The Clubs first ever FA National Futsal League campaign concluded on 15th February with a home win against eventual division champions FS Derby Willows. The experience of leading the Club through its first season at elite level Futsal has not been an easy one for manager Al Tindall. Here he shares his views on the clubs debut season and reflects on his own performance.
If you speak to anyone who knows me they will probably tell you that I am naturally quite a laid back kind of guy, someone that doesn’t really get too excited when good things happen but nor do I get upset when things are going wrong. I have always seen this is a positive thing, I think too much emotion tends to block good judgement and affects decision making. But my first season as the head coach of a National League Futsal Club has certainly put me in touch with my emotional side. Ive been through the full spectrum of emotions anticipation, excitment, dispair, anger, joy, pride, embarassment you name it ive felt it! and learning to control the emotion so it doesn’t affect my leadership style has without a doubt been the biggest learning experience for me this season.
After every game I’ve gone through the process of reflection and made changes to how I do things. As a coach you look at the actions of your players during a match, good and bad, and you wonder whether anything you’ve said or done either during training or in the pre-match build up could have affected their actions on court. Ive found coaching is the easy bit, dealing with players and ensuring they are all mentally in a place to perform is more tricky.
Before the season began I was confident that the squad I had assembled would be capable of competing to win the division we were in. This view didn’t alter even after a season opening day defeat to FS Derby. We had a number of technically sound, intelligent players who I trusted and although there were signs in that game of the things to come I felt I had seen enough via an improved second half display to show me that it wasn’t time to panic.
But the cracks began to appear in the games that followed, a lack of discipline, poor decision making and frustration being the main drivers. This wouldn’t happen for the whole of the game just the odd moment or for short spells but even a moment from one individual in Futsal can have a huge effect on the performance level of the team. The baffling things for me as a coach was that these elements were not present in training or when we competed in friendlies. At times in training we have excelled, playing outstanding Futsal, yet in a competitive environment we struggle. Futsal is different to Football, players are under pressure 100% of the time.I think statistically Futsal players touch the ball something like 400% more during a game, they are involved in every phase of play and there is no room for error. I think I did all I could to address the issue. I altered my own pre-match preparation, put in place pre-match prep and advice for the players, worked on a style of play for the team to mitigate the risk of frustration. I gave every player in the squad a chance to learn from their mistakes and provided the opportunity to correct their actions in the next game.
However the poor performance on a match day culminated in a disastrous away defeat to Bradford Futsal Club that ended any hopes of a good season. Bradford had suffered some extremely heavy defeats and losing to them for me was the sign I needed to make some serious changes to the make up of the squad. One win from our first five games was not good enough in FA National League Division 2 North. The amount of work that had gone into getting the Club to where it was had been ridiculous and the good reputation that had been established was in serious jeopardy. The performance of the first team is what everyone judges the Club on. I had done everything I possibly could to that point with the team and the performances still weren’t there. I had no choice but to make some serious changes or risk the Clubs long term future and ruining all the hard work that had been done by lots of volunteers.
I brought in 7 new players in January, most came from recommendation via the scouting network we have in place across Cumbria and South West Scotland, all of whom play football at a good standard. Only 3 actually made it into the squads for our final 3 games but they made a significant difference to the way the team played. And that was probably the second biggest lesson of my season. The margins between victory and defeat are extremely small when you get to this level. A tiny adjustment in the mentality of the squad corrected so many of the errors that I had seen in previous games. Emotional intelligence is something that really cant be coached but is so crucial in a game like Futsal, identifying it in a player is tricky without spending a good period of time observing them in competition.
As a coach, when you are stood on the sidelines and the ref blows his whistle and the game begins, you know you’ve done all that you can to influence the outcome of the match. My effect on the game at that point can only be dictated by a few tactical calls. Now its up to my players to deliver, I have to trust them and this season I have suffered both excruciating and exhilarating experiences on the sidelines – i hadn’t expected that. I had a perception of how i wanted to be as a coach but when the whistle goes its all too easy to get lost in the emotion. When things are going wrong every inch of you wants to be on the court affecting the game, leading the way and when they are going well there is no better feeling than watching your team knowing you created that situation. But similarly Ive learnt that when things don’t go well then that’s because something I as a coach have done and there is no hiding from that. The one win in five was as a result of my actions and i take full responsibility for that. I assembled the squad, educated them, provided the opportunities to practice and then set the game strategy. But on the flip side I would like to think I was able to recognise what was wrong and I managed to put a plan in place to correct it. We ended up winning our last 3 games beating the best teams in our division along the way and I played my part in that.
Im both pleased and disapointed with how the season has gone. I had badly wanted the squad we started the season with to deliver what I believed they were capable of but the results and level of performance in competition were just not good enough.
Finishing 2015 unbeaten, beating the undefeated champions on the last day of the season and the team in second place in the penultimate game allowed me to experience the great side of being a Futsal manager. I am pleased that my one season in charge of Carlisle finished on a high but I am equally as pleased to be able to hand over the reigns to our new head coach Merv Beacom. I can concentrate 100% now on growing the club structure
I wish Merv all the best for the coming season, im excited to see how the first team develops under his leadership and am looking forard to a less emotional 2015/16 season……….hopefully.