England manager, Gareth Southgate, explains why empathy and empowerment are key to his coaching approach.


Gareth Southgate believes that giving ownership and building positive and open relationships with his players can help England develop into a team who can compete with the best in the world.
"I like players to have responsibility; to think about what we are asking them to do, to have an opinion on the way we are asking them to play and the way we are asking them to train,” explained Southgate to The Boot Room, when describing his coaching approach.

“I think if the players have some ownership of what’s going on then that's going to help them make better decisions on the field and also buy into the way that we are trying to progress.”

And the 46-year-old, who took charge of the Three Lions senior team in November 2016 after three years guiding the U21s, believes that developing positive and strong relationships with the players is the foundation for greater ownership and empowerment.

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Gareth Southgate: my coaching approach

“My approach would be to have empathy with people,” said the former Middlesbrough manager.

“As a coach, you always have to be there to support the person - improving them as a player becomes secondary to a degree.

“But if a player feels that you respect them and you want to help them, then they are more likely to listen to you and follow you.”

Another aim for the Three Lions’ manager, who was capped 57 times for his country as a player, is for his squad to be responsible for decision-making on the pitch rather than being reliant on guidance from the technical area - something he believes starts by discussing how the game should be played.

“I like the players to speak up in meetings - I like them to have an opinion on the game, because in the 85th minute they have got to make a decision that might win or lose the game and we can't make all those decisions from the sideline.”

The most rewarding communication is one-to-one and that may be in a formal meeting or a very informal environment 
Opinion is sought and relationships built through informal discussions with players.

“When you have team meetings you are communicating certain messages to the team,” explains Southgate.

"But every meeting can be slightly different depending on what you want from it. There are meetings where you are delivering information, meetings where I am seeking opinion and looking for contribution from the players and times when I am looking to check their understanding of things.

“But for me, the most rewarding communication is one-to-one and that may be in a formal meeting or a very informal environment."

Gareth Southgate giving a speech
Gareth Southgate led England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“I tend to prefer informal because it allows people to open up more and allows them to feel more comfortable expressing an opinion.

“I think it is important to listen and I think it is important to get a feel of what motivates the individual.”

Southgate believes that his players have responded well to the approach but admits that learning how to communicate and motivate each individual is an ongoing process.

“Everybody is different and every player would like a slightly different approach and a slightly different style of communication and have different buttons that need pressing," he adds.

“At the moment I don't know all of those things for all of the players, but the more you work with people the better you start to understand them.

“I think it is a great challenge for coaches to think about what is needed and what buttons need to be pressed for each individual player to try and help them to improve.”


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