Friday, February 23, 2007

Flat and Flattened: Leadership lessons from the A-League

I saw Dr Marty Seligman speak today. His main football message was his response to a question about his appreciation of people that have positively influenced his life. It was not until his sixtieth birthday that he realised that people like his football coach had influenced his life so much and, in this case, influenced the type of football player he turned out to be. Before that he had assumed that his achievements had been the results of his own efforts.

Well, John Kosmina at 50 has had a similar revelation. But John's enlightenment has been about his influence through his actions on his players. He is reported to have said, 'For me, a big part of life is learning from your mistakes, and I've learned a lot from mine.' Well John, it is a pity you did not learn some of these lessons a lot earlier. Like before you became a professional coach with the weight of the future of the A-League on your shoulders.

My guess is that John learnt that if you swear at a referee and accuse him of cheating and then laugh at the sanction the professional body puts on you - saying that your team could be coached from a coffee shop, then don't be surprised if your senior players copy your lead in the next match. As Dr Seligman pointed out, even though you think that your skills and behaviour as a footballer are the result of your own efforts, they are in fact shaped by your coach. If your coach shouts and swears when under pressure, then so will even your best players.

This is why John had to go. Whether he can resurrect his career at the A-League level is a tough call. The A-League has only 8 teams and it has now had 19 coaches in only two seasons. Even getting a chance at a second go is a big call. Only Laurie McKinna and Ernie Merrick have survived the whole way through.

Plus the FFA is likely to be really cheezed with John. His behaviour and its halo on his team was the main story for the A-League's two key games for 2006-7. He over-shadowed tributes to Archie Thompson's five goals, to Fred's wizardry and even descriptions about just how poorly Adelaide played, particularly their defense. It did not allow football analysts to draw their own conclusions about Nathan Burns' disallowed goal or whether or not Thompson was offside for his fourth.

It also overshadowed the announcement today that Greg Owens has left Adelaide despite a year to run on his contract. I wonder what happened in that dressing room at half time when Owens was subbed.

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