This afternoon the team I manage played its first game of the league season and recorded its first victory. Still new to management and the feelings which coincide with controlling a men’s football side I was hit by a wave of emotions. Now that the dust has settled I’ve been able to reflect on the day’s proceedings with a more level-headed perspective.
Having managed a men’s team for a brief period during the tail end of last season the planning and selection headaches were nothing new to me. However there was a great difference between the pressure I felt this season in comparison to the last and for obvious reason. This season is my first opportunity to control a team from start to finish and differently to the previous year, I have not adopted a team already moulded by a predecessor. In fact I have been responsible for every facet of creating the team from spotting the players to coaching them and eventually putting them out on the field for their first competitive fixture.
With the new found level of responsibility comes added pressure. Pressure perhaps not caused by fans or rivals but pressure that is both heavy and self-imposed. The excitement of today was sullied by a quiet nervousness and fear of failure; normal feelings for someone about to participate in competitive sport. However what I’ve come to realise is that my pre-match apprehension as a player is much less severe when compared to that which I feel as a manager. I tried to understand why this was.
As a player it’s possible to make a mistake which can lead to the concession of a goal or on the other side of the coin, fail to take a chance to score one. As a player there’s a ninety minute window in which to perform and perhaps for some, that fear of underperforming and losing your place on the field before the game even reaches its end. But as a manager the most influential you can be is on the training ground with the players working on the aspects of the game you deem to be most important. When it comes to match-day it’s time for your team to implement what you’ve been working on and your job to assist as much as possible from pitch side with words of tactical instruction and encouragement.
The role of a manager or coach on the touchline during a match is an important one, as hopefully with the use of a sound understanding of the game as well as the benefit of having a more advantageous viewing position, the manager should be able to positively affect the team. However having had time to consider various reasons for my anxiety today I find myself coming to the conclusion that it is caused by a feeling of helplessness. The knowledge that despite all the effort put into planning and preparation in training and prior to games, your degree of success can still be dictated by bad luck and any number of the twenty three men out on the field that have the capacity to do something you really wish they wouldn’t. (And yes I do mean twenty three)
My team isn’t watched on television by millions across the world and my weekly wage doesn’t allow me to sip the fine wine premier league managers are known to enjoy after a game. If next week’s fixture ends in a loss I won’t have thousands of fans screaming for me to lose my job. Nevertheless I can almost guarantee that on the morning of the game I’ll still wake up with that odd combination of anticipation and angst which will only be relieved by victory and the acquisition of another three points.
Got a taste for it now.