TGG Podcast #26: Emma Hayes - Quest for the quadruple
Written by Simon Austin — May 19, 2021
CHELSEA WOMEN manager Emma Hayes was our guest on Episode #26 of the TGG Podcast.
She told us about some of the key influences on her career and how they helped to shape her leadership philosophy. You can read and listen to what she had to say below.
1. Dad’s influence: To be creative and self-reliant
Emma Hayes: I grew up in a household where my dad would come home at the end of the week and the money he put on the table, that was the money we had to live on.
He never had an employer, he was self employed his whole life. If he didn’t have a good week, it wouldn’t be a lot of money. If it was a good week, he still wouldn’t give us a lot! My dad was always really… tight!
I remember getting a place at University and my dad said, ‘I’m not paying for you to go to Uni, you’re going to have to earn it.’
And I remember having to do that, having to get jobs to pay for my education. That was the thing that was instilled in me the most, that I have to earn it myself.
I had jobs from 13. If we were laying around it was, ‘Get up, you’ve got to do your chores,’ or, ‘Go to work and earn some money.’ That’s been instilled in me from an early age. I didn’t really want to work in a hairdressers as a teenager, but it gave me my pocket money.
But at the same time I was around his creative mind in terms of the businesses he would create. He had theatre ticket businesses, a currency business, video shops, he bought bakeries. My dad was very entrepreneurial and always innovative.
He would always be the person seeking a new idea. I remember once he talked about having tuk tuks around London selling ice cream out of the back. People didn’t even know what tuk tuks were then, but within five years I remember seeing these little Piaggio one-man band businesses running around London.
That was the sort of thing my dad would always be interested in. He wanted to find little businesses and be creative with them. Everybody says I’m like my dad.
I come from a very stable background and was encouraged to follow my dreams. I’ve got two sisters and my mum would always say the same - ‘Be happy, choose what you want to do in life.’ I was always encouraged to play and that stands out in my mind, I spent a childhood playing football in the flats.
2. USA: Learning to do every job
I went to University to do European Studies, Spanish and Sociology and really hoped to enter a career in diplomacy. I really loved strategy and diplomacy. I came back to London to work for Camden Sports Development, working with the Pakistani-Bangladeshi communities in west Euston and it was all about putting on football projects to prevent conflict and build relations.
I enjoyed that, but was young and wanted to get away. I got the offer to go and coach in America and didn’t hesitate. I just took it, thinking it could be a great life experience. I didn’t necessarily think it would be the career I ended up in.
It was like going from a time warp into the modern era. I just immediately remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to get so many opportunities here,’ and that built my confidence.
I experimented a lot, coached different teams and age groups, got hired and fired, did multiple jobs, worked seven days a week, drove the breath and depth of Long Island and New York and had to look after myself, because I was there alone.
I never skipped a step, I really didn’t; I made sure I did every job, even when I was leading teams. I did the analysis, worked in the community camps, and that really helped me along the way.
I think I was exposed to more than the British female coaches, because I was coaching so many different teams. It wasn’t like coaches coming through here on the pathway. Because I was coaching the Under-10s, 12s, regional teams, I was doing so much and developed a skillset to deal with the job.
You spend time as a younger coach second-guessing whether you’re making the right decisions because, truth be told, you never really know. The result doesn’t necessarily validate whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, it just means you won a game.
In coaching, far too much emphasis goes on the winning coach, because you need a tremendous amount of luck. Some jobs, everything goes for you. Other jobs, they don’t.
I’ve learned over the years not to get too wrapped up in it, to take one moment at a time and make informed decisions with calm emotions. That takes a lot of work and you never get it all right.
I don’t know how many games I’ve coached, but I’d say it’s close to a thousand.
3. Raymond Verheijen: Challenging and triggering
Raymond Verheijen is hands down one of the best coach educators in the world. I’ve learned from him how crap I am and about the level of learning, the application of that leaning, that I need if I want to become a top coach. It takes thousands of hours.
Raymond knows how to trigger our unconscious thinking, our amygdala, our emotional centre, that is what he does extremely well. Anybody that provokes the button in us, we have to ask, ‘Are we in charge of our emotions or are we easily triggered?’
So when Raymond says something provocative that someone calls him an arsehole for, all I keep thinking is, ‘How many times, as a coach, are we faced with having our own emotional centres triggered daily?’
You have to stay in a place constantly where you’re reflecting on your emotions and how you manage them to produce an environment that is constantly analysing. That clarity doesn’t come easily. Nor does the ability to constantly look in at yourself and think about what you have to do to get in a position that the team needs.
It happens season to season in your reflections. What’s the best way to do this? Can I change that? Whatever happens, it has to be underpinned by really strong foundations - your principles of play, your training methodology. They’ve got to be really solid and that takes a long time to develop.
My coaching has a theoretical underpinning. You have to be so clear about what it is you’re trying to do. Your whole environment has to be completely clear from top down: that the language you use is universal, that the interactions are clear.
Because ultimately we have to get one message to the players. The expectation in terms of the way the team plays and how we expect you to perform and behave every day is the underpinning.
Those foundations are what allow you to build year-on-year with absolute clarity. I use a lot of objective resourcing around me, so whether I am coaching a session or someone else is, we are all speaking the same way, in terms of style and principles of play. That is absolutely critical. Miscommunication is what rips teams apart.
4. Creating positive discomfort
For me, you have to have a positive discomfort for performance. Athletes get really comfortable. They get into the rhythm of the season, they get their routines, and before you know it they’re on autopilot and you lose games.
The second part of that is performing consistently, because of the danger of going into games and thinking, ‘This is easy.’ It’s important to look for those tell-tale signs and stimulate even harder responses in those weeks.
I think that’s crucial for making sure players don’t rest comfortably. If you want constant performance, then you have to be in a position to show the players how valuable training really is, so we analyse that all the time and show that to the players.
Then I think it's important to go into training without the players thinking, ‘Am I starting or not?’ Instead they’ve got their minds on training and that’s it. Staying present, instead of egotistical.
They challenge me non-stop too, whether it’s, ‘Why are we doing this? Do you think this is the right idea? What do we do if this happens?’ I think it’s crucial to include them in the process.
You’ve got to develop thinkers, decision makers, but more important is for them to do it under duress, when it matters most, when the heart is pounding out of the chest. You’ve got to have ice in the head to deliver the performance.
To be fair, my team have done a good job of that over the years. I think the way we train here we are challenging the mind - an undertrained muscle in football and one that the more you provoke and challenge it the more responses you’ll get, for better or worse.
That can be leaving a team under or over-loaded numbers wise, training as a bad referee, so you’re ready for whatever the opponent throws at you.
5. Data: What matters to winning?
Our GPS data is linked to our football actions. You’ve got to make it contextual and you need football people doing that, not just sports scientists. It’s crucial that we talk about it as football science.
It’s totally irrelevant to me how much distance a player has run. What matters is the context - what was the state of the game, what was her role in the game, what was the expectation?
It’s not about recording everything. What’s going to matter to winning?
We don’t train sports science terms either, like, ‘We’re going to do some anaerobic running.’ Who understands that? We’re football people. We challenge non-contextual words and turn them into football language. I challenge that all the time.
We also work cohesively. Operating in islands is where you’re afraid, it means you’re not open. You’ve got to be in a position where the technical staff, the medical team, the performance team, all those people, are together and you’re speaking one language.
The planning of the warm-ups must mirror what we’re about to do, the analysis of the session must fit exactly with what the technical team are doing based on the upcoming game.
6. Always be yourself
What you see is what you get with me, I’m genuine. What I’m learning more and more about leading is that it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. You can give it everything and do your best and sometimes it isn’t enough.
You have to accept that. You can’t make people happy, so don’t try. Just be yourself. Give clear communication as often as possible, and that’s where you avoid the trouble spots that come with leading.
I think this is a generation that wants to be heard more, that wants more affirmation, more communication than ever. And they want that done in different ways, not just traditional face-to-face conversations.
And the acceptance that, more often than not, we always get it wrong. Coaches create this picture of themselves, ‘We’re in control.’ Oh no, this is a job of daily battles, of ‘Have we got this right today?’ ‘What do we need to do better?’ ‘Who do I need to speak to next?’
Acceptance of that in coaching is so crucial, otherwise you’ll be filled with self doubt. I understand that our players mirror us and that’s important, but we’re not responsible for everything. We play our part, but we’re humans and we get it wrong too.
I think I’ve learned when to take a step back, when to let my other staff deal with certain situations. They might deal with some players better than I will and vice versa. The more I’ve coached, the more I realise that.
I’m always about the team and whatever it takes to get us there, whoever decides, then let’s do that.