Teams Need To Invest In Their Players!
Football teams need to invest in their players and that means more than just paying their salaries and signing-on-fees on time as well as honouring their contractual obligations.
With the 2018/19 Absa Premiership finally taking off this coming Saturday, the waiting is over and good things are expected by all and sundry. While talking about the upcoming season and how exciting it promises to be, I found myself in a conversation with a colleague about why teams need to invest in their players.
Look, professional football is a profession and I get that. To be considered a pro, one has to respect and work on forever improving their craft. They always have to deliver, consistently, at an acceptable level. That’s the bare minimum they are expected to demonstrate. With that comes taking ownership and responsibility for your actions on and off the field. While our teams continue to look at ways to improve their performances, be it with roping in video analysts, technical directors, fitness trainers, dieticians and physical conditioners, among all these important scientific aspects of the game, I feel most of them continue to overlook the most important part – empowering their players!
You see, a lot of our current footballers are paid to play football and that’s the only difference between them and the amateurs playing in the dusty fields in the rural Eastern Cape, for instance. For them to become full-time professionals, the clubs need to invest more in them by not only taking just two hours of their time a day, for training, and the random and occasional activations here and there but providing them with life lessons and opportunities for life after football. There seems to be more emphasis on the brand of the club rather than empowering the players, which is exactly why we no longer have as many poster boys in our league as we used to have. That’s exactly why today’s kids aspire to be Lionel Messi more than our own.
There have to be proper daily programmes for players for them to become the true professionals they are expected to be. There is a lot that can be worked on, from technical to tactical improvements, individual to group work and all these things will only have a greater deal of positive impact on the players’ careers. The time invested in a player’s career will always be visible on the field. The attention to detail and commitment are two of the most important facets of the game. Practice makes perfect, they say, and you need to look no further than Cristiano Ronaldo to see proof of that. The former Real Madrid superstar puts in a shift on his set-pieces and you can easily tell by the routinely way he prepares to take his free-kicks. You can see the vision and anticipation because it is something he does every day. If we are to elevate our football, then we can’t have players struggling with the same mistakes they’ve displayed from two seasons ago already. There has to be a telling improvement every season but, sadly, we seldom notice any improvement worth mentioning.
Football can’t be a two-hour-a-day sport otherwise our players will be left behind while all the other aspects of the game evolve. It is the same with coaching – you can’t have coaches who rock up at training 30 minutes before the start of the training and then go off to ‘spend time with family’ afterwards. Coaching, just like playing at a professional level, is a 24/7 job and the fact that some coaches issue tactical and technical assignments to their players is commendable as it goes a long way in ensuring that players take full responsibility and learn from their mistakes and performances. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to separate players who are aware of their game from those who are huffing and puffing. When you know better, you do better and they say the devil is in the details. Players need to know as much as possible about themselves and the opposition in order to raise their game.
“What are you on about? Players get paid better now than before. They enjoy better and more qualified coaching now than back in the day, yet they mostly fail to deliver the results, especially at the national team level,” I can hear you thinking and asking all sorts of questions! Please bear with me here. Teams need to get financial advisors, tax-related seminars, educational course experts, media courses and many other career paths for their players so that they maximise the time on their hands. They also need to ensure that the players become all-around good and responsible citizens by exposing them to these important courses while ensuring that their players will not die paupers, as they’d have prepared for life after football. This doesn’t, in any way, absolve the players from the responsibility of looking after themselves but, like I said, when you know better, you do better.
Get my point?
The agents also have to come to the party and get more involved in their players’ careers than just negotiating contracts. Agents need to set targets with their players and evaluate their performances throughout the season. I don’t know of many agents who are seriously interested in their players’ careers because some hardly even watch their players, let alone take interest in their wellbeing. For players to perform at their highest level, everyone around them has to play their part to the best possible level that is expected of the players. Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t be where he is today, retired with 50/0 and become a successful businessman and a boxing promoter if he didn’t surround himself with the best people. If he only relied on his talent, without putting extra hours of “hard work and dedication” to his craft, he would probably have turned out to be just like the others before him, who showed true potential but never lived to fulfil it.