The high profile of football in the world of sports has placed coaches of the sports with myriads of dilemma and psychological problems. Nigeria football coaches are no exception.
As a result, of the high expectations, most Nigerians and other stake holders in the game of football seem to over look these problems and their effects on the football development. The public does not see the Nigerian football coach as one whom less is given but from whom much is expected!! In most cases, the coach is expected to squeeze water out of rock no matter the odds against him.
According to Dictionary of Sports by G & C Morian Company Publishers USA, a coach is defined as “a person who instructs and trains performers or players in the fundamentals of various techniques in sports”.
In team sports like football he “teaches the fundamentals and techniques, conducts practices, develops plays, and runs the games (by directing offensive and defensive strategy) and making substation”.
The dilemma and psychological problems that militate against the effective discharge of the above schedules of football coaches include:
1. “High standard set by hirers or employers of coaches without adequate and compensatory provision of operational materials”
Above dilemma presents itself as a major problem of Nigerian football coaches especially when wrong appointments are made for non-professionals to manage sports. Instances abound of highly rated clubs arid National Teams performing below expectation without serious diagnosis of what is amiss rather, an Utopian expectation by the club management and hirers of the coaches most of whom lack integrity, transparency and honesty. A visit to the training session of a typical football club will give a very good picture of this assertion. There you may see players in training session with few balls and training materials. In some cases players are lured in to signing for clubs that will not meet their obligations – regular payment of their salaries, poor medical facilities, transportation and other welfare packages. The inroad of non professionals highjack duties of other essential personnel in the sports industry who have little or no ways to develop sports rather engage in filling their pockets.
Instances equally abound where coaches ride to training session in hired motor bikes while their wealthy players and team managers ride in exotic cars. In situation like above both hirers and fans expect miracles from the coach and players!!! – Expectations from Nigeria Coaches should be matched with adequate provision of operational materials as motivation and incentive facilitate performance.
2. The motivation of footballers during preseason, session pre-events and actual events are yet other identifiable problems of coaches. Motivation is a process whereby needs are created within an individual which forces him/her to seek particular goals to satisfy the needs. Generally speaking, a motivated person is more active than one who is not motivated. Although skill is essential in sports like football, without motivation skill is of little value. What plays out nowadays is poorly motivated players and technical crew while management/administrative staff lives like landlords without knowing that what kept them on the job are the players and handlers. It is only when skill and motivation are both present (and of course aptitude) that optimum performance in sports results.
Poor results in most cases are products of non-or-inadequate motivation of both players and coaches. We are told Heartland players got two months’ salary arrears en route to Jos to honour their week encounter with Plateau United. They care back to confirm the effect of motivation. Hence they posted 2 – 0 win against Enyimba in Owerri in week 4. Motivational techniques like material, symbolic and psychological rewards especially when results are achieved are advocated. The concept of Enyi Ihe Eme Ihe played out in Heartland match against Enyimba.
3. The progression of footballers as quickly as possible from performance potential to performance realization” is yet another problem Nigeria football coaches have to contend with. When quick results are expected from coaches the graduation of potential footballer to performers end up in haphazard training/coaching sessions as well as fire brigade approach in selection of players. The psychology of learning will therefore, offer the coaches the concepts of reinforcement, knowledge of results, skill sequence, and transfer of training design in general. Nigerian coaches should be allowed time to achieve this. The expectation of Nigerians place very serious strain on coaches hence the hire and fire syndrome of coaches by their employers be that at club or National Levels due to impatience and quick result expectations. As there are three options in every match; win, draw or loose we should adopt any and go to the drawing board for better result next time.
4. Understanding the Psychological problem of each player (footballer)
Coaches are “in loco-parentis” to players. That is that they should act like parents. Therefore coaches/players relationship should be that of father and children in a family. Anything short of this will surely affect both the performance of the player who feels the coach is nonchalant about his/her plight and on the other hand the coach himself who is ignorant about the player’s emotional and psychological wellbeing and the effect on his duty. The non adherence of management not meeting up the expectations of coaches leads and altercation, and misunderstanding between the coach and hirers.
When coaches show concern to players problems, the later builds confidence on the former. Coaches that are not well versed in professional clinical psychology usually find it difficult to identify, diagnose and remedy some of the player’s personal problems. The threat of many coaches to leave the duty post results in most case when the agreements are breached.
5. Identification of most trainable and coachable player devoid of psychological problems and who will make the team
This is yet another problem facing Nigerian football coaches. Since above qualities cannot be detected during screening exercise the coach may end up screening and registering stubborn footballers who could frustrate his programme, match plans and obstruct the coach’s road to success. Therefore track records/dossiers of footballers which seem to be lacking in our sports diaries should be the focus of sports administrations – match commissioners, press and technical department of Nigeria Football Federation Board and League Management Company (LMC). This surely will reduce to a minimum the problem of handling footballers with such handicaps by our coaches.
6. The development of team moral, effective competitive situation and understanding of group dynamics and leadership is yet another of physiological problems that confronts football coaches in Nigeria. Players should be made to lead (captain) and be led. Captainship should be rotatory. Individual differences that will aid in team cohesion and friendship should be allowed in the camp. Coaches should be exposed to social physiologies to assist them avert these problems.
7. “The development of best communication style between the coach and players. Most Nigerian football coaches operate on very high frequencies that make their job difficult to the players. Derogatory statements and calling of names that may dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of footballers especially when they perform skills wrongly should be minimized by coaches “Afor anu, good for nothing, idiot”. Most rifts associated with coaches and players have been traced to poor communication skills that sound derogatory.
8. Role Defects and Role Conflicts
Most Nigeria football coaches play the role of master of all. The role defects could be traced to either their own making or that of their employers. Many coaches frown at employment of assistants. Many assume all the roles – trainer, manager, coach, scout physiotherapist, football director, technical adviser, welfare officer etc. Most jack of all trades coaches end up as failures. Division of labour should be the watch word of every coach for effective management. For example selection of players should be a collective responsibility not a one man show. Coaches who adopt jack of trade posture dissipate energy meant for their actual schedule, hence their colossal failure in most cases.
9. Thought on how, and what to do as to better performance, fear of failure and negative external influence by colleagues
These problems deprive football coaches of the basic comfort of life and consequently their families are not left out either. No wonder a good number of them suffer such ailments like ulcer, high Blood pressure, frustration and nervous disorders etc.
The negative external influence of coaches against their colleagues is the worst professional misconduct observed among Nigerian football coaches. Many come to watch the matches of their colleagues with the mind set of lobbying for their colleagues position. The Pull Him Down Syndrome (Ph.D) is the trade mark of many coaches. Any threat of any coach’s position elicits the dusting of coaching certificates of colleagues in readiness to step into their shoes. Other demands and challenges that frustrate optimum performances of coaches and player include poor infrastructural development, poor welfare and insurance policies, as well as lack of evaluation of set objectives.
1. Stakeholders’ fora should be organized periodically through workshop seminar and lectures for officials – match commissioners, referees, referee assessors, fans, supporters club and the mass media etc. Their cross fertilization of ideas will help curb some of the nagging problems that militate against football development in Nigeria. Issues like violence in sports, audience psychology and control, role of the press, players/coaches motivation/welfare – incentive and rewards are discussed leading to better grasp of the
problems and their effects in football development in Nigeria. These fora will ride in the minds of people errors, prejudices and bias they have over football development.
2. Authorities that administer football in Nigeria should organize refresher/coaching courses/clinics for our coaches to update their mastery of the Techniques and Contemporary methods of coaching during pre-competition era and breaks.
3. Mass Media – print and electronic media should devote quality pages and airtime on information, entertainment and enlightenment of all and sundry to the new concepts and periodic reviewed laws of game of football by FIFA.
4. Government (Federal, States and L.G.A) which cannot single handedly sponsor sports should attract private public partnership in investment in sports especially football.
5. Professionalism should be the guiding policy of government/owners of football clubs in the recruitment of management/administrators of sports while the technocrats/ Technical crew should be in the hands of reputable and qualified personal and not politicians.
6. Coaches should be provided with complementary working tools and mouth watering welfare packages to enhance their duties.
Coaching in Nigeria has come of age. The moment Nigerian populace is schooled to appreciate the psychological problems that beset her football coaches, the better the development of football awareness and positive expectations. Despite all the myriads, dilemma and limitations Nigeria football coaches encounter, many have made remarkable impact both Local, National and in International Football competitions.
Many have really carved niches for themselves as the world has acclaimed many of them. Having x-rayed few of the problems besetting football coaches, we should therefore support them to reach their goals rather than pull them down.
When people are enlightened, errors prejudices and biases will be minimized giving way to constructive and positive assessment of Nigerians in every human, endeavor including sports especially football.
Agwamba (Ph.D), is a retired referee, and sports administrator.