Learning to lead through sports coaching
Harry Redknapp and Peter Crouch: a father’s job?

Harry Redknapp and Peter Crouch: a father’s job?

Watching That Peter Crouch Movie last week got me thinking about the role a child’s parent can play in their development compared to the role their football coach plays.

Dad 1: “constructive feedback”

In the Amazon Prime documentary, Crouch’s father’s influence on his son is portrayed in a very limited way. Bruce Crouch’s “tough love” included forcing his son to make his own way home from a Tottenham academy game for bottling out of a tackle.

Professional footballer Peter Crouch warming up for Liverpool FC

That may have been a blessing in disguise. Both father and son also discuss the amount of criticism Bruce used to give to Peter in the car on the way home from matches. “It was my job to point out the gaps in his game”, says Bruce.

The ex-Liverpool striker states that the feedback may have been instrumental in spurring him on to become a professional footballer. And it may have been, for him.

There are, of course, no documentaries about kids subjected to the same amount of “constructive feedback” who end up quitting the game forever.

Dad 2: “made me feel like the best player in the world”

Meanwhile, Bruce Crouch’s approach is contrasted with that of Harry Redknapp. The father of Jamie Redknapp, another ex-Liverpool player, managed Peter Crouch at Bournemouth and Southampton. In the documentary they meet up to play golf.

Crouch’s career seemed to be going nowhere until he teamed up with Redknapp, who saw a potential in the forward that other coaches had so far missed or dismissed. Crouch’s career took off at Bournemouth.

A season or so later Crouch was languishing in Southampton’s reserves until Redknapp took over as manager. The new boss restored Crouch to the starting line-up and the goals again began to flow.

The secret? “You made me feel like I was the best player in the world”, Crouch tells Redknapp. And the warmth the manager shows towards his former player is obvious.

It is almost fatherlike.

Importance of both roles

That is not to say that Bruce Crouch only ever gave his son criticism, or that Harry Redknapp never bawled out Crouch the player. The film assigns them very limited roles in the striker’s life, keeping things very simple in that regard. But in doing so it seems to ask a question: which approach is the real reason for Peter Crouch defying the odds and making is as a professional footballer?

The answer to me is “both of them”.

Young players at football practice

Young players need to feel valued, safe and encouraged. At the same time, there is clearly a need for them to be aware of their “gaps” so that they can learn to fill them. The best coaches, in any sport or similar environment, probably take on both roles. And the very best will develop their charges as people and not just young footballers. (They might even follow the FA’s “four corner” development model).

The best fathers also probably blend a mix of praise and encouragement with some form of more constructive feedback. Whether they leave their 13-year-old sons to make their own way home across North London is another matter…

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