Chelsea hire Eastwood to lead identity project

Owen Eastwood: "My specialism is around building an optimal environment for people to compete from"

Owen Eastwood: "My specialism is around building an optimal environment for people to compete from"

CHELSEA have hired Owen Eastwood to lead a project on their history and identity which will impact the environments at Stamford Bridge and the Cobham training centre.

The New Zealander was our guest on Episode #31 of the TGG Podcast and has worked with major teams in a number of sports, including Gareth Southgate’s England.

Describing his work on the TGG Podcast, Eastwood said: “I call myself a performance coach. I’m not an executive coach, I’m not a life coach. My role is to help the team perform better.

“My specialism is around building an optimal environment for people to compete from. The English Institute of Sport shared an insight with me once, that I’ve held onto - that 70% of behaviour is determined by whatever environment you’re in.

“I still feel that is quite a useful conversation piece - that our behaviour and mindset is fundamentally affected by whatever environment we are in. To neglect that is absolutely crazy in my view.”

Eastwood was recommended to Chelsea’s hierarchy by new Director of Performance Bryce Cavanagh, with whom he had worked closely with England. Cavanagh was Head of Performance for Southgate’s side for more than seven years before joining the Blues last summer.

Growing up near Invercargill on the south island of New Zealand, Eastwood became fascinated by culture and belonging after finding out about his own Maori ancestry as a child.

He has worked with teams including South Africa Cricket and was brought on board by the Football Association under Dan Ashworth and Dave Reddin in 2016.

“I spent the first three months doing a really deep reflection on the history of the team and how the culture could be taken forward,” Eastwood later explained. “Some players felt we didn’t really have an identity, that we just copied what France and Spain were doing.

“When Gareth became the manager, he was philosophically aligned with exploring those ideas, where some managers probably wouldn’t have been, so the timing of that worked out very well.

“Someone like me doesn’t just turn up and say, ‘This is how the All Blacks do it, let’s copy this.’ Everything is incredibly contextual, around who you are, the history of the club, the ownership, the personalities.”

As part of his work, players were assigned ‘legacy numbers’ denoting where they came in the long line of England internationals. These were then stitched into the collars of their shirts and placed on special England identity cards.

Former players also wrote letters to those who now filled their shirts with, for example, Peter Shilton writing to Jordan Pickford to wish him well before the 2018 World Cup.The players were also shown a video tribute from ex-players and England teams ahead of Euro 2020.

Eastwood also told TGG about the importance of alignment between players, staff and owners at clubs.

“It has to be aligned with the ownership, the Board, with the executives, with the performance staff: everyone has to be on the same page,” he said. “Then the coach is in a much better position.

"If we lose a couple of games in a row they’re not under threat, because this is the way we’re doing things and everybody has signed off on it. If there is a disconnection then we’ve got major problems and it’s not sustainable.”

READ MORE: Owen Eastwood - Building the optimal environment

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