The importance of a good Club Culture
Jurgen Klopp’s biggest achievement at Liverpool FC might not be winning the Champions League. His influence extends much further. He has succeeded in influencing a Club Culture.
Liverpool Virgil van Dijk , arguably the best defender in the world talks about his Coach Jurgen Klopp as follows:
“I remember meeting the boss for the first time. We had a really good talk and he just gave me the right confidence.
“There is something about Klopp that makes him stand out. It’s not just his energy, I think it’s his man- management.
“Klopp makes you feel great. He is genuinely pleased to see you in the morning and that has a big effect on the players who come in.
“Just look at the hugs he gives us all at the end of games. It is only a bit of affection, something very small, but it makes you feel great.
“And yet, he can be stone-hard the next day and put you in your place when you have made mistakes.
Your success as an architect of club culture will not be easy nor will it be a given. It requires personal development of the kind that requires you to work on yourself first. It is not just about having the best tactics, most talented players or the biggest budget. Nor does it have nothing to do with luck or good timing or circumstances.
Effective Football Leadership (a more complete term than “coaching”) is a focused, intentional effort aimed persuading, and then converting, players, staff and the entire club towards your authentic and deeply held principles and values that you believe will bring success to the club.
This effort must travel in a positive and constructive direction and like a bus driver, you must bring everyone on board. It won’t work unless everyone is on board. And if someone resists in a way that pulls the effort in a negative direction, then the organization is likely better off without them. Tough decisions are inevitable in this kind of effort.
What we are really talking about here is Club Culture. Beyond tactics, results, the training environment and economics lies the reality that whatever happens (or does not happen) is driven by Club Culture. The central role a football manager, executive or coaching director plays in a Club means their influence will necessarily extend beyond the team and impact the organization as a whole – for better or worse.
The point of Club Culture is not, however, just about wins, losses or trophies. The real value lies in the enduring positive impact you can have on players, other coaches and the organization itself in non-footballing terms.
So why do club leaders devote the overwhelming majority of their effort into football tactics and strategies and virtually nothing into other aspects that are important for developing human beings?
Most coaches simply don’t think about. For others, the easiest explanation is that believe culture just happens. If a group of players and coaches show up at the same time and place, a fantastic culture will simply materialize. That’s flatly wrong, of course.
Establishing an authentic and impactful culture requires intentional and deliberate architecture and daily execution. It requires a culture-first mindset. This is perhaps the most important change required at youth football clubs.
Building the club’s future means working with young players to help them to find ways of fulfilling their potential, in whatever pursuit or opportunity comes their way. A truly great club does more than develop athleticism, tactical intelligence or ball mastery.
A great club promotes the human values of friendship, work ethic, shared struggle, empathy and sacrifice. A great club does not undermine the value of education or the arts and encourages players to mind their studies and prepare themselves for the next chapters of their lives. Never separate the player from the person. A great club works to develop the whole person
Bram V Valencia CF consultant