Todd Beane

Picasso, Cruijff and Coaching

Todd Beane
Picasso, Cruijff and Coaching

I think Picasso was just bored.

When you are 16 and can paint with remarkable aptitude the Portrait of Aunt Pepa what does life have left in store for you? You can spend the next 50 years painting portraits or you can challenge the institution of painting and allow your passion and creativity to break the boundaries of your craft.

I think Cruijff was just bored.

When you are 16 and playing professional football with grown men, what does life have left in store for you? You can spend the next 50 years reminiscing about goals scored or you can challenge the institution of football and allow your passion and creativity to break the boundaries of your craft.

Do you know how many people can paint, shading the canvas with color?

Many.

Do you know how many people can kick a ball, pacing about a pitch?

Many. 

“Some other kind of magic sending shivers up my spine.” – Mark Knopfler

But when you want more, much more, what steps do you follow? When mere competence bores you, from which platform do you as an artist depart? How will you seed inspiration?

“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

Picasso learned his craft. It was precision and vision that guided him through his Blue, Rose and Cubism periods. He was evolving and he was taking on the world through all the senses afforded to him. He was a craftsman playing with light, color and concept.

When I was young, I trained a few hours a week at Ajax, but I played a few hours everyday on the street, so where do you think I learned to play? – Johan Cruijff

Johan learned his craft. As a boy on the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam, he admired those AJAX giants. He took note and he honed his skill. But more than that, he was a craftsman who pondered the relationship between time and space.

It is not that Picasso could not paint that lead him to doodle his way toward abstract art the likes of which the world had never seen. His confidence to explore came from his quality. He could paint, and then the poignant question became altogether different.

“What do I want to paint?”

It was not that Johan could not play football like those before him. He could have painted the game like so many others and he chose not to. His confidence came from his quality. Thus, the question before him became altogether different.

How do I want to play?”

Do you know how many coaches place players on a field and do drills?

Many.

This by definition is coaching, but it is the minimum expression of our task. We have options as we begin to influence the lives of others within our craft of coaching.

I remember well Johan explaining to me that, “your confidence comes from your quality.”

First, we must learn our craft.

Let me apologize in advance to football federations who blatantly ignore this issue. Our craft is not merely football formations and physical conditioning. Our craft is teaching – the facilitation of learning.

How to defend a corner occupies so much of the football babble. I can Google my defensive posturing against a 4-3-3 and I can Wikipedia high pressing . But once I do that, am I an inspirational coach? No.

The questions for those aspiring to be exceptional are still unresolved after web searches and soccer newsletters. The questions before us are altogether different.

What do I want to teach?

How do I want to coach?

If we do not wrestle with theses questions, then we are no more an inspirational than a Picasso painting simple portraits or a Cruijff playing long ball.

We can sit our schoolchildren in rows and stand our footballers in lines and offer a well ordered façade for those who do not know better, or we can actually enhance learning and advance performance. We can be so much more than glorified babysitters. We must.

If we want more, we must couple quality with concept. We must embrace the complexity of the canvas and play about the pitch. Competence is competence, but it rarely leaves our jaws agape, applauding mastery.

When art has mandated the norms, a Picasso comes along and undermines everything we thought art was supposed to be. When football has decided upon the norms, a Cruijff comes along and dances his way more like an artist than an athlete across the field. What we thought possible or probable is altered immeasurably. Artist and athlete mixed in a cauldron of passion and perception.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. - Pablo Picasso

We can be just a coach, or we can be more. We can all find within a simple game an opportunity to approach all that life affords – perseverance, mastery, respect and frivolity.

As realists, we know that we must teach the players to play within the lines, but as idealists we must encourage them to venture beyond them. In the end, we can teach them to chase a ball or we can inspire them to chase their dreams.

Thank you, Pablo.

Thank you, Johan.