Adaptive coaching does not equal soft coaching
By Kayla Voss

I was sitting in a coffee shop last Friday morning, reading the sports section of the paper, before coming across an article by Kane Cornes. In his words: “soft bosses who give in to precious players don’t succeed in football”. He believes AFL coaches need “to embrace old school toughness”. 

Kane Cornes started his career in 2001 at Port Adelaide. He played against some of the toughest teams in the early 2000s, with coaches to match their ruthless approach. However, we are not in the early 2000’s anymore and the coach-player relationship has evolved. Of course there needs to be a level of toughness. Coaches, more than ever, need to earn the respect of the players to get results. Yet, reviving old school coaching techniques will only cause coaches to lose their players and produce unfavourable results. 

Social media is an overwhelming influence in the modern world as its design can cause mental health problems for any of us. In particular, people like AFL players who are in the public eye can experience this effect even more. The constant comments and opinions from fans, former players, coaches and media personnel can become too much for today’s players. It is not difficult to understand why. It was much easier to tune out others opinions of your team and performance when platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter did not exist. 

Players from the 2000s era have taught us exactly why old school coaching techniques are no longer effect on modern playing groups. Michael Voss, Nathan Buckley, Justin Leppitsch and Damien Hardwick are prime examples of the importance of evolving with the ‘times’. Nathan Buckley and Damien Hardwick are proof of the difference coaching techniques make on team performance. 

Nathan Buckley was one of the toughest leaders in the late 90s and early 2000s era. His opponents and teammates have all commented on his intensity and focus as a player. When he was named Senior Coach of the Collingwood Football Club, Buckley used the same mentality. However, the response from his players was underwhelming and worrying for Collingwood fans. Today, coaches are tasked with the responsibility to create connections and build relationships with their players, while also gaining their respect. Nathan Buckley focused more on his empathy as a coach to make that connection with his players and the results speak for themselves. Even though they have not won a premiership, they made the decider in 2018 and have been a competitive finals side for a few years now. 

Damien Hardwick is another successful example of this new, modern-day coaching mentality. He has led his Richmond team to two premierships in the last three seasons and has addressed how creating a ‘family club’ environment contributed greatly to their success. 

The AFL 2020 season is a perfect example of what clubs are prioritising within their football environments. Hubs have created opportunities for players and coaching staff to develop and build relationships with each other. Those teams who have embraced these opportunities are proving its benefits with successful results. 

The modern-day game is a completely different environment than it was 10 to 20 years ago. Relationships and connections are the new forefront of football clubs to achieve successful results. Coach and player relationships are more important than ever to create safe and supportive environments for players.

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