You’re Fired: The Sacking Effect – New Ideas vs Player Evolution

So Tim Sherwood becomes the latest coach in elite sport that is unceremoniously cast aside – it’s becoming an all too familiar process. A process that hinges upon reaping instant success, even though in many circumstances the job the coach inherits is more difficult than turning water into wine. With the elite sporting environment dominated by money and sponsorship, coupled with the modern day wafer-thin patience of supporters and boards, it seems little wonder that coaches appear reluctant to play the long-game of developing players. With one’s job and reputation on the line it is much easier to go and find a quick-fix solution to your problems, in the hope that they buy you some time to actually make a difference. As Brendan Rodgers has found out though, even this strategy this doesn’t always work!

When new managers or coaches come in, there is usually an overwhelming sense of optimism – the honeymoon period; the general acceptance that any failings or mistakes are attributed to the previous regime and any success is credited directly to the new ideas and style that have been brought in. Is this an entirely accurate theory? In some cases quite possibly! Let me propose another theory however; how about the one that suggests players and subsequently new coaches benefit from the previous management? Have a look at these….

1) Nigel Adkins sacked January 2013 (Southampton FC 17th), Mauricio Pochettino takes over and Southampton finish a record highest 8th in the Premier League. Pochettino leaves for Tottenham Hotspur (May 2014) before Southampton finish 7th in 2014/15 under Ronald Koeman despite losing high profile players.

2) Peter Moores sacked by the ECB May 2015 after poor World Cup – England win the Ashes 3 months later despite being second favourites.

3) Miles MacLagan sacked by Andy Murray (2010) before finally winning his first major and Olympic Gold (2012).

4) Melissa Hyndman sacked as Head Coach of Welsh Netball (July 2014), before Wales achieve best World Cup finish since 1991 in 2015 World Cup.

5) Nigel Pearson steers Leicester City FC to Premier League safety in 2014/15 before being sacked after relationship breaks down with board. Leicester currently enjoying their best ever start to a season under Claudio Ranieri despite being tipped to go down.

6) Anna Mayes sacked by England Netball five months before 2015 World Cup – England go on to finish a joint record highest 3rd place.

So there you have it – six examples of teams that appear to have blossomed under new management. Or have they? Though many of us might point our finger at the inspiration, charisma, style and prowess of the new management, how many of us are sitting back thinking that a large portion of this success was down to the coach that departed? Take example two in the case of Peter Moores – many of the players paid tribute to the efforts of Moores for the subsequent Ashes win later in the same year. It was felt that the foundations he built with them were instrumental in the team’s success.

Whilst this is not to say that all of these examples are proof of a certain way of thinking, it is at the very least thought provoking when we reflect upon the way in which we all coach. Are we more of a quick-fixer? Do we value immediate success over long term player development? More importantly, what do we perceive success to be?

The very least these examples prove is that in the modern world, players will most often than not outlast the manager, which means that success often becomes apparent for coaches at a time when things are outside out control, i.e. when we are no longer in charge of the group. It might be two or three years before that youngster we were working with begins to demonstrate that potential you saw in him/her. If we are looking for that quick fix all the time however, that potential might never have an opportunity in the first place.

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