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So by the time you read this, the World Cup will be over.
Maybe your nations team did well, maybe they didn’t … but I read something about the Belgium’s technical director that I thought was brilliant and can be a massive lesson to anyone who has other peoples development in their hands.
Before I get to that, I have to give some context.
Before this World Cup, Belgium’s national team was a joke.
Sure you could argue that a country with only 34 professional clubs – spread over two divisions – they were always going to be at a disadvantage and sure, you could also argue their re-emergence has as much to do with immigration as it does with improvement of the players, but regardless of that, the approach adopted by Michel Sablon, Belgium’s technical director, is brilliant to read.
While he talks about the 3 key stages of turnaround, the one that has grabbed my attention the most was his belief that a focus on winning meant a lack of focus on developing.
After studying how other nations developed their teams and analysing 1500 games, Sablon instigated a rule that the youth teams were no longer to focus on results.
That’s right, the result didn’t matter.
He took this a stage further by scrapping all league tables for under-7 and under-8 teams.
His rationale was that the ‘win at all costs’ attitude that had previously been adopted was inadvertently stopping players from developing their own abilities and so if they took that issue away – and didn’t care where the national team ranked on the World stage – they could start changing that.
And change they did, because by focusing on improving rather than winning, they ended up with a better team … playing a better system … that started getting them much better results.
In essence, the byproduct of focusing on improvement was success.
Of course it all makes total sense and yet it’s still utterly refreshing, probably because we live in a society where we’re constantly told to focus on the prize rather than value of development.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff he did that was awesome, even though many regarded it as radical [ie: once a youth player ‘stepped up’ to the national squad, they would never be brought back down again, even though many national teams think that is the way to ‘bed’ the youth players in] … but the upshot is that in just 12 years, Belgium went from the football wilderness to an entertaining and exciting team who are real global contenders and so – regardless whether you like football or not – I urge you to read Michel Sablon account of what he did because it’s more insightful, inspirational and educational about business and team development than any industry book you’ll ever read.
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