by Martin Sharp


Much has been written about management training and the effectiveness or otherwise of management training courses.

I would like to take a fresh approach to this subject, by considering whether there are any key differences in the managerial approach generally adopted within a sporting environment, as compared to the business world in general.

Definition of Management

It is useful to consider a recognised definition of management as follows:

"Management is the efficient, effective and economic use of resources to achieve results with and through the efforts of other people."

Management and Managerial Styles in Football

Football manager tactics

Within the sporting world, a subject of particular interest to me is what makes an effective football manager and why do certain managerial styles appear to be more appropriate at some clubs and with certain players, whereas in other circumstances a different style would seem to be more appropriate.

Historically, there appears to have been an overriding philosophy in football circles that to be an effective manager, one does not necessarily have to receive any formal management training or attend any management training courses - traditionally managers have been selected to a large degree on their previous playing experience, apparent tactical awareness and ability to communicate at all levels, including club directors, players, media and supporters.

Comparison with the Business World

There are similarities here to the business world, where in the more traditional industries especially, there are many examples of the highest performing employees being promoted to supervisor or manager, with little or no formal management training such as a First Line Manager course. This often results in a feeling of "being thrown in at the deep end" and finding that being good at a particular job is very different from getting the best out of other people doing that job. This type of manager is often well liked and respected by their team, as they are very approachable and willing to help and support individuals within the team, as they often revert back to the "comfort zone" of their previous role, rather than thinking how to get the best out of the resources at their disposal.

Stuart McCall as Manager of Bradford City

A good example of this within the football world is very close to my heart, as it involves my home town club, Bradford City. One of the most committed, skilful and well-liked players of my generation was Stuart McCall, who was quoted as saying it was his dream job when he was appointed manager of the club many years ago.

Sadly, it didn't work out and Stuart left the club for pastures new, after two years of trying to emulate his successful playing career. The general consensus of opinion around the club at the time was that he was too close to the players, behaving more like a captain (still wanting to be part of the team and retaining the "doer" philosophy) than a manager (distancing himself from the players, acting with authority and becoming more of a "thinker").

Becoming an Effective Manager

At Dickson Training Ltd, we offer a wide variety of management training courses, primarily to assist these types of people in developing from being a "doer" to becoming a "thinker". Skills that are required to become an effective manager include, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances of the individual:

Natural Talent Vs Taught Managerial Skills

As with most things in life, there is an optimum balance between the benefits of formal management training and the so called natural leadership and management instincts of particular individuals - the age old nature versus nurture debate. In team sports in general, and football in particular, I feel that the balance is more towards the instinctive aspects being more influential than the management training undertaken, where motivational skills and tactical awareness, more than management training courses, so often appear to be the key factors for success.

An Example of Two Contrasting Football Management Styles

I think that many sporting pundits would agree that the most convincing argument for this view relates to two high profile personalities within English football.

At the time of writing this article, the vast majority of the football world is currently clamouring for Harry Redknapp to become the next England manager. He is renowned for being one of a dying breed of "old school" managers who can take an average player and improve his individual performance for the benefit of the team (a classic example of effective management, as mentioned above).

This is in direct contrast to Fabio Capello, who many feel was given the England manager's job on the back of efficient and effective football, supported by a plethora of coaching badges and certificates from internationally recognised management training courses within the football world. This brought several trophies in European club management but by all accounts led to several unhappy players leaving for other clubs, allegedly because of his somewhat draconian approach to man management. This view was supported by the lacklustre performance of the England team at the 2010 World Cup, where player motivation appeared to be at an all time low.

The Need for Formal Management Training

In the business world in general, where a more formal approach to managing people is often more prevalent and managers are not so much in the public eye, management training in key skills is more likely to reap tangible benefits in terms of improved performance of individuals and the team, primarily because one is likely to find more structure and discipline within such an environment, with clearly defined roles and reporting lines within a formal organisational structure. Other things being equal, the larger the organisation and more complex the organisational structure, the more likely is the organisation going to benefit from a management training course.


To conclude, in my opinion in order to become an effective and efficient manager of people and resources, a degree of innate ability is required as a minimum; however, this can be enhanced by appropriate management training and development, focused on the specific needs of individuals and the circumstances of their role.

To discuss your management training requirements further, please call us on 01937 579 649 or send us an online contact form.