Player Empowerment

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Giving players power over elements of their daily team life is by no means a new concept.  Australian Football League coach David Parkin had enormous success following the practice as far back as 1995, and in Australian sport it is now more or less compulsory.  In many other sports and countries this would be a complete disaster, but I digress…

I recently came across a couple of good insights into the principle.  In the December 10th 2012 episode of The Net Live, there were interviews with all of the coaches of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four tournament.  The last of them with Oregon Ducks coach Jim Moore. During the interview he was asked about his player driven offensive system.

“I believe firmly that the game is won by the players…   I don’t put any balls on the floor so I’ve always given that centre of power to the players. They know themselves better than I know them and so what they feel comfortable running, they call and (the setter) makes that split second decision on where to go.  I’ve always felt that if you empower them, they make great decisions and generally they have done that and they’ve proven that they can do it.”

There must be something in it as Oregon made it all the way to the final, beating favourites Penn State in the semis before losing to Texas.

Pep Guardiola is also a believer in a form of player empowerment having pushed for it during his time as a player and implemented elements of it while of coach of Barcelona.  But his take on it  is a little different.

“I can imagine the most amazing solution to a problem and then sometimes players come out with something better during the game that I hadn’t thought of.  Then that for me is like a little defeat, it means I should have found that solution earlier.”**

Coaching isn’t easy.

**(from ‘Another Way Of Winning, p12)


  1. what I mean to say is, I think it works in AFL because there’s always been a strong playing-coach tradition. But instead of having a playing coach look after 21 players, you have more “playing coaches” overseeing smaller groups of players.


    1. I find the topic enormously fascinating in part because what is now considered standard in Australia, with Leadership Groups’ and the like, would be virtually impossible in most other countries, in most sports. It goes directly against the most common understandings of the coach/player relationship. Hardly any coach would go for it, and importantly hardly any players. Could you imagine Alex Ferguson starting up a leadership group? The press would think he was going insane and he would be absolutely lambasted.
      Perhaps you are right about the tradition of the player-coach being a factor here. Perhaps also the cricket / rugby tradition where the coach wasn’t really a factor. I can’t think of another reason why it should be like this in Australia.


  2. I definitely think a lot of it stems from the tradition of Cricket in Australia where the captain traditionally takes on the role of “coach”.

    Only last week the media was printing stories about NRL premiership team Melbourne Storm possibly appointing Cameron Smith as captain coach should Bill Bellamy move to another club

    (Given, this is rugby league where sound judgement is not commonplace)

    The only example I can think of this working outside Australia is Bill Russell player/coaching the Celtics to a championship at the end of his playing career.

    It’s definitely a weird concept.


  3. Do you mean Craig Bellamy Hugh? Or have I been oblivious to the fact that the Storm have been coached fr the last few years by the man credited with introducing the phrase “booty call” to the public consciousness?


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