“You don’t learn in an easy environment.” – Kev McNaughton
Kev McNaughton believes that environment is key in terms of getting the best out of young players, so what is a positive training environment?
Getting Out of the Comfort Zone
As a youth player, Kev remembers the tough but enjoyable training days he experienced at Aberdeen. The sessions were something he looked forward to, but he also remembers feeling “not quite good enough” at times, and doubting his ability compared to other players. In effect, Kev experienced the shift from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond. He was a good player among his childhood mates at home, but he became just one of many good players when he joined the training sessions at Aberdeen, and he was up against great players – he was out of his comfort zone.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be daunting, and for many, it’s easier to stay put than to take the next step. However, in terms of realising your true potential, it’s a step that needs to be taken…and then taken again. Kev says,
“People give up too quickly at the first hurdle they face. Everyone has moments of doubt, and it’s only through pushing yourself that you can improve your performance. You don’t learn in an easy environment; you need to be pushed.”
However, getting the best out of young players comes down to knowing how to push them without applying demotivating pressure, and this is where creating a positive training environment becomes crucial. As a youngster, Kev was used to competing against his older brother and he had an inner drive to do better and be better as a player – he had a growth mindset. Not all young players share this mindset, but it’s a mindset that can be promoted and encouraged through creating a positive training environment. Kev says,
“When you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you do it more, and doing more will lead to improvements. When you’re being pushed, and you’re aware of another level you need to get to, competitiveness and camaraderie can help to push through self-doubt and generate the small improvements that are like a shot in the arm – a big motivation boost.”
Being Your Best Self
When a club creates a positive training environment, players want to be there, and they want to do their best and be their best in every training session and every match. When every individual is giving their best, the team can give a best performance.
“In a positive training environment, a player should never be scared to work on their weaknesses. To make improvements, weaknesses need to be addressed rather than hidden behind strengths. At one point in my career, a coach stopped me from using my right foot on the ball for six weeks. It was tough, but I learned to use my left foot, boosting my abilities and performance as a player.”
The best form of motivation is self-motivation. When an individual wants to get better, they will work hard at doing whatever it takes to get there. Creating the want and promoting the inner drive is something all coaches at all levels should aspire to achieve by ensuring that every session is an opportunity to grow. In other words, a positive training environment that’s tough and enjoyable.
To listen to the full podcast interview click here