“He did put demands on his players, but I thrived on it and I always wanted to push myself harder.” – Kenny Miller
Kenny Miller is as passionate about football today as he was when he first started to play as a youngster, and the passion he brought to the game as a player is now evident as he embarks on a coaching career.
Passion for the Game
Like many kids growing up in the 80s, playing football on the street was normal for Kenny. He says, “From as young as I can remember, I was kicking a ball about the house. My dad played football and I’d run after him when he was heading off to a game – I always wanted to go and watch. When I did get to go, there would be other kids there (generally older) and we’d play kick-about with the ball behind the goal and maybe get onto the pitch to play at half-time. At home, I’d be out in the street kicking a ball off the kerb, heading it into the hedge, kicking it into the neighbours garden and not getting it back, and I could play for hours on my own just practising against a wall. I’d also play in the garden with my brother, but it wasn’t just football, it was whatever sport was on TV at the time – if Wimbledon was on we’d have a net out in the garden for tennis, and if golf was on we’d get the clubs out in the garden.”
At the age of 16, Kenny was just out of school and making his way into a career in football. His first experience of being coached was under the watchful eye of Donald Park, now considered the “coach’s coach” by many. He says, “Parky was a coach ahead of his time. We had dieticians, sprint coaches, sports psychologists… all the tools to help us be the best we could be. On top of that, we had one of the best coaches. As a young player, you need to understand the steps you need to take and the sacrifices you will need to make if you want to make it to the top, and he gave us all of that. It’s one thing making it into the first team, but staying there is another.”
It can be argued that many coaches and managers were “feared” back in the day, but Kenny believes that if a coach had respect, the sometimes “harshness” was taken on-board and understood to be of benefit, not just to the individual but to the team. Things have changed. Society has changed and football has had to change along with it. The relationship between the coach and the player has developed with society and is arguably more important today than it was before, and as Kenny puts it, “It’s not just the player, it’s the person.”
Coaches today need to know each individual as a person, not just a player, so they can develop an understanding of what makes them tick.
Donald Park may have sometimes been “harsh” compared with now adays , but there was always honesty and authenticity in his words and actions. Kenny says, “When he was harsh, it was because he cared. He cared about his players and the whole club environment. He did put demands on his players, but I thrived on it and I always wanted to push myself harder.”
Being the Best
As a player, Kenny always pushed himself hard to become the best he could be, and the same attitude remains in his coaching career. He’s now pushing himself to become the best coach he can be and he knows, through personal experience, the importance of building his skills as a communicator to ensure he understands his players. He puts it this way:
“At any level, a coach’s job is to make people better. To do that, you need to know what each person will respond best to. It’s going beyond what improvements you want to see to build an understanding of how to make those improvements happen. I need to get players responding, believing, and performing to get results.”
The best coaches make people better.
What are you doing today to be better than you were yesterday?
Don MacNaughton has worked for the last 17 years helping professionals in Sport and Business get the most out of their talent.
For the full interview with Kenny Miller click here