David Preece: The inside track on training camps and why getting rid of the bad apples is just as important as good recruitment
February in Swedish football means feeling warm sunshine on your face and soft lush grass under your feet.
Whilst Östersund starts dealing with minus temperatures in the double figures, we’re currently on the Algarve to play a couple of training games against Danish and Portuguese opposition and some good quality sessions outside of the indoor arena we’ve been cooped up in since we returned a month ago.
Not that I’ll win many fans by telling you this, but I’m writing this on the hotel patio and it’s 20 degrees.
Awful, I know but if I wasn’t here doing this, somebody else would be.
Now, there’s a lot I miss about playing football but I can assure you, training camps in the sunshine are far better as a coach than a player. The work for us is still morning, noon and night but when football is like this, it’s no hardship.
With the 10 week build-up until the first league of the season, the preparation is more of a gradual process than back home so the sessions are less taxing for the players, particularly compared to when I played.
The players have a much more sensible workload so there aren’t the same broken bodies and spirits as there once was.
I joke with my boys, the keepers, how lucky they are to be playing now when they aren’t being flogged to death and that they don’t work anywhere near as hard as I did.
Then one of them reminds me of the stories I’ve told them about how many injuries I had, so we get the cotton wool back out to put them in and get back down to business.
There’s a lot made of camps like this and how important they are in terms of team building but they are vital.
Östersunds is a little different from most football clubs back home in England because the players all live within spitting distance of the ground.
Many of them live in the same apartment blocks and there aren’t many who are from the city itself. This means they live in each others pockets most of the time and although that’s no guarantee you’ll see the benefit on the pitch, it means we are less reliant on the onus being on gelling them together on this trip.
I’ve played at clubs where groups of players live a 2 hour drive away and as soon as training is over, they’re looking to get in the shower and in the car to beat the late afternoon traffic. Which obviously makes it more difficult to form those bonds.
The one big benefit of being away together as a team is that we can use it to lay down an agreement on how we are going to conduct ourselves as a team throughout the season.
We don’t have rules as such, but we leave it down to the players to set out their vision on training, match day and outside of football, then they can hold each other to them and police themselves without the coaching staff becoming too much involved.
With a young side that doesn’t have too many natural leaders, it’s even more important to encourage an environment where everyone takes responsibility for creating their own culture, rather than it coming from us as coaches.
Good characters are everything in team sports which means recruitment isn’t just about bringing in the right people, but also weeding out those who bring disharmony and toxicity to the group.
The restrictions placed on us financially has meant there will only be exits, but our previous recruitment on young, talented players means the work already gone into building this side, can continue without the worry of integrating new personalities and keep growing together.
You hear lots of coaches and managers bemoan the fact they’re denied new recruits to strengthen their squad but when that is the case, like it is here for the foreseeable future, it’s time to show how good a coach you really are and improve what you already have.