the pre-match that you "know what you have to do" yet the actual performance showed far from it. Stop saying "We have a group of talented players." Every team has talented players. "We are confident of a victory, This is the best group of players we've had in training." Keep that internal. "It was a great experience. It was a learning experience." This is understood and saying it in a post-game interview makes you appear to be short on words. "I believe we have a great chance of winning; going all the way." Let the performance on the park speak to this.
Let your performance show that you were "ready for the challenge and prepared as best as possible." You could not have prepared well and been ready to then be hammered 4-0 with an unflattering performance. There are certain occasions with the media you can explain in-depth about your program, strategies, overall approach and preparations. These are good for full-length one on one interviews, podcasts, shortfilms and some press briefings. You do not want to be too detailed in pre-game press conferences. The least said the better. While the media will press you to give more juice, always be careful about what the opponent has access to. Timely One-on-One print interviews provide an opportunity for coaches to go deeper and expand on topics that will better convey their philosophies and program culture, leading to more fan support and interest. With the Secondary Schools League and the Elite League coming up, coaches will be well advised to spend some more time preparing for the media. We can go on much further on topics like these. Feel free to send me an email for more insight and read more in future columns here or www.pushinglimits.net