Monday, April 11, 2011

Humble in defeat

Humility is an important trait for anyone to possess, especially if you are a leader of men.

Coaches need to have a little of humility as an example for their players as how to show respect to themselves, each other and the game.

Paul Gardner writes of a show of humility in defeat by three American coaches, including Los Angeles Galaxy manager Bruce Arena - who is not known for being humble.

Definitely, it's time for some praise for a couple of coaches whose teams I've never much admired -- but my opinion of their preferred playing style is not at issue here (I'll deal with that shortly). It's their honesty in assessing their own team's performance -- and their willingness to grant praise to their opponents -- that is getting to me at the moment.

Listen to Thomas Rongen after his U-20 U.S. national team lost to Guatemala -- a brutal defeat, one that no one expected, and one that could -- probably should -- cost Rongen his job. This is what Rongen had to say: “Obviously we are extremely disappointed by this result. If you look at the game, you have to take your hat off to Guatemala. The home team came to play. They had a good game plan ... but today wasn't our day. It was a good host team and our team wasn’t able to click on all cylinders.”

Straightforward, dignified, respectful -- and how often do we see that today, particularly at the top level of the sport?

Three days later, after his New England Revs had been beaten 2-0 by Real Salt Lake, Steve Nicol didn’t mince his words about his team’s performance: “There’s no hiding behind it -- we weren’t good ... we should have played better than we did, and we didn't ... we got what we deserved tonight.”

Equally refreshing in criticism of their own teams, neither Rongen nor Nicol rolled out the usual excuses -- the referee, the travel, the injuries that kept key players off the field, and so on.

OK, the final step of admitting personal responsibility for the defeats was missing, but a week or two back we did get that far. From a coach whose teams I have much admired in the past (though not so much lately). It was Bruce Arena who held up his hand as the man to be blamed for the Los Angeles Galaxy’s lousy play against Real Salt Lake (the Galaxy took a 4-1 pounding in the Home Depot Center): “We were completely outplayed in the first half and were punished properly. ... Obviously I point the finger at the coach when the team played the way we played in the first 15 minutes of the game.”

Yes, and I’m well aware that’s only taking in the first 15 minutes, but that will do. All three statements I’ve quoted are highly welcome -- they show a strength of character that would appear to be rather lacking elsewhere -- I’m thinking of the recent behavior and pronouncements of two of the world’s top coaches -- ManU’s Alex Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.

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