Losing Comes Easy, Winning is Hard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By Peter Schwab
AFL Director of Coaching

Every Sunday morning when I finally make my way out to the driveway to collect the paper, I wander back inside pour myself a cup of tea and I flick through to the back pages of the sporting section to check on the local football scores from across Melbourne and Country Victoria.

Most of the time the scores don’t register with me in relation to where a team may be on the ladder and certainly not how many matches they may have won for the season, but over the journey there are a few teams whose scores resonate with me and I begin to take more than a passing interest.

Those are the teams who don’t win and who are often suffering triple figure defeats. And I wonder what keeps getting them to the line each week and how do you cope when your team is getting belted?

There are three Clubs who I follow and all three are yet to register a victory at either seniors or reserves level in 2011. Not one of these teams has a percentage over 20 and one of them is just hovering above 3%. They are quite alarming statistics of their struggles on-field.

But believe me I do not raise these deflating statistics to embarrass these Clubs, but it does bear considering what could be done to make them more competitive. In every case they can’t be demoted as they currently reside in their competition’s lowest division.

Indirectly through a friend I know something of the Division 4 club in the Eastern Football League and I am certainly aware of the Division Four Club in the VAFA as I have a brother coaching in that competition. The Western Region Club I do not know, but it is clearly tough times for them at present.

So what can they do? I asked my brother, a current coach, how he would be if faced with the difficult situation that these Clubs are facing. I think everyone who loves football needs to think about what they would do.

For me the very first thing I would need to do is understand the situation at each of the Clubs from a historical, financial, coaching and playing point of view.

From here you have a basis for making decisions. But as a coach I felt it was best just to approach it from a coaching perspective and I would suggest the following:

  1. Set a clear direction about where you want to get to as a Club. It may be as simple as being competitive on the field and supportive of each other off it.
  2. Then establish a game plan – which is some basic team rules and structures which must be adhered to by all players. These should be stressed on game day - rewarding those who adhere to them.
  3. All training drills need to be based around these rules and structures so the players understand what is required and how they train can be transferred into match day situations.
  4. The game plan must fall within the capacities and capabilities of the players.
  5. However I would spend a large part of pre-season around two fundamentals. Again this simplifies the focus. Those two focuses would be:
    1. Skills – particularly kicking and general ball handling
    2. Fitness – with an emphasis on running
  6. Fitness is important because it allows an individual and team to compete for longer
  7. Skill means there is a chance to have a game plan that allows better ball movement
  8. Overall a basic game plan with rules and structures creates some predictability amongst the group
  9. I’d even create some very basic goals for both on and off-field

    1. Come to training prepared and ready
    2. Train to the best of your ability – extend yourself here
    3. If you cannot attend training, play or you are injured you must notify as soon as possible the coach or team manage


    1. Come prepared and ready to play
    2. Play with determination and effort
    3. Adhere to our game plan – team rules and structures

Finally you need to establish a strong commitment from everyone to each other and a willingness to keep each other focussed on the game plan.

I recall a few years ago when I was assisting my son’s Colts team and they had lost four matches in a row and were looking despondent.  They had tried in every game and come up short. I recall saying;

“Nobody will give you a win in this game. So you can not feel sorry for yourself, you just have to keep working hard and believing that what you are doing is right. And eventually you will win.”

I will keep checking the scores and I am looking forward to reading that these Clubs and their teams have won.

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