The best players welcome criticism says USWNT mentor James Galanis
When is a coach a 'bully' and when is a coach doing what they can to get the best out of players?18 February 2019 | Con Stamocostas
Con is a freelance sports journalist specialising in football
Post Stajcic sacking how does a coach know when so-called bullying stops and coaching starts?
One aspect of the sacking of Matildas coach Alen Stajcic, based on FFA's claims related to the alleged “toxic culture” of the team envrionment, is what it means for the practices of elite national team and club coaches.
Has a new precedent been set?
According to Tracey Holmes of the ABC - the only journalist who appears to have been provided with the PFA Wellbeing Audit - the audit claimed a quarter of the players reported feeling psychological distress.
During the week the FFA doubled down on their claims that Stajcic had ruled over a poor culture in the Matildas camp by reiterating that their decision to act was driven out of care and concern for the players.
As Perth Glory W-League coach Bobby Despotosvki claimed, does being a hard taskmaster and demanding high standards now lead to charges that you are a bully and should be subsequently dismissed?
US based coach James Galanis is one of the world’s leading mind coaches and he has strong views about what constitutes a 'bully' as compared with a coach attempting to get the best out of their players.
Not only has he mentored two time FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd and other international players, but he has also been involved with the US national teams as a mental guru.
Galanis’s impressive resume built over the last 20 years in the US includes being the founding Director of Universal Soccer, an academy that focuses on individual development and has postings in Argentina, Cameroon and the US.
In 2017 the former South Melbourne youth player became Technical Director of the New Jersey Olympic Development Program which over the years has been a football factory for the best US male and female soccer players.
Speaking to Football Today from his base in New Jersey, Galanis revealed that critical analysis is a key aspect of training players.
“Coaching is really about finding what is wrong. It’s not about finding what is right,” he said.
“So you need to bring to the surface weaknesses in the team itself and weaknesses in the individuals. The issue with our players today, is they can’t accept criticism. They think that if you bring to the surface a weakness that you are attacking them, when in fact you are just bringing it to the surface and showing them things they have to get better at.”
Galanis admits the hardest part of coaching is when you need to discipline players but that doesn’t mean that it’s a form of persecution.
“I can see how people could misunderstand coaches as being bullies,” he said. “Or being a bit rough, but sometimes that’s how it works because you are left with no choice as a coach. As a coach you have to identify negative things in a player. Whether it’s their skills or negative things in their awareness or physical power or their mental toughness or their character. Then we help that player become better at those weaknesses.”
Carli Lloyd has over 260 appearances for the US national team and has scored 105 internatonal goals. She has won two World Cups and an Olympic gold medal and credits Galanis for resurrecting her career after she was cut by the National Under-20 US team.
“Believe it or not I spent a good portion of my life not having any self-belief,” she said. “I had the passion, I had the competitiveness, I had the will and dedication, but I didn’t know how to throw it all together and train like a professional and work hard every single day.
“Ultimately I have been the one that had to step out on the field after being benched or after being cut and I have made it happen. But James has been there in my ears pushing me and guiding me.”
Lloyd rose to the pinnacle of world football after being cut. But Galanis feels that many young players in elite environments who don’t receive critical analysis are not prepared to deal with what the star US international went through.
“When they are asked to do something that is difficult some embrace it and get to work and keep doing it and doing it until they get it right. Other players walk away,” he said.
“If you grow up as a kid and the coach just yes’s you to death because you are the star on your team, the first time somebody signals out some weaknesses for you and you are 18 or 19 years old and you are in the national team set up, you don’t see it as constructive criticism you see it as criticism. That is the difference between the elite athletes and the players who don’t make it.”
Lloyd says that she has relished having her weaknesses deconstructed by Galanis and feels that is what got her to perform at an elite optimal level.
“You can’t coast along doing all the things you are good at if you want to be in that 1% like some of the greats,” said the 36-year-old.
“You have to be humble enough to work on your weaknesses. I’ve gone throughout my career working on becoming the complete soccer player. Someone whose got an engine, really strong, can defend, attack, shoot from distance, is good in the air, can spring a through ball, can hit a pin point long ball. Now I’m at a phase where it’s that last cycle for me. I’m now playing as forward so it’s all goal related stuff. But we continue to work and we continue to get better. James still continuously makes the training uncomfortable for me, as I try continuing to improve.”
Galanis believes that ultimately it will be the player who will suffer the most if the coach is unable to be forthright in their views.
“The best players love criticism, they look for it,” he said.
“The best players will understand that you have their best interest at heart and that’s why you are telling them what’s wrong with their game. The most successful people look for it. If the coach has got to worry about hurting a player’s feelings and can’t bring to the surface the issues, then the team and the players will not fulfil their potential.”
james galanis, carli lloyd, women's football, elite development