Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson's Insightful Interview With Charlie Rose

Sir Alex Ferguson and Charlie Rose

Former Manchester United football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, did a very revealing interview with U.S. interviewer, Charlie Rose that is the talk of the football world. The knowledgeable Scotsman spoke about his storied career as the most successful football (soccer) manager in British history. His management and coaching style emphasizes strict discipline and a relentless zeal to win.

During the engaging interview Ferguson spoke of the U.S. civil war and engaged in banter about Abraham Lincoln and General George Patton. Ferguson is a true manager/coach, looking at the pitch (soccer field) like it's a battlefield. In that vein, Ferguson also spoke of seeing real live blueprints of Patton's battle plans.

Alex Ferguson

Ferguson spoke about former Manchester United footballer David Beckham, who later played in America for the Los Angeles Galaxy. This occurred after Ferguson sold him to Real Madrid, where he thought the Englishman would thrive. Ferguson blames Beckham's wife, former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham, whose name her refused to utter, for distracting her husband with the limelight, which he believes impacted his football career. As accomplished as Beckham was during his career, he could have been even more successful without the distraction that is the limelight.

When Ferguson sold Beckham to Real Madrid, I must admit, I didn't understand or support it, as he had become a national treasure in Britain. However, during this week's interview, Ferguson warned once a player becomes bigger than the team, it's time for them to be traded and that was the problem in the Beckham situation.

The Beckhams

Now in retrospect, I understand why Ferguson made the Real Madrid deal. As nice as Beckham appears to be, he began to challenge some of Ferguson's management decisions using his fame as leverage, a practice other athletes in several sports have done and it created distractions. Any successful manager has to have their team under tight reins or there will be chaos. No matter how talented they are, everyone has to be on the same page creating a cohesive unit.

Life after Ferguson has been rough for Manchester United. Ferguson's successor, whom he appointed, has made some decisions I do not agree with. The Telegraph reported new manager, David Moyes, fired much of Ferguson's coaching staff, people the team are used to and rely on, in favor of his folks he brought in. It was a mistake discarding the winning blueprint left behind by Ferguson. All great leaders leave a solid blueprint behind, whether it be sports, business or politics.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his wife Cathy on their wedding day

This past weekend Moyes also told the team and the world, via an interview, he does not believe Manchester United has a chance at winning Champion's League. I was stunned a manager/coach said something like that. Even if he believes that, you don't tell a team/athlete that. It was surprising to read a man on Moyes' level do that (not that I'm complaining as Manchester United's rival Arsenal is my favorite).

However, right is right and wrong is wrong and you just don't say things like that to your athletes.
Having stated that, I have to wonder how Ferguson feels about Moyes firing his coaching staff and telling the team forget about winning Champion's League because you won't. I would love to state it's reverse psychology, but I know better - it was just a terrible idea.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his wife Cathy today

I watched an old Mike Tyson fight a few weeks ago, remembering how much (my family and) I loved to watch him box when I was a kid in the 80s, especially the way he'd quickly knock people out. Seriously, if you quickly went to the kitchen for some water or the bathroom to pee, you'd miss the fight. Tyson would crick his neck, then promptly kick your butt.

Tyson went into the ring with the attitude and visage of a gladiator. He didn't flinch and tried to psych out his opponents before he even threw the first punch. It was his game face and it worked. Tyson stated if he stared you down with confidence and you flinched, he knew he had you (meaning you were going to lose the match). Moyes telling the world Manchester United won't win Champion's League was a major flinch empowering rivals. Call it the flinch "heard around the world."

Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford

Psychology is a big part of sports. Lining up the mind with the body creates a better performance. A demoralized, panicked and unsure mind will translate into an inferior performance. If your own manager/coach is telling you your not going to win, that's how you're going to play, riddled with doubt and defeat the minute you get out there.

My dad, who played football internationally for Jamaica beginning at age 19, then went on to coach football and cricket, has always emphasized sports psychology as a great tool in winning. He's right. Sports psychology has helped teams all over the world win.

I love sports and in watching many an event, anytime you see an athlete getting down on themselves or falling apart during play, if they don't mentally get it together fairly quickly, they will lose. Going out there with and maintaining confidence will boost your performance. It means a clear, focused, sharp mind giving the body accurate and precise instructions during play.