Thomas Gronnemark has been working on people's mindsets for a long time. As coaches, we typically view throw-ins as marginal gains. Generally, it's an aspect of the game that we do not really spend a lot of time on because there are so many things to cover. Early in this interview however, Thomas began to detail how throw-ins was not in the marginal gains category. Move away from long throws, he challenges us, and you will get "40-60 throw-ins per game" that will give you a massive opportunity to dictate possession and be gain more control of the match (see below). Thomas elaborates on this during the interview that the Rory Delay-style long throw is the easiest way to impact a game, but does not necessarily fit the club culture at Liverpool. Instead, his 'possession focus' has resulted in Liverpool going from the the 3rd worst in the Premier League in possession retention to the 2nd best in Europe since he started working with them. The only team with a higher retention is FC Midtjylland, whose throw-in coach is.... of course... Thomas as well.
The subject of skepticism and criticism from those in the media came up in the conversation. I think it was Andy Gray who initially picked up on it on mainstream media, criticizing the idea of a throw-in coach. Even a Liverpool legend, Steve Nicol (see below) recently voiced his concerns about Thomas' impact, despite the evidence there for all to see. I thought Thomas' response in regards to this was very inspiring. Without criticism, Thomas argues, "We are not getting better, and we are not getting smarter." But, how we deal with it is important. Thomas believes that we should develop the ability to "slice up" the criticism and assess where it is coming from. If the criticism is constructive or if it comes from people who are genuinely curious, then it deserves your attention and respect. However, if those aspects are lacking from the person delivering it, you are better off not paying attention to it. I think this applies to coaches, as much as it does to players, and it made me think of the Aristotle quote,"There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." How many times do we make a decision not to do something or not to put maximum effort into something because of what other people think? Perhaps if we took Thomas' advice and learned to deal with it, rather than avoid it, we could do even better.
Without a doubt, the best part of the interview was the insight to the Liverpool culture. What can we learn from coaches like Jurgen Klopp hiring specialist throw-in coaches when it comes to constructing cultures? Firstly, Thomas explains Klopp's leadership style and how people feed off his cues like energy and being friendly. Secondly, he also talks about the collaboration between different sections of the club. People are constantly looking to help one another, rather than working in silos. This type of organizational structure supports bringing a specialist coach in because people become more flexible, more welcoming, and the environment is primed for change.
Finally, 'growth mindset' is a term that we all throw about today, but what exactly does it mean when it comes to coaching? It's easy enough to say that we want to improve and that we are open to ideas, but it's very different to commit to that process of innovation. In 2020, you don't get points for reading a new book or an innovative article, you must put it into action. Coaches that are willing to look for ways to get better will adapt their environment and staff to show that. After all, Pep Guardiola hired Manuel Estiarte, who was a former Olympics water polo player, as his assistant coach. Below is a video of Jurgen Klopp talking about bringing in a surfer to the Liverpool environment. I believe that he's explaining that rather than helping player's deal with isolated breathing techniques, introducing people like that have value because they"match his culture." They make people think and believe that we are capable of so much more. He says below that it's "obvious where the similarities are" between a surfer and a footballer. I believe that when you are intentional and deliberate about the mindset that you want to constantly build and develop with your team, people like Thomas make a dramatic difference, both on and off the pitch.
You can watch the full interview on our YouTube page below. The Podcast was sponsored by Sportslab360 which is an outstanding platform, designed to empower youth players to improve their Soccer IQ and allow coaches to guide player development remotely. Please check out their work and enquire about a MSC discount at https://sportslab360.com/