Time to treat coaches seriously

CoachKill has become football's favourite game, except it's not a game for the victims. Am I the only person in the football world who looks at what's happening and hates what he sees?

CoachKill has become football's favourite game, except it's not a game for the victims. Am I the only person in the football world who looks at what's happening and hates what he sees?

I have often pondered whether we need coaches at all in the modern game. We didn't have them - at least not in today's context - during football's formative years in the first half of last century. Joe Marston recently reminded me of his early days at APIA-Leichhardt when the captain, perhaps a committeeman, and the coach, would discuss dressing room issues and collectively pick the team. But the 'coach' was, in fact, more like a father figure - a manager/physical trainer - and much less the voice and face of the club we see these days. With decisions taken collectively, so responsibility was shared collectively.

Sackings, especially mid-season, were rare.

Should we - could we - turn back the clock? Given the impossible conditions coaches now work under I find myself thinking - more and more - why not?

Of course accountability is important in any job. But to be accountable you need to have some control over decisions. Instead the players win games, and the coach loses them. That's what we've come to. Most modern coaches have precious little authority, yet they bear most of the responsibility. And the bloodlust for sackings is insatiable, bordering on insane.

Truth is, we're all to blame for that. The media, the pundits, the fans, the players, the administrators, the owners. When a coach looks around for support, or trust, it's all-but impossible to find. The mutiny at Perth Glory proves that.

Nowadays a coach is a duck in a shooting gallery, and the bullet could come anytime, from anywhere. So what's the point in maintaining the charade? The one where the coach is still called the 'boss'.

The winner of the unrelenting, unforgiving, scrutiny on the coach is the 24/7 news cycle, and all those either employed by it, or addicted to it. The loser is common sense, camaraderie, and what's left of the integrity of the game.

There are vested interests, of course, which prefer the status quo. Not least the modern generation of players who see coaching as a chance to stay in the game, and keep living the life they have become accustomed to. No matter if the odds are stacked heavily against them, they're forever willing to give it a shot. Which is why there's always a line-up outside the owner's door before the grave has gone cold. Sadly, honour among coaches went out with hobnail boots and leather balls.

Then there's the coaching education industry, which needs a never-ending conveyer belt of optimists to keep the home fires burning. With what we call the coaching profession now protected - and entrenched - by the advent of compulsory qualifications, the last thing the bureaucrats who have created this 'pathway' want is for coaching to lose its lustre. I fail to see how it hasn't.

The way things have evolved, someone can spend several years, and upwards of $20,000, to give themselves the chance to coach for a living, only to find they have absolutely no control over their destiny once they get to the Promised Land. Do coaches deserve more time and respect? Of course they do. Do they deserve to be abused or ridiculed on a daily basis instead? Of course not.

To me, if we want to treat coaching, and coaches, seriously, then we need to take stock. Every one of us. A bad day at the office is human. A bad year, all things being equal, should be avoidable. If that's how we expect ourselves to be judged, then that's how we should judge coaches. We don't. All we seem to want these days is a head on a plate.