A couple of months ago while I was reading a book about leadership, waiting for my kids to finish playing at a trampoline park, suddenly my phone rang. It was a good old friend of mine from Romania who called me regarding a visit that he will pay to me this week. He is also a coach and a Brazilian Jiujitsu fighter recognized as one of the best in the world. I told him I was so focused on my book reading that the ringtone made me startle. I shared with him what I was reading, and he replied to me like this:
“- Leadership? If you want to see, leadership watch All or Nothing Manchester City!”
I was so curious about what he told me that the next day I made a subscription for Amazon Prime and I started to watch the documentary.
The documentary consists of 8 episodes and is an inside look of how legendary coach Pep Guardiola leads his premiership football team through the 2017/2018 season. I liked it so much that I finished all the episodes in the same day.
This documentary has given unparalleled access to how the team talks, locker room, transfer strategies and daily functioning of the club work. Add to this the raw emotion and the best Premier League season for a team in history; this makes it a profoundly informative and enthralling view for all football fans or any other sports fan.
The movie is a joyride which takes you through the whole season the club had with every bit of happy, sad, painful and victorious moments as never seen before. The movie can change your perspective on how sports should be approached at any level.
I will not talk much about leadership now, but I will tell you what Guardiola told the players after an unexpected defeat.
The team who won 18 games in a row and who was going to finish the Premier League at the end of the season with an all times record of 100 points, lost one game in the Cup competition against a team from the third league. I will not stop on the reasons why it happened, but I will tell you what Guardiola said in the locker room after the game. He finished his speech like this:
“- Get a shower. Recovery. Never forget. Now it’s time to cry a little bit. That is what it is. Let’s go!”
Why am I telling you this story, is because I believe sport practiced correctly makes you resilient and persistent for the rest of your life, no matter the circumstances and the level where you train. Sometimes it is the time to cry and to get over all the sad moments which comes to your life.
Now let’s get back to me.
Last week I was confronted with a hard decision regarding the U16 team that I coach. Is the second year since I coach U16 and from the beginning, I tried to change the environment for my team into the one that I consider to be the best for youth development.
If you want to understand better what I consider a healthy environment read on my previous post: “Coach responsibility as a Cultural Leader.”
I have to admit that I didn’t succeed to change it in the way that I wanted to, but this never stopped me in my attempts.
Last week things got crazy from my point of view. We had a tournament this Saturday, and my Club was the organizer of the competition. The roster of my team is composed of 8 players. Somehow with two injured and one traveling with his family abroad, we were only 5. During the Tuesday practice which is a joint practice with the Varsity team, I was asked by some players from Varsity in front of the others and their coach if they can join my squad during the tournament. Because my beliefs regarding using older players at a younger level, but more importantly because I want to teach my players how to be fair and to have a strong character, I answered with a big NO, and I explained to them that I would never permit this in our team. If we are not enough on the roster or if we have other problems and we can not play we better cancel the game.
I believe it is more important to educate our kids and inspire them the right core values, than to be able to play a basketball game no matter the costs are or how embarrassed we feel if we do not show up.
Next day I felt some pressure because our Club was the organizer and it would be a shame not to have a team or worst to cancel the whole tournament. My answer was precise, and I told them if it is decided to use players from the other squad, I will not continue coaching starting with 1st of January. Then it was silence.
But the next day I received some messages from the Club which informed me that two players from the other team want to join us. Then I replied: “It is your call!” having in mind what I said the other day. The voice answer was very serene: “I was trying to help you.”
After a short time of thinking I decided to assume my responsibility for everything. I replied: “Thanks for the help! Then, if I have to say it, no problem. Bring all of them!”. Probably everyone was happy.
Late in the afternoon, we had our practice. In the beginning, we always have a short talk and Thursday we had it as well.
I started asking the Varsity boys who want to join our team and if they are aware of their age and if they agree to play at our age level. Then I announce what I decided, and it was something like this:
“- I take full responsibility of what I am doing, and I decided to use players from Varsity team, although I said last time that I don’t accept it and I have to step on my words and my beliefs. I am doing it because the Club organize the tournament and it will be embarrassing if we don’t show up. Forgive me about this. And, because I want to give to all of you a life lesson, I announce that because I stepped on my beliefs, and on what I hardly supported before, I cannot be your leader and your teacher anymore, therefore I will step back starting with 1st of January!”
I believe that I did the right thing and even if they do not understand my behavior right now maybe they will remember it sometimes.
I was very emotional during the announcement, but I didn’t show this to the kids. One of the players from the older team was not there during my speech.
Because I like him a lot and I considered it was right to inform him also, I send him later a message where I explained to him in the same way. His answer was priceless to me, and I will reproduce it completely: “Well, thanks Mihai. As you might not know, doing this, you are teaching me, because to me everything is about action and I get inspired by people who do this.”
I don’t want you to believe that I am a saint who never mistakes. I am not for sure, but I am trying to do the things right. I am also able to admit that during my life I stepped on all the values that are considered essential. Sometimes with my knowledge, sometimes without. Sometimes hurting others, sometimes hurting me. But a few years ago, when I was at a significant crossroad of my life, I decided not to do it anymore, no matter what, so here I am.
Past is something to remember and how Guardiola said: Never forget it! But I believe this is all about it. It can’t control our lives; it is only a trace which shows where have you been and not where you are.
And yes, even if we take the right decisions some of them could be painful. In my case, it was excruciating because I am always attached emotionally to the team I coach.
Here is a fact: Sometimes, even the men cry!
Last Thursday was my turn.