First impressions

By: Hugo Scheckter

Player care consultant Hugo Scheckter discusses the importance of making a good first impression when a new player joins your club

Football is increasingly becoming a people business. With the modern game having increasing player power, it’s important to be clever in how you deal with new players arriving into your club. This doesn’t mean you have to pander to them or give them everything they want, but you need to make sure they get the introduction they need to be able to perform at the top of their game from day one.

We all know that feeling when you start a new job: you aren’t sure who anyone is, where to get a coffee, or where to sit. Well, it’s no different for footballers and the pressure on them to hit the ground running can be as great as it is on managers. Regardless of the level that you work at as a manager, there can be things you do to help the process and enable the player to settle in.

One of my favourite tips is to furnish the players with a “who’s who” of those club employees closest to the squad. This can include the coaches, the physios, the owners, the media team, even the cleaners – but it’s important to have photos, names, job titles and nicknames featuring prominently. This can be supplied to the new player either as a printed document or digitally in a PDF format, but it’s a key tool to help make the many new faces seem familiar straight from the get go.

It’s vital to think about what the first 15 minutes on site look like for the new player and the manner that they are introduced to the squad is key to how quickly they settle into the club. The captain and their partner can be key to this. Having a “buddy” system is an important way to welcome a newcomer and if you don’t have a Player Care department, this can be a simple way of building relationships quickly. The club can organise for the captain and the captain’s partner to take the new family out to dinner and this way they instantly have friendly and welcoming faces that they know in the area.

The reality is that as a coach, you can’t afford to have players who don’t fit in – sometimes this is out of your control but taking simple and easy steps to ease a player’s transition into the club and the local area can really pay dividends.

At Premier League level, where we had a much bigger budget for welcoming new players, we would add little touches to the welcoming experience, such as phone chargers with UK plugs, colouring books for the kids if they’re going to be sitting around all day waiting, kids shirts with the player’s name and number printed for them ready to try on, even tours of the local area planned for the family in case we needed to buy time.

In a world of marginal gains and increased pressure to perform, the worst that can happen is that all of this is turned down by the player. But in the best instances, this can be really appreciated and it will enable you to set yourself and the club apart from the pack from day one.

Hugo Scheckter is the founder and managing director of The Player Care Group, a consultancy based on implementing and improving Player Care at sporting organisations around the world. He was previously at both West Ham United and Southampton FC.