Forging Team Training Culture

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Introducing a new training paradigm isn’t easy. Especially in sports like soccer that are rooted in tradition. When I first took my knowledge as a power development coach into professional football, it was surprising to find out that strength and conditioning training barely existed in the Premier League. In fact there were still old fashioned myths that doing weights stiffened you up. It can be tough to change mindsets at the player’s level, especially if you have a mentality of if ‘it’s not broken then don’t try to fix it’. Even when you convince players of the benefits, it’s still not easy to introduce new routines into the bread and butter of an athlete’s daily life. Here are some insights into how team training culture can be forged from the ground up…with the right approach.

Focusing on Influencers

With my experience at Manchester United I learned it was crucial at the outset, to get key players on board who were role models. I wanted to find personalities that could instigate a change in thinking that others would follow. The case in point was the club’s captain Roy Keane. He wasn’t as famous as a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, but as a midfielder he really impacted the whole team’s performance on the field. In fact, based on his 12 years leading Manchester United to success, Pele named him as one of the world’s greatest living players.

But much more important than a being legendary player, he was a critical influencer on all the players. With an incredibly fervent and tenacious character, he held massive respect and put that to use through leading by example. If I wanted to push a new movement in the way the team trained to win, I knew this was a man I needed on my side.

Adapting to Mindsets

It’s pivotal to get to know each athlete’s needs. With Roy, he had been a been serious about boxing in his younger days, and after having a one to one discussion with him, it was clear he wanted boxing to be part of his power development training. Through listening to his needs and meeting them, we quickly grew a strong bond. The best thing was that as soon as we started working on the pads in the gym, other players actually came just to watch him train. Then they wanted a piece of the action. Step by step we integrated more exercises around that starting point, which quickly grew into fully fledged physical conditioning sessions.

A New Culture

With each athlete coming on board the first thing was to find out their needs, what drives them, and then customize sessions around that. The scenario quickly grew from a group of players with little or no interest in the gym, to most of the club turning up voluntarily even after training on the pitch. They all wanted to get their personalized workouts done, week in week out. The meant that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs adopted a new approach and way of thinking about their performance into Manchester United’s glory years. Then in 2010 I leveraged this approach again to introduce NeuroTracker into every single player’s training routine, making Manchester United the first sports team in the world to take on a new paradigm of cognitive performance enhancement. To me, this has showed the power sculpting team culture through bonding with natural leaders, and then listening to each and every player’s needs.

If you’re interested to read more, then Four Four Two recently interviewed me for an article on this topic, which can be read here.

Mick Clegg

About Mick CleggMick has been a personal coach and trainer for 36 years. He had the amazing privilege to work at Manchester United Football Club from 2000 to 2011. He was the Power Development (Strength & Conditioning) Coach and fitness trainer to many of the world’s top football players including Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, to name a few.

Since leaving Manchester United, Mick has continued to coach other top-class athletes including several world champions in different sports. Learn more about Mick’s work by visiting http://www.seedofspeed.com/

You can also check out one of his previous Experts Corner blogs.

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