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Commando Training and Football Talent

16.06.2020 @SaulCuttell

Commando Training is very tough, I know I went through it! But what if I told you that commando training and talent ID for football had more similarities than you thought? Well, I had a fantastic opportunity to speak to a scout and a serving Royal Marine Commando based in Exeter. When I first spoke to Pete I had to admit I immediately liked him, he had a humble, quiet confidence about him and when asked about his scouting experience, he was again very respectful in his approach and outlook. He began by informing me that when he was starting his journey out into scouting, he had done some work with Northwich Victoria F.C. and that he was PFSA level 2 qualified scout. He also began to tell me about his coaching experience working with some Exeter based teams at under 8’s level. I think this gave him a brilliant grounding for understanding development of talent alongside his experience of being a Corporal and instructor of Royal Marines recruits at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM). I always tend to ask about the scouting process, and the issues they face such as money, travel and access to players, when I chat to scouts. When I asked Pete about these issues his answer was music to my ears, as you dont always get this response, but he simply said, I do the role for the passion and love of the game”. It seems a rarity to hear this sort of answer these days, to say the response was an ideal that I hold myself is an understatement, but what an inspiration to hear this. This is exactly what young players need to develop talent, an adult that can inspire, motivate and encourage.

As we got talking about the scouting process we started to discuss marine recruit training and how he identifies talent in this aspect, and if there was any crossover to football. This was fascinating! As an ex Royal Marine myself, again I had another commonality with Pete and we discussed at length all aspects of marine training. There always seems to be a few factors that are common in successful recruits--- they tend to be well liked by their peers, they are humble, sometimes quietly confident and have the capacity to learn. One aspect we discussed was about a recruit who was failing at all physical, mental and combat training-based assessments, but for this recruit there was a penny drop moment, when he realised in the face of adversity (potentially being dropped out of training) that he needed to do more. This manifested itself in him training harder in the gym, studying more and generally pulling his finger out (Marine expression for working hard). This recruit started to show all the virtues of true commando spirit (courage, cheerfulness under adversity, unselfishness and determination) which eventually won him the coveted Commando Medal (voted for by his peers) at the end of training. The young marine had learnt a valuable lesson, one that me and Pete had endured ourselves throughout training, that  no one’s going to do it for you” and that to be truly successful you need to know what failure is. This ability to deal with failure in a resilient and hardy way with determination is what sets some people apart from others, especially in the marines. This seems to be true of talent identification for football too, when you get some form of hardship or difficulty, how do you deal with it? Do you crumble (wrap - another Marine expression meaning give up) and give in? Or do you persevere and keep going? From what I can tell a good attitude, personality and learning coping mechanisms for failure all seem to coalesce into a talented individual. This was something Pete and I seemed to agree about, but also acknowledge that not everyone seems to have it. Also, this raises the point of how to identify it? Especially as they could be viewed as quite abstract things. I mean how to identify if a player has had some hardship or bereavement and therefore has developed coping skills? A good attitude you can see a mile off on a football pitch. These are simple things like running back (recovery runs or cover runs for team mates), talking and communicating on the pitch, trying your hardest even when your counterpart is far more skilled than you, having your head up or down depending on winning or losing. These are all things coaches and scouts look for, so it seems really disjointed when you watch a game and you dont see these things. It appears that in modern football different tricks and skills with the ball as an indicator of a talented player are given a lot of emphasis, certainly in the media. A lot of players can do good tricks with the ball, like keeping the ball up, but like the mighty Johan Cruyff correctly I think said Technique is not to be able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that with practicing, then go and work in a circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right time to the correct foot of your team mate”.  It seems that to just practice the beautiful art of the game, playing as a team and having a culture of cohesion is far more valuable than any individual trick a player can do with a ball, especially to a scout. The cohesion you can achieve as a team, having a good attitude and being brave, are amazing virtues that also hold true of the highly selective Royal Marines of which Pete was a big advocate. There must be something in that, if the Royal Marines have a few bench mark standards that allow them to select the best recruits to become the highly desired Royal Marine Commando, then surely football and the scouting process could take a leaf out of their book? Worth a think about.

I wanted to talk more to Pete about Pitch and how it aims to help released players, but actually thought it may be better to talk about this another time. So hopefully we may have another chat in the future as a sequel to this first one. However,  If you are football player released recently please make a free player profile on Pitch here to find out more how Pitch can help you.  If you are a scout or coach interested in learning more about Pitch please complete this survey here

For more information on Pete and what he does day to day please give him a follow Pete on Twitter at @runlikefck86