developing the potential, the game appears to consolidate the current. A lot of ... Interviews were conducted with the use of an iPhone 5c, and transcribed in full.
Factors that influence the Coach Development Process and football coaching expertise in IFK Gothenburg (Göteborg) – Tensions between developing Professional practices in a Voluntary based support network
Warren Green MA Sports Coaching University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) September 2015
Abstract Sport in Sweden has traditionally been a cultural, and political process for the benefit of all, deemed as a recreational pastime, based on societal values for everyone. The research investigates one of the most successful football clubs in Sweden, IFK Gothenburg (Göteborg), and examines the factors that influence the development of a professional football system within a culture built upon foundations of amateur values and voluntary support. The study takes an ethnological research investigation into Fotbolls Hemligheter (Secrets to Soccer, s2s), the clubs Long Term Performance Development (LTPD) programme, through participant observations, discussions, and semi-structured interviews, over a nine month period. The data obtained from the research indicates how tension is created between developing a policy and implementing the process, based on voluntary provision in a professional performance environment. The findings offer an insight into how the game in Sweden is still coming to terms with commercialisation and the development of professional practices in football. IFK has developed a successful and sustainable process that has been led through the measurement of stringent and formal educational objectives, but as football across Sweden adapts more to professionalism, questions are being raised as to how s2s can be sustainable in the near future. The club now finds its s2s system coming under increased scrutiny. Results suggested that a large degree of success can be attributed to the rigid process of the s2s structure and design, but an immediate threat to the Academy’s future, is a reluctance to change its stance in adopting more modern day football techniques. In conclusion, it is acknowledged that the s2s system is a unique entity in showing such longevity in a volatile short term market, but needs to promote a much more professional coaching system to cope with the modern day professional youth development football environment. Keywords: Football, Sweden, Elite Practice, Voluntary sport provision, IFK Gothenburg i
Contents ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................ I INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................... 3 Sport in Sweden ...................................................................................................... 3 Swedish football and how the system has evolved to influence elite coaching practices ........................................................................................................................ 4 METHODOLOGY ...................................................................................................... 6 Participants .............................................................................................................. 6 Procedure ................................................................................................................. 7 RESULTS .................................................................................................................. 8 Long term development and culture of coaching football in IFK Gothenburg ....... 8 Changes in modern day football and influences towards the IFK Gothenburg s2s development programme ................................................................................ 9 Developing football coaching from grassroots to elite practices ............................ 9 Aspiring to excellence, the planning and development of an elite environment .. 10 Money, resources, and the voluntary nature of Swedish football ......................... 11 DISCUSSION ........................................................................................................... 11 The simplicity of practice within a complex process ............................................ 11 Embracing change and adapting a football coaching system to a dynamic and evolving process. ......................................................................................................... 13 Tensions between developing excellence and the cultural aspects of developing sport for all in Sweden ................................................................................................ 14 Addressing the needs of voluntary provision in a professional market ................ 16 A platform for success hindered by voluntary provision ...................................... 17 CONCLUSION ......................................................................................................... 18 REFERENCES ......................................................................................................... 19
Introduction IFK Gothenburg (Göteborg) are an elite football club operating within the Swedish elite leagues, Föreningen Svensk Elitfotboll. Established in 1904, the club has a rich history of success in the Swedish professional leagues. They hold the record for most Swedish top flight title Championships won since the inception of the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s highest professional football league, in 1934. After several years of research and development, in 1998, Fotbolls Hemligheter, (Secrets to Soccer), a Long Term Performance Development (LTPD) coaching system was unveiled at the club, as a model to promote and sustain the growth of the Academy operations for the near future and beyond. The aim of the this study is to investigate the football development system of IFK Gothenburg’s Youth Academy programme, the s2s model, and what factors influence the development of excellence, within an elite Swedish professional football club. Sport in Sweden Swedish Sport has been seen as a recreational activity with health benefits to society, and opportunities afforded to the population through clubs and societies, traditionally developed through voluntary organisations outside of school, where competitive sport is organised for the benefit of all, and not through any form of elitism (Asle-Bergsgard & Norberg, 2010; Bairner, 2010; Seippe, 2010; Meckbach & Larsson, 2013). Swedish sport has been a
traditional democratic popular movement where people join together in autonomous associations. The Swedish sports model is heavily dependent on the voluntary support of local lenders, as well as public financial support. Previous literature on Swedish sport, and the ‘Swedish Model’ has indicated how social values have been rooted in the Swedish generic social welfare and state model (Norberg, 2011). Sjöblom & Fahlén (2010) discuss how the aims of sport in Sweden, are based upon increasing performance opportunities and achieving equal terms of competition as much as possible. The origins of Swedish football have formed along similar values for a long part of its historical development that have been linked strongly to Sport organised by membership-based voluntary clubs (Ferry, 2012). New challenges in today’s commercial world of sport has now given Swedish sport to move away from these core foundations of voluntary provision and be given the incentive to professionalise their activities, and define new boundaries within a professional sports environment (Gomez, Opazo & Marti, 2007). However, the shift towards de-centralisation 3
and self-regulation has created an in-balance between the amateur ethos and professionalism of sport, causing confusion in what way to develop sport for the future (Seippe 2010). Stenling & Fahlén (2009) say these issues have now begun to affect the development of Sport, and in particular Swedish football. Swedish football and how the system has evolved to influence elite coaching practices Sweden has found itself caught between the amateur ethos and professionalism of the game (Peterson 2000; Sjöblom & Fahlén, 2010). An influx of paid players, and full time coaching staff, suddenly entered the sport, but no professionalism was adapted to the game until the late 1980’s. It was not until Malmö FF turned to full time professionalism in this period, the attitude to football in Sweden began to change (Gammelsæter 2009). The true adaptation to professionalism of Swedish football has been slow, with the greater opportunities to develop the game, not having the immediate impact or the desired outcomes the strategists wished for. A key component of the struggle to change to professional and elite football practices in Sweden has been economy driven. Until 1967, before the move towards professional values, football at the highest levels, was just deemed a recreational activity, and firmly rooted in these amateur principles (Sund 1997; Gammelsæter 2009). Suddenly, as new commercialization opportunities were made available to the elite clubs in Sweden, the game began to be viewed in a new light. After some early club success in the game, notably, Malmö FF in the European Cup, and IFK Göteborg in the UEFA Cup, the commercialisation of the market, in the form of sponsoring, advertising contracts, and the sale of television rights, increased income and investment (Asle-Bergsgard & Norberg, 2010; Andersson & Carlsson, 2011). These gains were only marginal though, and limited to the very elite. As time has moved forward, the transition to professionalism began to unfold, and opportunities to develop the game increased. However, the economic crisis within Sweden in the early 1990’s, and the Bosman ruling, with the freedom of contracts for the professional players, suddenly played a key part in proceedings. These have impacted on the economic constraints of Swedish football to such an extent that progress became virtually non-existent (Billing, Franzén, & Peterson 2004; Andersson & Carlsson, 2011). The economic crisis in Sweden created mass unemployment, undermining the welfare state and labour relations, and by chance, this coincided with football television commercial deals improving, and the Bosman ruling affecting the player’s rights to freely negotiate contracts and move between clubs. According to Billing, Franzén, & Peterson (2004), this was a recipe for disaster. More money 4
became available to the elite clubs, with an increase in spectator figures, fuelled by a sense of national identity linked to football, and an increase of revenue from recently negotiated television deals. Dangerously though, it was a false economy for the Swedish football clubs. The top clubs overspent way beyond their means. Player salaries increased with the freedom of contracts, transfer market fees rose, and speculative marketing strategies, that were placed on future spectator revenue dropped. The marketable position of Swedish clubs in Europe, and the Allsvenskan, could not be maintained, and the economic sustainability for clubs began to diminish. Carlsson (2009) says the clubs with a stable operation and large membership, were able to maintain a key position in the game in those coming years, but only just. Any major investment frightened the clubs and they were forced to draw upon their own resources, effectively without speculating or gambling in the market any further. Unwise business strategies, had overstretched and limited resources (Billing, Franzén, & Peterson, 2004; Carlsson 2011), and this became a sharp learning curve for Swedish football as a whole. Rather than embrace commercialisation of the market further, clubs were forced to make cutbacks. Since these economic uncertainties, the view was that elite football clubs had failed in the financial and social responsibility side of the game (Carlsson, 2009). The Economy and solvency legislation, formulated in 1999, and introduced in 2001, was then designed to regulate the elite football clubs in overspending beyond their means, and to not have any negative capital in their annual financial report. Under the Swedish Professional club licence, the licencing and infrastructure standards are issues that are now deemed central in the running of clubs, and minimum standards are required for clubs to comply with balancing the books (Gammelsæter, 2009). This regulation helps clubs become economically viable and help stabilise their operations, without ventures into the unknown. Looking closer into this legislation, the very factors, introduced to harness and create stability in the game, appear to have negatively impacted on the outlook on professionalism for many. New ventures are viewed as too risky, particularly with the legislative measures in place. Sund (1997) highlights how Swedish football has adopted new ideas in the past, but many have been rejected, with only values tied to long term success. In effect, this has enabled a very top heavy process of elite policy and practice to form, where a few key organisations have dominated and influenced the Swedish game. This has not been due to strategic management of the crisis, moreover being in the right place at the right time, with organisational resources, market position, and membership figures. Sjöblom, & Fahlén (2010) discuss how the beliefs in Swedish sport are that, only the strong will survive. These organisations then dominate and set the foundations into the practices and principles with their ideals of success. Rather than 5
developing the potential, the game appears to consolidate the current. A lot of emphasis is on survival, and holding onto the key elements of success with a continual internal standpoint, rather than focusing on expansion and adopting new methods. Marklund (2009) describes the practices in Sweden as a death chamber for personal progress and individual initiative, due to the dictatorship of the majority rather than opportunistic ventures by the few. Full time practices of professionalism, have just not brought the expected rewards (Billing, Franzén & Peterson, 2004).
Methodology Before the research study was proposed and developed, the researcher had held several job positions within the Elite Swedish football environment for 5 years. These positions were, as u19s Youth Team coach, Västra Frölunda (Division 2), u16s junior Youth Team coach, IFK Gothenburg (Allsvenskan), Head of Coaching for Jonsereds IF (Division 2), and Head Coach for Kinna IF (Division 3). During this time, the researcher had grasped an understanding of the language, and had gained valuable interaction of the Swedish football culture and the Elite environment. The research is taken through an ethnological research viewpoint, with participant observations, discussions, and interviews with staff in the Youth Development section and Senior Football Management of the club. This was undertaken over a nine month period between November 2014 and August 2015. Participants Representation of a selection of participants were taken from both the coaching staff, and the Youth Department management. Selection of the coaching staff was indicative of the club, and who could represent the feelings and the ethos of IFK Gothenburg. No specific criteria was based on how long the subjects had coached at the club, what qualifications they held, or total number of years coaching experience. In total, 13 subjects were selected for interview, from a total number of 74 staff who work within the Academy and Youth Department section. All the respondents interviewed were male, between the ages of 23 and 62. There was a wide range of professional, football and Educational qualifications held between the study group, with several holding the UEFA A and B licence award, and with Honours Degrees in Sports Science and Sports Psychology. Of the 13 interviewed, several had played as professional players in Sweden, or represented a professional football club at youth level. The average number of years coaching football, from the participant group, was 16.2 years per person, 6
with the average time working at IFK Gothenburg being 11 years. Of the respondents who took part in the study, 9 coaching staff were formally interviewed, with regards to their experiences of the coaching development process at IFK Gothenburg, and 4 subjects were formally interviewed, who represented the club within the youth department, in a managerial position. Of the remaining 61 Academy and Youth Development staff, informal discussions and observations were undertaken throughout the research before, during, and after training sessions, on coffee breaks, and at lunchtimes. It must be noted with caution that not all the coaching staff could be available to express their views during the study, and the respondents who took part in the research, may not reflect a wider held belief of the entire coaching environment at the club. Procedure The data collection took the form of Interviews, observations and informal discussions, over an overall total of nine months, at both the training facilities of the Academy, Änglagården, and the Youth team and 1st team, Kamratgården. After a short consultation period with the Football Management of the club, through email and face-to-face meetings, the study on the IFK Gothenburg Academy Development Programme was given positive encouragement to be investigated and researched. The initial process, to determine the subject sample group, was to contact the Head coaching staff of each age group, by email, and request if they, and their assistant coaches, were willing to take part in the study. In total, 18 potential participants responded to the initial subject request, where a selection group was then formally identified of 9 coaching and 4 management staff. The participants were asked to attend a research interview at their convenience. The interview process lasted between 14 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the participant views and willingness to offer information to the study. A follow up interview, based on the information from the first interview, was then taken from the 9 coaching staff, lasting between a further 15 to 35 minutes. The interview questions were semi-structured in nature, with adaptation in the questions, to facilitate the participant’s role at the club. Interviews were conducted with the use of an iPhone 5c, and transcribed in full (Appendix 9). Observations were taken via field written notes and video analysis of coaching sessions.
Results The interview and discussions develop five particular areas of interest attributed to the IFK Academy environment could be pinpointed. The five key areas derived from the results, indicated that the factors influencing the coach development process and football coaching expertise at IFK Gothenburg were; 1) the long term development model and culture of coaching football in IFK Gothenburg, 2) Changes in modern day football and influences towards the IFK Gothenburg s2s development system, 3) the aspects of developing football from grassroots to elite practices, 4) aspiring to excellence, the planning and development of an elite environment, and 5) money, the availability of resources, and the voluntary nature of Swedish football. Once the results were collated, to confirm they represented a true reflection on the interview process (Shenton & Hayter, 2004), an email was sent out to all respondents, indicating what factors were seen as affecting the Academy environment. Long term development and culture of coaching football in IFK Gothenburg In 1998, after a three year process, the long term programme development (LTPD) of ‘Secrets to Soccer’ (s2s) was adopted. The focus was to add stability to the club and its future operations. Interestingly, not only was the programme developed for IFK Gothenburg as the primary beneficiaries, but to also help Swedish football holistically. Although based at one club, the focus was on a much wider scale. Discussions with the study respondents highlighted an extensive element of support, where the development model concept, and the longevity of the programme, was for the ‘good of Sweden’. In the pursuit of developing excellence, this philosophy could stand out as quite unique. IFK understands that the player might not finish their time with the club as a professional player, so their aim is to have developed the individual to such an extent, that they can use the talents elsewhere and still bring a positive to the Swedish football culture. However, the results suggest that this holistic approach within the s2s system causes friction between the coach and the players. Under the long term development proposal, the club struggles to adapt to the demands and needs of players within an elite setting. The players appear to have a hunger for overnight success and Swedish football is not an attractive enough proposition with its current market situation in the game. Sweden lies in 24th place in the UEFA European coefficient league table, UEFA (2015), out ranked by many other clubs across the continent. Clubs from all over Europe, and even within Sweden, are now motivating players with promises of success and it is difficult for IFK to sustain a promotion of their long term s2s development plan. If the players are not 8
feeling their objectives are not being fulfilled, then they are easily distracted with promises of riches elsewhere. Changes in modern day football and influences towards the IFK Gothenburg s2s development programme Many of the respondents felt that the game of football had evolved over the past twenty years, particularly since the inception of the s2s development programme. There is an understanding between the coaching staff and the management of the changes within the game, and adaptation was a key response to these changes. The results suggest that the influences on football development at IFK was based around two principles, 1) outside influences and the impacts on the s2s development plan, and 2) the IFK Gothenburg Academy environment and the adaptation of new philosophies into the s2s programme. The first principle is how the club views other cultural influences, and the impact of these on the s2s development plan. Both the coaching staff and management question what is going on in the game on a wider scale. They question what beliefs are held from the top coaches, what game-related developments are being considered, and what methods teams across Europe have adopted in the pursuit of success. This comes from an acknowledgement that Swedish football does need change. The second principle is, how IFK adopts and develops the modern day football philosophies, and incorporates them into the current s2s system. The management of the club, along with many of the Academy coaching staff, understand the first principal, of the modern game of football evolving, and how football is adapting and changing. So there are strong indications towards the need to develop the s2s programme more to suiting the modern game. The coaching staff are now beginning to question the principles of the club, and believe that changes need to be adopted to keep up to date with the game’s modern changes. Developing football coaching from grassroots to elite practices A predominant theme in the results suggested that the respondents believed that the structured plan of the s2s programme was a key area to development. An ‘education’ for the players was mentioned on several occasions. S2s is a comprehensive programme, designed so that anyone can understand its concepts, and be able to deliver practices even without any prior knowledge of football. Players, parents, teachers, and coaches work on the same principles of 9
a set plan, designed without cutting any corners where players and coaches are provided with a long term sustainable programme, through a step by step process. Coaching staff respondents had no difficulties with delivering the programme, they had support through the literature (s2s coaching guide) and the media support (video and internet). What was highlighted, is a greater need for the s2s model to be interpreted at a higher performance level. The Academy management want their set principles to be achieved as a number one priority. Effectively this does happen, with everyone following the set plan of the s2s programme. The feeling from the management is the programme has scientific research behind its inception, so following the system rigidly is seen as the key to success. Yet the coaching staff feel they lack any support away from the concept of the theoretical aspects. Instead, the Academy want a coach to fit the programme in the ‘easy to use’ programme concept, and this alone is the basis of the development for the players. The results showed the implementation of the programme being disjointed through this method, when the principle of its inception is to actually develop unity. Aspiring to excellence, the planning and development of an elite environment Many of the coaching group respondents discussed ‘stepping up’ the practices, and striving to make IFK a great deal more professional in many areas connected to the Academy. On numerous occasions, the quality of other teams across Europe, and the methods they adopt, were made as a comparison. A main feature in the results, was the s2s development plan not being able to meet the demands of elite practices, of progressing to that next step of developing excellence. Key words such as flexibility, adaptation, expression, and creativity were elements that coaches said should be adopted in methods to successfully create an elite environment. These terms, and the discussions with the respondents, highlighted a significant knowledge base within the coaching staff, in how to adopt practices within an elite nature. The terms the coaching staff respondents used, are elements of coaching they wish to integrate into the s2s programme, but asked about implementing those principles, they showed a level of uneasiness on what direction to take, and how to exactly achieve those aims. The s2s principles are fundamentally ‘nailed to the door’ of the club, and any misinterpretation is then seen as a negative towards the long term planning. The management do understand that changes need to be made, but how they can attain the next level appears to be a critical issue. Whilst the coaching staff showed aspirations to develop and adopt a more professional approach, to aim for a higher standard of performance, the club continues to 10
move along with the same principles in the LTPD. Small changes are being made to the s2s programme but those are not valued enough by the coaches, and a great deal of frustration can be seen. Money, resources, and the voluntary nature of Swedish football Coaching staff in the Academy are only employed as voluntary members of the club. IFK only employ two full time Academy coaches, one in the Under 19s group, and one within the U17s. Two more support staff have part time roles, with one of those taking a dual role of both coach and admin support officer, to make up a full time position. The Management within the Academy also employ two people full time, the Head of the Academy, and the Youth Director of the u15s. Generally the overview was that the economy is a problem in Swedish football. This therefore, has a big impact on the implementation of the programme, and the aspirations towards developing excellence. IFK understand the importance of recruiting professional coaching staff, but indicate how their ‘hands are tied’ with restraints in the economy. The constraints are frustrating for the staff, who believe the resources they work with, do not reflect the nature of the work they should be carrying out. A large proportion of the comments from the respondents indicated a belief that investment in coaching at the club would achieve a new depth, and wealth, of opportunities for the players and the organisation. However, the restraints and the lack of investment, either for individuals, or as an Academy collective was a real stumbling block in allowing growth and promotion of excellence. The coaching staff appear to be highly ambitious, they work hard and strive towards excellence, but this can only go so far with limited resources.
Discussion The simplicity of practice within a complex process Professionalism in Swedish sport is not widespread and Swedish football has suffered with the transition of these practices. Whether an elite football club, or a local community club, you will hear the phrase “Inga pengar”, which literally translates into ‘no money’, and this is due to football in Sweden being not as prominent a feature in the country, as in comparison with other countries in Europe. Competition to develop players depends on the resources at a particular club, the backing of local or national sponsorship deals, the organisations size and position in the market, and logistically where it is placed. IFK are well placed in this respect 11
and appear to be well placed in the Swedish football system, with a solid membership and support. They have aspirations for future success, and are in a market position where the club can drive forward an elite football development process, because people will simply stand up and listen to them. The simplicity of it all is IFK has the market position to sustain its operations, without having to really break into a sweat. However, failure to address the future direction of the s2s system, in respect towards market demands of professionalism, and not investing into the Academy in the immediate short-term, could well cause a shortfall in the clubs elite operations during the near future. IFK at present is predominantly relying on its market position. By adapting the Academy in the immediate future, by stepping away from the voluntary based nature of Swedish sport provision, and developing a more professional process to the system, the club could have the ability to fight any current short term volatility of the market. Although aware of the s2s commercial potential of this particular area, any professional development within the Academy seems to go unnoticed at the club, and not pushed to its full potential. The belief is in the 10,000 hour rule and deliberate practice within the s2s principles. More practice means more success for IFK’s philosophy and this can be done with the supervision of staff at any level of expertise, whether novice or expert. The process is therefore designed, in such a manner, which predominantly allows anyone to develop the skills. The system has been designed where anyone can follow the guidelines exactly as they are laid out, copying the very nature of the planned moment to the exact detail, without any need to clearly think about the process. The more hours you put into the practice, the greater the expertise. IFK proudly highlight how this has achieved 66 players to graduate from the system into the 1st team from these methods. This, they believe, is due to the players receiving the benefit of the highest attention and focus throughout the s2s application and not the ability of the coaching staff. However, the research indicates that with a clearer focus and vision towards achieving professionalism in the Academy IFK could have built far greater foundations to become a far greater driving force behind Swedish football during the past several decades. Instead the provision has just seemed to flounder, based on the cultural beliefs of Voluntary provision in Swedish sport. They have not seen beyond the cultural and social barriers of Swedish football and been able to form a new identity in elite provision. A lack of creativity in driving forward any potential new ideas can be seen as the main concern. Respondent 5 commented on how ”rather than embrace something new, we (the Swedes) go into our shell and do not say anything. We just do things that we know”. IFK appear to have a fear of developing themselves, and pushing their boundaries further. The mentality in the club is such that they will often state how the football Academy can only develop to such an 12
extent that is dictated to it by the economy, or by its availability of resources. In this frame of mind, IFK works under a glass ceiling and is never able to push further beyond the size of its current level. It may wish to strive towards excellence, and it may understand the process to develop excellence, but it is restricted to a balance sheet and voluntary support. A fear of the unknown and developing professionalism is becoming conducive to the future long term development at the club. Questions are often raised, internally from management, into why the club still struggles in the market, both economically and through player development, yet the future long term sustainability of the club, could be easily developed with the asset of the s2s system right under the noses of the club. To deflect the questions raised on the shortfalls of the club, money is spent on new 1st team players, on new first team management, and on new facilities, in the belief of dressing up their assets, to provide a short term solution to the problems. This appears to be the approach IFK, as an organisation, feels will solve any issues for the present, rather than embracing slight changes for the long term focus of the clubs future. With a little adaptation and a slight change in its application to s2s, the answers to any future club development issues have the chance to be easily rectified. Embracing change and adapting a football coaching system to a dynamic and evolving process. To inspire the club to adapt its provision a great deal more, IFK needs to change its outlook, and try to push through how it will be a key driver in the future success of the whole organisation. The s2s system has the tools to do this, but the lack of flexibility in its application is the main concern. Developing flexibility and adaptation in the approach to planning within the game, particularly within a dynamic environment, and measuring this in terms of success, therefore becomes a challenging aspect. Cushion, Armour, & Jones (2006) have examined several coach development systems, and describe how the principles tied to achieving success, are often guided by certain ontological and epistemological views. Football coaches are prone to following an example of success, rather than truly finding out the true nature behind that success. With the success of one specific person carrying forward the ideals of the Academy, no other voice is heard. IFK adopts this specific coach development system because they feel this specific ideology can help regulate and control the environment. Cushion (2009) says this belief can be viewed with a certain level of naivety, and without a true understanding of the complexity of the holistic coaching environment. Many variables affect the environment of a coaching system, and identifying which ones 13
contribute to developing an elite process is often a difficult process, which ultimately determines success or failure. Smith (2003) believes that a system that identifies with, and at least acknowledges some of these variables, can have the chance of developing elite performers, but Augustijnen, Schnitzer, & Van Esbroecka (2011) warn how the variables can easily be affected within a dynamic environment, and there are too many to predict which can be attributed to a systems success. The challenge towards developing a specific policy process, and trying to address these variables, appears to be extremely difficult. IFK are faced with the conundrum of having invested into facilitating a long term development system, and spending a great deal of time and effort on refining its process, only to be faced with many of these variables that might affect its application. Therefore, the feeling in the club is that they have to keep pushing forward with the same principles of the process, without radically changing the nature of its application. This would appear to some as ‘digging their heels in’ so to speak, with the continual push forward of the same process each year. Very few changes have been adapted to the s2s system to challenge the evolving and dynamic nature of the game because the simplistic nature of IFK’s approach is a deliberate and calculated process. It indicates how the club have simplified the process to such an extent, that the basic skills of the practice, has no gaps in its player development provision, and a smooth education process is developed throughout each year. The Swedish culture of the game, with conforming to norms and following set procedures, gives the format a degree of success. This is a situation that appears to be suited to Swedish society where acceptance of a process of conformity is acceptable. Tensions between developing excellence and the cultural aspects of developing sport for all in Sweden Acceptance of the process is the dominant factor in the system of s2s. If anything falls out of line with the development process then questions are raised as to why the system principles are not being followed. This is not a regular occurrence, because there is a certain level of fear amongst the coaching staff to develop a process further beyond the boundaries of the system. Responses from the study group suggest the more experienced coaches are likely to take on their own practices, but are still prone to stick with the guidelines of the system, developing each section of the system to the designated format. It was interesting to note, that all of the coaching staff in the Youth Development phase, and some in the Elite Development phase, are somewhat critical of the process, indicating that a more professional approach 14
needs to be adapted within s2s, but during the coaching observations, there was still a tendency for coaching staff to follow the rigid structure of the system. Calderhead (1996) suggests how coaches need the process in a system to be non-threatening, enabling the development to consist of greater depths of quality. IFK suggest that there needs to be greater level of compliance to the process of the delivery for success, but in effect, the insistence of developing s2s in such a rigid process, is actually creating the shortfall in quality. The coaching staff feel the system was outdated and inefficient in providing an environment for nurturing elite players. This feeling was directly attributed to the voluntary coaching provision in the system which enabled the stringent measures to be enforced. Discussions between the coaching staff were for more inclusion of professionalism in the coaching process, but this was never fully embraced. Abraham, Collins & Martindale (2006) describe how critical this outlook is, because you have to develop skills, attributed to performance, through a working knowledge of elite practice and elite development, “coaches are knowledge magpies and not filing cabinets”. However, this was very difficult to instigate in the current IFK Academy environment, because of the rigid nature of the s2s process. Some people are happy to retain the system and identify with the specific individual s2s ideology, for the ‘greater good’ of long term development principles, whereas, some want to challenge the system in pursuit of a culture of excellence, promoting best practice within the modern day professional football environment. The less experienced and knowledgeable coaching staff are the people who are eager to develop the s2s system, following the structure rigidly, without questioning or reason, encouraged and nurtured by the Academy Management. The more experienced coaching staff, those who have been at the club for several years, or have experience within football for a longer length of time, are the ones trying to implement a more reflective aspect to their work, analysing the process and developing strategies outside of the system guidelines. The experienced staff indicate how they feel the s2s system is not providing for the elite nature of the game, and question the principles of basic skills being reinforced by the management, “the game has had a massive transformation, a massive evolution, and many basic things that we used 20-30 years ago have now become obsolete”, Respondent 3. The indication from the respondents were that changes need to be made, and there was a strong sense of feeling that s2s needed to be develop further to a far greater level and towards a more elitist attitude of ‘game understanding’ practice and process, The s2s system has shown success in developing players, but only to a certain level, because of the constraints of voluntary provision. S2s needs to address these levels of provision to truly capture the essence of developing professional practice in football. If s2s was designed as a 15
basic foundation to the game, a guideline for developing football practices that everyone could understand, then the club should stick to that application, but what IFK is struggling to address is how they turn this simple football platform into generating success at the very highest levels of football. Making that transition is one of their biggest fears, and the most problematic, and this may never be done with the same voluntary provision being implemented across the system from previous years. Naylor (1999) states how a voluntary application of provision will have constraints placed on its operations within the market because of limitations in finance or member resources. IFK suffer greatly from this, both in the cultural values of Swedish sport and the political nature of sport provision. What IFK have to be careful of, as the professional football market grows, that more political and societal demands
will be placed upon the organisation to satisfy the needs and desires of a greater audience (external stakeholders). The greater the demand, the quicker the change will be desired, particularly over the short term. The results taken from the research simply indicate that regardless of what cultural and political aspects might affect change, embracing a professional value in the s2s process was a priority, and the tension created in the system could easily be eradicated, through this decision. Addressing the needs of voluntary provision in a professional market Lyoka & Xoxo (2014) discuss how synergy in coaching is the application of decision making fused together with the natural elements of the game. There is more to just practicing and having a template to work from, and the variables to developing an elite system is much more complex. Considering how these variables effect the environment, they should be viewed as a dominant factor in the process of developing players through expert coaches, but the Academy chooses to not address this area. Management state how they do allow adaptations to each moment in the s2s programme, whenever necessary, but these are never really truly adopted enough to question, or test the system extensively. Ericsson (2009) indicates how practicing for the sake of practice is not beneficial for creating and improving expert performance. Therefore, the need to transfer the basic principles of the s2s moments, and integrate them into a higher level of elite tactical development, is the main challenge towards implementing professional practices. The argument is for the system to develop towards a more professional application, as a priority to continue the longevity of s2s. Cox & Jenkins (2013) & Morley et al. (2014) discuss the importance for implementing different strategies in the design of a system, and how the challenges in the preparation and the process of 16
supporting athletes at an elite level, cannot be based upon the self-reliance of the system alone, such as IFK do now. Building a platform on just simple practice is not a base to build any solid foundations on. Lyle (2013) believes this is because of an over reliance on policy methods, that in turn, have a substantial impact on coaching methods and only serves towards a one-way process of delivery, with little or no two way interaction. IFK do highlight how they provide support networks to help facilitate the s2s process, but the process is set in stone and for everyone to follow. If they want to open up the system to the challenges, then they have to be brave in understanding that the direction of the process may have to change, and the club has to change with it. A platform for success hindered by voluntary provision In the observations of the research, the s2s system in practice was surrounded by much more complicated methods than it was fully proposed in theory. Although s2s was designed to be simplistic, the dynamic complexities of coaching, requires a great deal more application to develop the skills required at the level the club operates in. In principle, s2s is about developing the basic skills of the game, and thus no real decision making or problem solving is taking place in the players or coaches minds through its application. The club may indicate it has shown great success in developing so many players into the 1st team ranks from the s2s system, but it is how those statistics can indicate the quality being produced, that will characterise whether s2s is successful or not. Respondent 4 stated how “Most of those players come to IFK when they were about sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years old. So they have not come through…………most of them, have not come through the Academy”. If this is the case, then s2s system is not giving enough provision in a professional football club for the development of excellence. Some could argue that the release figures of players at the age of 15 are standard policy at a professional club, but if IFK believe so positively in their development system, then the player release figures at the ages of 15 and 16 should be far lower. If the success of s2s is to be measured on this platform alone, on statistics attributed to players representing the professional 1st team, from the time spent in the system, then s2s can be put under greater scrutiny. The player development figures are significantly low, and the results from this study indicate that all five factors have a bearing on this lack of player development.
Conclusion The aims of IFK with developing the s2s system, is that everyone can see the advantage to the long term education process, and the club become united in the development of a structure, in a dynamic and unpredictable market. Effectively the club are very successful with their s2s ideology. However, the changing societal aspects to the process of developing players in Sweden, and the inability to adopt professionalism to an elite environment, is a problem that IFK faces in becoming commercially viable as a football club within the long term future. Football has evolved in the last few decades. Now more experienced and knowledgeable coaches are available in the profession, career development in coaching has expanded, and scientific research is much more prevalent. With no new challenges to the development of the s2s system, and without adapting too far beyond its current boundaries, it is comfortable in its operations, but IFK cannot afford to be continually relying on the same process, in the fear that s2s could soon become outdated. With continual tensions attributed to voluntary provision within an elite environment, the s2s system may not be able to embrace and develop more professional approaches to its operations. Developing professional coaches through the system could be the answer to sustaining a future of long term growth in their current market, and have a wider impact on the generic development of Swedish football. However, it is difficult to tell what process can truly develop a sustainable future. IFK has worked so hard on the foundations on preparing that future, so they may now have to realise that adaptations and change to full time professionalism is needed for the next phase. Pressure is mounting on IFK to sustain a footing as one of the elite clubs in the country, particularly after the recent success of Malmo FF in the Champions League, and other clubs like AIK Solna (Stockholm), Helsingborg (Skåne), and Elfsborg (Borås, literally 30 miles from Gothenburg) who have shown success in the Swedish top division. These other clubs are also looking to buy into the success of football within the European market, and develop it across Sweden. Due to Sweden having a relatively low commercial market value across Europe, success can literally not be bought for these clubs, but whoever can adopt a system of success, whilst combating the low level of investment across the Swedish leagues, could hold a monopoly on future football developments in Sweden for many years to come. In some respect, IFK have touched upon this because of the s2s system, but they seem to not fully see the true outcomes of investment potential in the right areas at the right times. The s2s system appears to be a rough diamond, left untouched, waiting to be cut and polished.
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