Chelsea Ladies manager, Emma Hayes, provides an insight into developing a club culture, understanding individuals and why success means more than winning and losing.


For me, culture is something we try to embed collectively.

In all aspects of our work we have collective responsibility and accountability. Rather than blaming others or passing on responsibility, we want the coaching and playing staff to consult on a regular basis through checks and balances. As coaching staff it is important to ask the players “What do you think? How much more work do we need this week? Do we need more information tactically? Are we prepared at the level you need?”.

Therefore, if you do lose games you don’t have players saying: “I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what my role was.” The culture we are trying to develop includes a lot of reaffirming through communication and question and answer.

Culture is about developing the right habits.

Whether that is how we approach our work on the training pitch or the key training messages centred on our playing style. We tend to talk about developing a culture more than a philosophy.

The culture we have tried to create is based on striving for professionalism in every way, shape and form. The culture involves the players understanding the importance of adopting the right emotional daily approach. We want an understanding that playing football is a profession with certain professional expectations.

We are blessed in our profession. Many people are getting up at six in the morning and not getting home until 8pm. It is important for the players to understand that they come into work and train well, eat well and then there might be analysis and additional work. Rather than viewing it as something that is a lot of effort, they must realise we are in a privileged position.

Embedding ideas is all about getting the structure right with your staff.

It is crucial. You have to build relationships with all of your staff, and that is developed over countless hours of talking about how you want to develop your club or your team. Once that trust, understanding and relationship is clear, only then can you really start to articulate it clearly with your players. But it takes time.

I always say to my staff that one thing that is important is that we stand side by side, nothing gets between us and to always remember that we are working for the bigger picture and that is bigger than ourselves.

Manager Emma Hayes with assistant manager Paul Green during a training session
Emma Hayes believes trust and respect between staff members is a crucial aspect to developing a positive culture.

When I look at a holistic vision for the club, it is never centred on just playing style and winning matches.

Part of the vision at Chelsea was to secure more funding over a period of time so that the utopia - our own pitches, full time staff and players – was secured. Our success on the pitch can be helped by winning off the pitch.

The vision we have is bigger than just matches. How much of a role model have we been for women’s football? What exposure have we had in the media? How integrated are we at our football club? Did we generate revenue and are we in a position to do that year in, year out?

It's important to look beyond results. We have to recognise where we have come from as a club and the development journey we are on because, as I have learned with coaching, you are not always going to win. Does that mean you are not successful?

It is always relative. If you are working towards bigger long term goals by achieving your short term goals and have regular communication to make sure you are moving in the right direction, you have got the chance to feel successful.

Often in sport we are always thinking about that day on the podium lifting that trophy and we miss so much of the journey en-route. I have got more and more conscious as I am getting more experienced to be very much in the here and now of coaching.

We've got players from lots of cultures so we have to understand and respect how different individuals work.

Some want discussions in the team environment and some want one to one talks.

The key to it is not just your relationship with that player but ensuring your other coaches and staff understand their responsibilities with that process - because you can’t get around to every player yourself. Constant dialogue with the players is so important.

I have had to be more resourceful and share the load with my assistants. As a coaching staff we need to find the time to articulate how and why decisions are made and fundamentally get the players to focus on the next game. Players need short term motivations constantly. We also want the players to come and say ‘listen, I need this from you coach’.


Emma Hayes is the manager of Women’s Super League side, Chelsea Ladies.


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