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Workbook 4 : Building A Coaching Philosophy

2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind



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Section Introduction Building A Coaching Philosophy A Blueprint For Action Case Studies Case Study : : Coaching Philosophies Middlesbrough FC Coaching Philosophy 2000-2006

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Summary Recommended Reading



Coaching soccer is not easy. The game, the players and the science and art of coaching are all multi-faceted and liable to change. Experienced coaches know the perfect game is impossible and that coaches live every day with imperfections, mistakes and setbacks. The coaches who survive all this and succeed whatever level they coach at - are the ones who build a philosophy of how they want to play the game. When these coaches start the journey they at least have a plan, using their knowledge and experience, as a guide to signpost the best way. Coaching is about leadership and making decisions. A coach who has begun to establish a coaching philosophy has something to judge all decisions against which action could I take that best fits with my philosophy? This coach is likely to appear strong, consistent and thoughtful. The former English Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, was asked what made his job difficult. He replied: Events, dear boy, events. This is so true of coaching and no philosophy is immune from the variety of complex and dramatic circumstances that can suddenly appear in soccer. A coaching philosophy is a thoughtful foundation for determining coaching action but will not cover all situations and coaches must endure the mistakes and setbacks of a game that exposes and highlights imperfections. However, smart coaches reduce the risk by learning from errors and constantly amending and updating their philosophy. The trick is creating a coaching philosophy that suits your personality and that you believe is absolutely the best way to win soccer matches in your particular situation and then having the courage and discipline to apply it. This workbook establishes the principles of that process but helps reinforce the value of a coaching philosophy by providing examples from the philosopher coaches and a case study from Middlesbrough Football Club. Learn and enjoy!

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The first question I ever asked soccer coaches in my very first workshop was: could you describe your view of a perfect game of soccer? I was amazed that only one of the group, Willie Donachie, was able and willing to respond. Coaches should visualise their perfect game and then work backwards to what is possible in their situation. Each time Steve McClaren and I made a career move Derby County to Manchester United to Middlesbrough we tried to reconnect with our dream and bring it closer to reality. Thats why its also very important for coaches to invest time and effort in seeing the best teams in action as it provides the fuel to keep your dream alive and healthy.
CASE STUDY - MY PERFECT GAME BILL WALSH - FORMER HEAD COACH SAN FRANCISCO 49ers day game big game important on the road loud and hostile crowd underdog not expected to win serious business, feel the tension knowing my players are well prepared we have surprises for them if we need it aggressive start no distractions confidence, composure, concentration all high we control style and tempo of play we are more resilient to the swings in the game its a hard fight game goes to the wire one of my players finds a special way to win we enjoy the celebration

Once established, your dream needs to be translated into goals a series of steps along the way that are achievable with effort. To get these right and give the team a route to the dream brings a coaching philosophy alive. No longer is it words but a journey of challenges that will constantly improve the team. To get to any destination worth reaching youd better have a road map. You better know where you are going and how you are going to get there Bill Parcells Coaches can only do this if they have sufficient experience and knowledge, plus the ability to operate within their specific situation. EXPERIENCE clearly the richer the coachs experience the more robust and subtle the philosophy is likely to be. Most coaches will draw upon their experience as a player experiencing the coaching of other ex-players. This can be of varied quality and is no longer sufficient for modern coaching. It is vital that the coach does not get trapped within their own experience repeating the philosophy of their former coach but seeks and is influenced by a wide range of experiences.

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In the book Moneyball the Oakland As baseball Manager, Billy Beane, concludes that the worst preparation for coaching and management is having played the game. My view is that former players can have a great insight into the game but often need additional specific coaching skills to be effective coaches. Q What must a coach take everywhere they go? A A passport and their coaching philosophy KNOWLEDGE leading-edge knowledge is essential to those coaches who wish to stay ahead of this fast moving modern sport. Continual updating is the key to matching coaching philosophy to soccers progress. As we no longer restrict our coaching to the hardware of soccer physical, technical, tactical but increasingly become concerned with the software - mental, emotional, lifestyle so coaches must embrace new fields of knowledge. Much of this knowledge is soccer-related but there is an increasing need for a modern coach to be able to deal with wider demands science, technology, psychology, media, business, lifestyle and so on. Such demands are part of the reason we are increasingly seeing successful coaches who were not notable players. CONTEXT the behaviour of a coach is usually the result of individual characteristics (experience, knowledge, style, courage and so on) and the situation (context) they find themselves in at any particular moment see Figure 1. Any coaching philosophy to be functional and successful must also be contextual that is it must be relevant to the particular coaching challenge faced. Coaching a soccer team does not occur in a vacuum and coaches must be sensitive to their particular working environment and the type of events and circumstances that can affect it. Coaching is also a people experience getting the best from your players and Figure 2 gives an example of building a coaching philosophy based on understanding what motivates players. FIGURE 1 : BUILDING A COACHING PHILOSOPHY STEVE McCLAREN - Player learning the game - U17 coach learning to coach - 1st team coach (Derby) shaping core philosophy - 1st team coach (Man United) refining philosophy (new context) - Head Coach, Middlesbrough applying total philosophy to his own team in new context Step 6 - Coach to England testing philosophy in new context NB. All applications of philosophy had to be relevant to the specific coaching challenge Steve faced but all helped refine and enrich his core philosophy. There is no end point to philosophy. 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5

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FIGURE 2 : BUILDING A COACHING PHILOSOPHY BASED UPON MASLOWS HIERARCHY OF NEEDS Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, examined motivation and designed a hierarchy of motivational needs only when the first need was fulfilled could a person go on to the next and so on. Coaches would do well to apply this insight into players motivations. A great swimming coach, James Doc Counsilman actually based his coaching philosophy upon it. Below I show a possible approach for a soccer coach: Maslows Hierarchy Of Needs Step 5 (only when steps 1/2/3/4 achieved) SELF-ACTUALISATION ! ! ! ! Step 4 (only achieved when steps 1/2/3 achieved ! SELF-ESTEEM ! ! ! ! Step 3 (only when steps 1 & 2 achieved) LOVE AND BELONGING (SOCIAL) ! ! ! ! Step 2 (only when Step 1 achieved) SECURITY (SAFETY) ! ! ! ! Step 1 SECURITY (PHYSIOLOGICAL) ! ! ! Coaching Philosophy challenge the players every day encourage dreams to be fulfilled value creative players artists raise the bar each season build the self-image of the team set targets for each player forgive mistakes and losses recognise improvement take an interest in all players listen as well as speak create team cohesion celebrate all successes/build a fun club foster team spirit and belonging move me to we create identity be consistent/dependable create a safe environment take care of players needs balance work/rest/recover provide expert support/especially medical pleasant training conditions 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind Note: Coaches will instinctively start a philosophy of coaching at the top Step 5 but what Maslow teaches is that Step 5 is only possible through Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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So we begin with an idea of how the game should be played and then adjust to meet the demands of the particular coaching situation and the personnel available Figure 3 sums it all up. Good coaches are pragmatic. However much the situation limits their philosophical ideals they still find a way to win. There may be 1,000 excuses why you might not win but very few reasons. FIGURE 3 : 12 STEPS TO BUILDING A COACHING PHILOSOPHY 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Build your experience at every opportunity Be a student of the game a continual learner Know what wins at your competitive level create a vision of the perfect game Consider the context of the match and the opponents and develop the skill of strategic game planning Recruit the best players you can both talent & character Prepare them to compete physically, technically, tactically, mentally and emotionally Create an environment surrounding the players that reinforces every day the drive for excellence Use the strengths of all the support staff to help the team win be prepared to learn from them Develop a communication strategy the ways transfer your vision to the team and staff Deal, not react, to setbacks as they occur Handle victory or defeat equally well and let neither undermine your coaching programme and player/staff relationship Build your courage under fire and whatever happens stay in the game 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind in which you will

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A Coachs Philosophy provides him with a conceptual blueprint for action that is it increases his awareness of what should be done, and why it should be done. In other words, his philosophy is often the single most important guiding influence on how he coaches Bill Walsh The coach eventually reaches a point where their philosophical foundations of experience and knowledge must be turned into communicable strategy to meet the challenge of their particular competitive context. The dream must become action and the coach must devise a working plan. This is a blueprint a well designed route that will take a coach from potential to performance. DESTINATION plan from the end backwards. The journey to excellence, however, never ends in perfection we never score a perfect 10 in soccer. Both perfection and the blind pursuit of winning hold dangers for a coaching philosophy and blueprint. All too easily they can signal failure when in fact good progress and coaching have taken place. We have always preferred to focus on the excellence of our performance and then let winning take care of itself. Focusing on the process and not the outcome is healthier for the team and the coach, who is somewhat protected from the twin threats of fear or ego after losses or wins. A priority of my mentoring is to prevent the outcomes of games from becoming connected to the personal self-esteem of the coach.

When we met the Middlesbrough players for the first time, Steve McClaren described their purpose as a seasons journey of 200+ practices and 50+ games. The destination was a much improved level of excellence. The coaching staff would show the players the route which would be very demanding and each one would get every chance to commit. 54 players started the season but only 24 remained at the end of the season when our targets were met. If you raise the bar, you must be willing to move players on!

PLANNING THE JOURNEY - Figure 4 shows a useful structure for coaches to understand the transfer of philosophy to blueprint. Figure 5 goes further and allows coaches to build their own personal blueprint a fascinating exercise with each answer (a file can be kept as a record) reflecting your philosophy but providing the basis for the programme of work with your players.

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FIGURE 4 : A BLUEPRINT FOR COACHING Preparing To Play ! Physical ! Tactical ! Technical ! Mental

Preparing A Game Plan




Specific Roles

Suitable Players Performance In Game Post-Game Evaluation

2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind COMMUNICATION coaching implies the transfer of experience and knowledge to the players so the effective coach must have a range of communication techniques. Without these even the wonderful coaching philosophy will remain in the mind of the coach and have little impact on the team. Great coaches are always good communicators, understanding that its not about what they know but rather what the players can be helped to understand. To watch such a coach is to see clarity and simplicity in action. Coaches paint pictures the simpler the better Dave Sexton Attitude is such an important part of winning some coaches rate it as high as 50% that coaches must have the formal and informal communication skills to influence this on a daily basis. NERVE AND REFLECTION there is no doubt that coaches who have developed a coaching philosophy and blueprint for action start with an advantage. However their personal path to greatness will be besieged each day by self-doubt and the brutal facts of reality. Coaches must show the nerve to stay consistent to their philosophy When teams stay the course and hold fast to their philosophy through good times and bad, they work from a firm foundation. They gain an identity. They stand for something Bill Parcells But also coaches must have the ability to reflect on new learning and amend and improve. Building a coaching philosophy is a never-ending task, which makes it challenging, stimulating and fun!

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FIGURE 5 : BUILDING A COACHING PHILOSOPHY (PAGE 1) VISION the vision for this team in this competition is .

(max 30 words) TARGETS the 3 key targets this season will be: 1. 2. 3. STRATEGIES How we will improve the self image of the club How we will create a learning environment How we will recruit better talent We will improve our communication by We will build winning attitudes by We will improve the physical capacity of the players by The medical help and support we will offer will be The payers will improve technically by Our 3 key systems of play all purpose/defending a lead/chasing a goal will be These are the key ways we will score ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ACTION PLAN

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FIGURE 5 : BUILDING A COACHING PHILOSOPHY (PAGE 2) STRATEGIES ACTION PLAN ! This is how we will stop ! goals ! ! We will coach attacking and ! defending set pieces by ! ! We will teach transition after ! winning or losing the ball - by ! ! Each player will be coached ! their specific jobs by ! ! Our policy for dealing with ! setbacks will be ! ! We will get useful information ! on the opposition by ! ! The game plan we give the ! team will consist of ! ! Our priorities for managing ! game day will be ! ! We will help the team pre! match by ! ! Half-time will help not hurt us ! because we will ! ! Our end of game strategy for ! dealing with the result will ! be Our process of learning from each game will be based on Our players will be given feedback and made accountable by Our media policy will be ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind

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One of the key ways I use to develop the coaching philosophies of the coaches I mentor is by asking them to read about the careers and thoughts of other elite coaches. It doesnt bother me if these are American and/or non-soccer sources as I know it will provide both stimulation and benchmarking for the developing young coach. All coaches borrow ideas from one another sport is as co-operative as it is competitive and I encourage my coaches to take worthwhile ideas, test them in their own context and see what could be built into their own soccer philosophy. I remember how my own coaching philosophy was dramatically influenced by Coach Hubie Brown of The Atlanta Hawks basketball team. I had travelled to Turin, Italy to hear Hubies presentation: his opening words and the philosophy underlined, were full value for money. I coach the team with the least talent in the league so let me tell you how I am going to win basketball games. The message was that there are many ways to win games if the coach is smart enough. This section is about such messages as I review the coaching philosophies of some of the great coaches soccer or other sports. Check to see which may be of value to you but remember they must be contextually valid they must work in your own particular situation. ARSENE WENGER, MANAGER, ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB

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a student of the game constantly evolves as a coach a clear philosophy emphasising a passing-based, creative, attacking game belief in stretching and nutrition as key influences recruits ability and character develops adult-adult relationships loyal criticises in private, defends in public obsessed by getting detail right stop-watch practices believer in disciplined concentration trusts his players allows them to play not interested in personal celebrity


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important not to make players afraid prioritise players before systems only the best players can make the systems work be brave if you are not your own man you are nothing adversity reveals character take care of the whole squad all players must be ready when emergencies arise absolute need for a policy for dealing with the media

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chase the dream always try to innovate courage to win how few defenders are needed? create happy, relaxed teams talent has to work hard no free loaders convince coaching staff before starting on players if you cant outplay them, outnumber them players can only rest when their team has the ball players job description begins with finding their starting position then work from there players need to feel important to play importantly make the media part of the solution, not the problem


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the coach prepares the team for both predictability and unpredictability the individual player is the main feature of the performance give players guidelines allow freedom to play defence begins the moment the team loses the ball every player is part of the protection every player is a playmaker who must be able to seize the moment coaches simulate reality in training coach-player communication key to understanding of job and accountability game needs more intelligent players players need confronting again and again with their responsibility are you in charge of yourself manipulate the game by circulation of player movement total football teach players to be consistent with game plan but be able to see and seize opportunistic moments


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philosophy based on non-negotiable principles once a philosophy is fully accepted, it colors every aspect of the organisations life. It gives you a touchstone, a comfort zone, a buffer against adversity every player must be in good physical condition every player must be mentally tough the team must always play to its strengths defence must be aggressive and relentless progress means a constant reduction of errors field position is everything players must be intelligent enough to know how to respond at differing states and stages of the game players dont argue with officials, taunt opponents, or celebrate their own plays on the field winners dont need to be recognised as brilliant they strive to be dominant

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priorities for players are religion, family, the team each player must be in prime physical condition fatigue makes cowards of us all each new season every player becomes a rookie again the team must have clear goals and targets the only way to play hard is to practise hard the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender winning and contribution is more important than racial background character is as important as talent we want men here, not just players. Players are a dime a dozen perfection must be demanded from everyone around the team detail is vital nothing is too small to be ignored plan the season physically and psychologically must be strong at the end of season big game time create winning culture by constant indoctrination of attitudes it takes to win winning is not a sometime thing here it is an all the time thing drive hard but know when to take the foot off the pedal belief in the use of film to make players accountable belief in team meetings to get the message across

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One of the best things Steve McClaren did on being appointed Manager (Head Coach) of Middlesbrough Football Club in 2000 was to surround himself with very good staff. Each was regarded as an expert in their own field and each brought with them a coaching philosophy tried and tested. So the beginning of our time at Middlesbrough was characterised by lively and stimulating debates on the philosophy of coaching. One of my jobs was to be guardian of our philosophy and to ensure that philosophical agreement was followed by appropriate action. We had decided on a process of evolution not revolution and so introduced change only when we felt the time and the players were ready. Step 1 was to decide on a vision statement Figure 6 illustrates our rather idealistic approach (based on the excellent book Peak Performance). Step 2 was to determine our Foundations for Action plans. We all decided that winning soccer matches consistently came from: 1. 2. consistently raising the talent level of our players by selective recruitment and moving poorer players on. giving our players the very best preparation possible physically, technically, medically and mentally. This would include the use of exercise science, sports psychology and match analysis. building a winning attitude throughout the Club by raising the bar and setting new, precise and higher goals for every player and member of staff.


Figure 7 shows the 12 key steps that the staff agreed on in order to prepare our team for the challenge of the Premier League. Of course each of these elements then became the basis of further discussion based on the question how can we make this happen? Slowly from the broad philosophy a blueprint a plan of specific action emerged and again my role was to see we remained true to our beliefs. The blueprint is a script that will be severely tested every day on the emotional roller coaster of a soccer season. Our way of keeping track was to make our prime goal to do the right thing every day and this has become the cornerstone of Middlesbrough coaching whether times are good or bad. Step 3 was once the foundations of our programme (talent, preparation and attitude) were in place to focus on getting our team to win soccer matches. Figure 8 shows the starting points for our game planning. Every day I observed the Club in action and tried to ensure our actions reinforced our philosophy. When necessary I would confer with the staff and update or amend our philosophy. Generally however the original philosophy has held good.

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FIGURE 6 : MIDDLESBROUGH FOOTBALL CLUB JULY 2001 A VISION STATEMENT Our aim is to build a playing squad that can win for Middlesbrough and that we can be proud of strong personalities within an open, family, setting. We want a fully motivated, responsible, self managing and well informed squad that can: 1. work in an environment that encourages every individual to make a meaningful contribution and which will be recognised a culture of praise 2. have a high degree of personal integrity and group honesty/trust 3. recognise each players personal goals but not hidden agendas 4. continuously monitor and improve its performance and accept accountability 5. is fun to be in a calm, stable environment with easy relationships The ultimate goals of the coaching staff including and involving the sports psychologist and other key support staff is the removal of all barriers, all negative forces, to enable concentration and delivery of the game plan collectively this state of flow can lead to powerful surges of self-belief Key Words: communication, belief, positive, trust, organisation, planning, core players, pride, self-managed players, intrinsic motivation, team/ togetherness, praise and reward, analysis and accountability 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind FIGURE 7 : THE 12 KEY ELEMENTS IN MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE MIDDLESBROUGH FC 2001 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Changing the self image of the club from loser to winner A commitment to excellence from everybody in the Club Removing the barriers from performance Everyone to show positive mental attitudes at all times Proactive planning and organisation on/off field Creating a motivational, resonant environment to inspire players Prepared, timed, quality and relevant practice Focus on the excellence of performance success will come Building team spirit throughout the squad and not just the team Introducing match analysis, feedback and accountability A never ending search for better players with good character Keeping soccer enjoyable and the players and staff wanting to come to work 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind

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There are two additional strategies that we have increasingly recognised the importance of in facilitating all the above. 1. Creating a positive environment players react to their environment and it is the coaches job to provide a warm and positive learning environment that makes players and staff want to be at their best. Communication it is important that everybody feels informed and in the loop. The more information we communicated in whatever form we felt appropriate the more we reduced any anxiety in the Club. Such planning and organisation on an everyday basis helped reduce the negatives in the situation, creating a no excuses environment where players could focus on training and playing. How do you measure a coaching philosophy? At the end of 5 years at Middlesbrough we have achieved a whole range of targets and the Club remains fully engaged in a process of continual improvement. However in the competitive world of soccer any advantage gained is only temporary and so once more we shall be revisiting and improving our philosophy at pre-season by asking the questions shown in Figure 9. FIGURE 8 : MIDDLESBROUGH 2001 PRINCIPLES OF TEAM PLAY THE WAY WE PLAY HERE Attitude ! will to win and good player leadership ! hard to beat/always stay in the game ! courage to take the ball at all times ! competitive toughness Team Shape ! organised and disciplined ! flexible (responds to changing circumstances) ! strong defensively and offensively ! each player to know their job Transition and ! win the ball and counter-attack Tempo ! first pass forward if possible ! lose the ball and we recover to shape ! understand 10mph soccer and 90 mph ! recover quickly from mistakes Passing ! keeping possession, pass the ball well: - vital in defending third - important in middle third - creative in attacking third Support the ball ! always 2 options for ball carrier ! front men to act as target ! runs into channel and beyond their defensive line Creativity ! make things happen always do the positive thing ! take defenders on ! through balls, crosses, shots ! end product goals! 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind








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FIGURE 9 : TESTING YOUR COACHING PHILOSOPHY - 10 KEY QUESTIONS TO ANSWER AT THE START OF EVERY SEASON 1. What did we learn last season about winning in this League? 2. How will we re-invent the challenge? 3. What are our expectations for this season? 4. What must we not lose in the way we play? 5. What must we stop doing?

6. What can improve us physically, technically, tactically, and mentally? 7. What will the personality of this seasons team be? 8. What will be the locker room issues? 9. Which teams shall we benchmark as being rivals what do they do differently? 10. What can we do to freshen up our environment, coaching and communication? 2006 Bill Beswick, sportsmind

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All coaches have a view on how they should prepare their players and play the game but most rarely think and plan beyond a superficial level. They prefer to fly by the seat of their pants and are heard loudly proclaiming such phrases as its all about the players and so on. And when the players fail such coaches have really nowhere to go in explanation. Coaches who read and will use the Masterclass series are the exception - not the rule and I feel are looking to be stretched by new ideas. I hope they will willingly adopt and test for themselves the ideas and strategies that create a coaching philosophy. I see this exercise and remember I have worked alongside some great soccer coaches as the backbone of your coaching. All planned, organised and effective coaching results from a sound philosophical basis. The great coaches are continual and enthusiastic students of the game. I will conclude with the words of one of these great coaches, Bill Parcells: it makes no difference what the philosophy is as long as it meets these standards: - the philosophy has a sound basic structure - it reflects the leaders vision and values - it is communicated and accepted throughout the organisation - most importantly, it remains in place long enough to allow for success. Good coaching!

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The Lombardi Rules What Makes winners Win Beyond Winning Values Of The Game A Coachs Life Going Home Again The Carolina Way The Final Season What It Takes To Be No. 1 Leadership The Sven-Goran Eriksson Way Peak Performance Vince Lombardi Jr Charlie Jones Garry M Walton Bill Bradley Dean Smith Adam Lucas Dean Smith Bill Parcells Vince Lombardi Jr Julian Birkinshaw and Stuart Graines Clive Gilson etc 2005 ISBN: 0-07-144489-0 1997 ISBN: 0-7679-0307-2 1992 ISBN: 0-088011-453-3 1998 ISBN: 1-57965-116-X 1999 ISBN: 0-375-50270-X 2004 ISBN: 1-59228-551-1 2004 ISBN: 1-59420-005-X 2000 ISBN: 0-688-17491-4 2001 ISBN: 0-07-137060-9 2002 ISBN: 1-84112-419-2

2000 ISBN: 0-00-257136-6

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