Sport

Danny Hughes: Change the mindset before changing the manager

Jim Gavin didn't just stumble upon a winning formula with Dublin, but rather built or carried on a culture or a mindset which breeds success

It is that time of the year again when the managerial merry-go-round is in full swing. Whether it is a county manager you are looking, a club manager or a team of selectors, the criteria will be set out in order for the team to secure the next ‘Jimmy McGuinness'.

Increasingly, I am beginning to think that the job of being a team manager is an impossible one.

Look at last weekend's county finals. The finalists and the losing teams will go back and lick their wounds and perhaps try and pin-point where it all went wrong.

The manager will, on most occasions, be blamed first and foremost by many fans and stakeholders.

The last place many players on any team will look when seeking answers will be to themselves.

In my opinion, the first place any player worth his salt should look to after a defeat is from within.

Was my own performance good enough? If not, why not? Could I have prepared any better? Could I have made better decisions on the day? Is my fitness where it should be?

A lot of questions need to be asked within before any player points the finger of blame. Indeed, supporters should take a similar approach in such circumstances.

Before criticising the players and management of any team, what have they done personally to support the team prior to a game?

Have they helped in the management of underage teams over the years?

Have they cleaned the dressing rooms, carried the water, volunteered to drive players to away games? Have they even paid their club membership?

If you can answer these questions honestly and say ‘yes' to them all then I would be happy to hear your perspective.

Criticism is, has been and always will be part of the game.

It can make a man of you or make you roll up into a shell and cower away from any responsibility.

Real winners will keep coming back.

I love to see competitors take training games as seriously as those of a championship game.

Fierce competitors over the years ranged from Ronan Sexton to Aaron Kernan.

I have played with and against each of the above-named and both approached training and games in the same manner.

Kieran McGeeney was a fearsome competitor too. You could tell that in the games we played against one another (albeit not many), but also in some of the training sessions I experienced in the Ireland International Rules squad he happened to be a selector on.

Up and down the country these types of players are there, but sometimes we give them less airtime than some of the more media friendly alternatives.

There is no doubt in my mind that Roy Keane has struggled and will always struggle to be a manager.

In his last days with Manchester United, had you made this statement you would have been scorned.

Perhaps even before Fergie fell out with Keane, he might well have earmarked Roy as a future United manager.

As a player, Keane displayed every attribute and characteristic someone would want in a manager.

Through no fault of his own, though, Roy just doesn't have that ability to empathise with players who don't give every

thread of their fabric to their chosen game.

Talented or not, Keane, like many others, appears unable to compromise on certain core values he expects of a player consistently day in, day out. Sometimes, people confuse perfectionism with the inability of former top players to reconcile themselves with poor standards in terms of skill and application.

I think McGeeney, meanwhile, had a perfectionist approach in inter-county footballing terms, as did Peter Canavan and Mickey Linden when they played.

Aaron Kernan continues to live this life and, by his own admission, can adequately balance this around his own business and raising a young family.

I would like to think that my time-management (alongside an understanding wife) allows me to fit into this category – albeit I have a few years on Aaron.

I think that every player, whether they are satisfied to play at senior club level or are aspiring to play at county level, needs to have a certain mindset and culture with which they can identify.

Regardless if your club or county side was managed by Jim Gavin himself, the success of any team will come down to the team's culture first and foremost.

This starts from within an individual's personal identity.

Once you understand this, you can then begin to develop the team's wider culture and then perhaps identify a manager who can add to this and be successful.

When setting standards and culture as a coach or manager, you may lose players along the way. You have to be prepared to accept this.

I guess that's where reserve football comes into play –retaining those individuals who want to be club players without the seriousness of being a senior player.

It is very difficult to change a team and a club's culture at a time when many football and hurling fans will now make excuses for players

If I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times; ‘sure the commitment is too much these days'.

This is a pet hate of mine.

Committing to a team can bring so many benefits, like social interaction, discipline, communication skills. And this is before considering the physical and mental health benefits.

I contend that the commitment is no greater than it was 20 or 30 years ago, the difference being that it is just talked about a lot more.

The fact that ‘committing' to anything today is seen as a bad thing, means that many onlookers will create an easy ‘opt-out' for potentially good players.

For this reason, when any club or committee is tasked with finding a new team manager, the first place they should look is the internal culture. The club needs to start here should they want long-term success.

Are facilities available internally and do they remain unutilised?

Is there a long-term club plan with realistic goals? Is there a long-term coaching strategy? Is coaching within the club regularly reviewed and coaches upskilled?

Or is it a matter of just giving the post to whoever volunteers.

From a player's perspective, are individuals late for training on a consistent basis? Do players train and prepare well? Is the talent available?

Throwing money at an outside manager or management team is considered an answer more and more these days and is the first place any club or county will now look.

Why? These funds could easily be redirected to developing a better culture internally, whether it is getting a new gym, better equipment, upskilling coaches or driving recruitment in the local area. A culture which involves commitment to your club or county, nothing more or less than our fathers gave in much more difficult times.

Developing a better culture will drive better success. New cultures are what is needed, not new managers.

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