The last time Liam Sheedy was at the helm in Tipperary, it was obvious the players had the utmost respect for the Portroe man, writes Peter McNamara.
And they believed in Sheedy’s methods which, of course, proved to be a successful combination.
Reflecting on that time-period while attempting to foresee how Sheedy’s second stint in charge of the Premier outfit might play out, one facet of his managerial style which is expected to be vital, once again, is how he interacts effectively with his players via superb communication skills.
Previously, I attended a wonderful talk Sheedy gave on the unquantifiable importance of excellent communication between everybody involved in a team set-up.
Sheedy began his presentation discussing how management styles have evolved over the years in Gaelic games.
The ‘old style’ used to consist of three to five selectors and their players.
Then came the spell in which the concept of a manager created an almost ‘them and us’ mentality between that figurehead and the players.
Now, however, Sheedy explained how management has evolved further still these days.
The ‘new model’ as he referred to it, is almost like a Venn diagram whereby the manager, backroom team and the players all work together to meet a common goal.
Within those three particular components, you then have sub-components, according to Sheedy.
The management team, obviously, can have the manager, coaches and selectors.
The backroom team could consist of a physiotherapist, trainer, dietician, a masseur, performance coaches and so on.
However, the most important component of the diagram, Sheedy said, was the players. He got this immediately, understood its significance. And it is why all the best managers in sport these days are more and more successful.
“You then have to consider six key characteristics of positive management and a successful unit working to meet the collective objectives – trust, excellence, positivity, constant improvement, common goals and equality,” Sheedy stated. “Trust is a massive issue as regards successful management. Everything you do is based on trust.
Sheedy stressed the need to remain positive through rocky waters even if it can be challenging.
In his analogy of common goals he used the example of a train going northbound with everyone aboard but there may be one or two that want to go southbound.
“You have to make sure that they do not want to get off at the next stop by communicating problems with them because if you are not all collectively travelling northbound, your common goals will not be met,” Sheedy said.
Equality is the other major issue, he believes.
“Are you treating player number one any differently to how you would treat player number 30?
If you want number 30 to come with you, you have got to make him or her feel the same level of respect that you give player number one.
“The overall goal when you combine the circles of management, backroom team and players with the key characteristics, is to get everyone to their maximum performance levels within the greater circle.
“This is so simple because nobody wants to be operating at 50%.
“However, sometimes players may not be operating at full tilt because of outside influences.
“You may ask player X, ‘Are you okay?’, when you notice that all is not right with him or her.
“The response though may be a simple, ‘Yeah, I am grand’ but when they say this they are more often not okay,” he suggested.
Sheedy utilised the instance of maybe having a fall-out with the girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe he or she has lost a job, their confidence may be low or they may have an injury of some description.
“And you will see that there may be a problem as the player will not be operating to a level you have come to expect,” he said.
Sheedy explained it would do the player no good if you berated the individual over their performance.
Instead, he suggested, that taking the player aside and talking the problem through will take a lot of psychological weight off their shoulders.
Sheedy advises coaches to encourage their players by telling them, with absolute conviction, what their invaluable worth is to the team and reiterating your belief in them as a player and as an individual.
“It is imperative to both focus on the things holding the player back through talking while constantly focusing on the positives and, together, discuss how you plan to get him or her back to their best.
“In business, people buy from people. For example, you may go to the same butcher every day because you have built up a certain level of trust with that person.
“The same is true of sport, people play for people.
“When your players look at you they want to see trust, constant improvement and they have to see you looking to find that extra gear, all the time.
“And if they do, that is when you start to in-roads,” Sheedy said.
The Tipperary manager used Aidan O’Brien as an analogy and asked if he manages horses or people?
“He, of course, is managing people.
“Aidan O’Brien is the first person on the gallops each morning to greet the jockeys after they have ridden out each horse and he communicates with these people and trusts their judgement on each individual horse.
“That is a major factor in Aidan O’Brien’s relentless success and why he is considered one of the greatest horse trainers in the history of the sport.
“Everybody at Ballydoyle knows their role and they are working together as a team,” he explained.
Sheedy said that every player will look back on their career and point to each coach or manager they had and suggest to themselves whether that individual had a positive or negative impact on them.
And how you will have interacted and communicated with them in the time you had guiding them will determine whether they see your influence in a positive or negative light.
In 2019, take note of how the players speak of Sheedy and the high esteem, I am confident, they will hold him in.
And, the primary reason for that, will be due to his wonderful capacity to communicate brilliantly with them.