All-Blacks and Pep Guardiola: Two articles on expert coaching

In “Pep Guardiola: The Man Behind the Manager”, Jamie Scrupps wrote that there are three things that separate Guardiola from his peers: Never ending quest to learn, relationship with players, and never ending tactical innovations. 

Quest to learn

Marti Pernarnau, the author of ‘Pep Confidential’, gave a list of reasons why he believed Pep to be the best in the world. One that I found especially interesting was that he has ‘childlike curiosity’, meaning he is constantly trying to learn from other people. Always asking questions and getting their perspective on matters.

This idea of asking questions a lot leads him to question whether certain views and beliefs within football are correct. His view seems to be to doubt everything until it has been proven to work.

Relationship with players

The respect from Pep’s players comes from the passion in which he communicates with them. Watch every time he congratulates each individual player after the game. It usually comes with a big slap on the back, a hug or a huge smile. Similarly, he does not shy away from expressing when he is disappointed in what his team does. You can see how animated he gets when he is displeased with something he sees.

Tactical innovations

The constant chopping and changing on the pitch as the game is in progress is fascinating. I saw a wonderful example of this when Bayern played Arsenal last season. About halfway through the first half, Kieran Gibbs went off injured, with Monreal taking his place. Pep immediately moved Robben and Gotze out to the right to double up on the new player who might need time to get into the match. And sure enough, Bayern scored after build up play coming from that flank.

Whereas Guardiola is universally revered as the top manager in world football, the All-Blacks are the gold standard in world rugby. An article titled “NZ Coaching Gives Players More Power” described the difference between the All-Blacks and the South Africa.

“At practice they will put players into situations that they’ll face in games. They will play attack against defence.

“The attack is faced with varying types of defence – a press defence, a shift defence, a slow defence, a staggered defence, a tight defence or a wide defence.

“And they get the attack to choose the right option in relation to the defence they’re confronted with,” he said.

By comparison South African coaches took a different approach.

The would say, ‘From this lineout we’re going to do this move. We’re going to play the centre on a crash-ball. We’ll play the same direction with forwards off No.9, then we’ll bring it back the other way with a pod of forwards off No.9 and if we get momentum then we’ll play it wide’.

“But it’s all pre-programmed and it’s easy to telegraph,” he said.

In many ways, this is the evolving style of coaching that I argued for in The 21st Century Basketball Practice. It is a matter of empowering players and preparing players to play in the chaotic situations rather than trying to prevent the chaos.

Guardiola and the All-Blacks are two great examples of coaching in the 21st Century. They are constantly learning and evolving and challenging players to take on more responsibility and learn. There is no stagnation; there is progress, even when they are at the top of the world. They do not wait for others to catch up; they push the envelope. They show the way for everyone else.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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