Greater self-knowledge leads to better team results

James Rowe, alumnus of the Master in Coaching, explains how he improved the team results by learning how to get a better grip on his own ego thanks to new insights he acquired on the program

Currently assistant manager of Aldershot Town Football Club‘s first team, James Rowe found in coaching the answers to the challenges that many young players face in their development and in their team, and came to the conclusion that knowing each individual case is crucial to getting better team results.

As part of your ongoing development you graduated from the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam. What did that teach you?

That program was challenging. It taught me a lot how to open up about myself. Perhaps areas that you wouldn’t necessarily be normally comfortable opening up about. And I know their motto is you need to learn to coach yourself before you can coach others. I think that was a key phrase for the Master and I certainly did that over the six to nine months that I was on that course.

That phrase was something I was going to pick out, can you elaborate on that a little more? So, it is about developing players but, as that phrase suggests,  is it about developing yourself first and foremost?

It’s raising awareness of, perhaps, controlling your own ego. Not giving the players all the answers. It’s more a case of guided discovery; a relationship with them in which they can be open with you and come to you, rather than you always going to them. And I think that’s a key cornerstone of what I’m trying to achieve here.

At the Institute you were working with coaches from a lot of different sports, not just football  coaches, and coaches who were elite level Olympic champions. How important was it to get that broader perspective?

Massively. A great start for me, along that sort of journey of individual development moving from a team dynamic. Olympic champions often work one-to-one with a coach, so it was great to see how that dynamic worked, because obviously when I go to the training pitch here we have a team sport with 18 to 20 players. So, it is making sure they get their individual development alongside the generic team training if that makes sense.

And the nature of becoming an Olympic champion is that you’re never satisfied, but even when  you’ve won a gold medal the next challenge is always the greatest. You’re never satisfied with where you’ve got to, you always want to move on to that next level. I suppose that’s something you took away from it as well?

I think Phelps is a good example of that as well. I don’t think he got out of bed when he won all the Olympic golds at his first Olympics. He then realized he had already achieved his long-term goals and it’s about setting new short- and long-term goals. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always develop your game and it’s about getting that into the players’ heads.

This might be an impossible question: are you able to define, or has the science of coaching been able to define, what makes a good coach?

There are all sorts of approaches you can take and philosophies, but I guess what I’ve learned along the way so far in my short time coaching is that, whatever your philosophy or whatever your approach is, you have to be consistent with it and believe in what you’re doing, and that will rub off on the players.


Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam uses a rich learning environment that fosters educational tools based on a student interaction model. We aim for a mix of students from sports and business sectors, which also enables students to share their unique experiences and learn from each other. Through ‘Cruyffian’ teaching methods the students will engage actively in creative challenges that require effort, commitment and intuitive thinking. Visit the web pages to find out about our programs, which we deliver in English:

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