The Mechanics of Direction

Rowden Fullen (2007)

Direction is about knowing where you are going and how to get there. It’s about being effective and knowing what is needed for you to play at your absolute best. It’s about continuous analysis and reassessment of your game so that you don’t take any wrong turnings on the way. It’s about asking the right questions – ‘Am I going in the right direction – for me and my end-style?’ ‘What is new in my game? Am I progressing, developing? What should I be working on to make my game more effective, to achieve maximum potential? How am I going to play as a senior?’

Unfortunately what often happens nowadays is that players are being removed, often at a much earlier age, from their own secure coaching environment with a great deal of individual attention and placed into national high performance squads where the majority of the training is group oriented. Sparring is a high priority but not individual development. Often these selected stars see their own performance and results steadily deteriorating while the not so good players who have managed to avoid the system continue to progress and often to overtake them.

The system of course in many countries is not and never was interested in individuals or only in the sense that it is quite prepared to destroy fifty or a hundred players to produce one European Champion. It is usually a question of the survival of the fittest and the vast majority will be used as the cannon-fodder to achieve this end and are expendable in the cause of developing the chosen few. Players entering the system or having dazzling opportunities presented to them must not be blinded to the harsh truths which are inherent in their acceptance.

Yet strangely enough when you talk to top coaches in Europe and discuss the way forward in terms of developing top talent and trying to compete with the Asians, more often than not the coaches stress the vital importance of individual development and that players should come to select high level training camps in Europe not with their National Trainers but in fact with their own personal coaches. They stress the importance of having the coaches on hand who are actually working on a day to day basis with the players. Coaches from countries as diverse as Ukraine, Germany, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Austria, Poland and Italy are all in favour of much higher involvement by the players’ own coaches in any European development programme.

Too many coaches even at National level seem to be biased too towards certain styles or to not fully understand others. Perhaps one of the biggest dangers of being encouraged to play a certain type of game, whether the influence is from coaches, media, other players or role models, is that there is a lessening of the individual input.

What should always be remembered is that all players are unique and they should be urged to accentuate and develop their own personal style and to do what they do best. To imitate others often means that you try to develop areas of your game where at best you will only ever be mediocre.

Some coaches even seem to think along the lines, ‘we’ in our country have ‘our own National style’. This too is a rather dangerous assumption as there is then a tendency to ignore potential which doesn’t fit in with the ‘National Plan’!

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