Grazing, even for a moment, on the outskirts of great coaching

Leonard Cohen’s Preface to the Chinese translation of his collection of Beautiful Losers poems includes this passage:

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. … So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

His thoughts sprang to mind this week when I had an opportunity to meet two coaches (a head coach and an assistant coach). I did feel immensely privileged to spend time with them. I had been following the coaching career of the head coach for over a decade. The assistant coach has been involved in my critical friend project for five years.

When we met I had one question: “How have you turned around the energy in the team?”. What they shared, in confidence, fascinated me. When I watched the team perform, I saw at first hand the outstanding performances of understanding they had co-produced with the two coaches.

I was in awe of the privileged access I had to their coaching on the outskirts of their everyday practice … grazing.

Photo Credit

At the game (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Outside (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Valerij, Anatolij and Dynamo Kyiv’s Golden Years

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Introduction

I have been researching Valerij Lobanovs’kyj’s coaching career at Dynamo Kiev. I am particularly interested in his partnership with the statistician and analyst Anatolij Zelentsov.

I believe their partnership is a defining moment (that extended over three decades) for those of us involved in the analysis of performance and the quest for actionable insights.

There are two parts to their partnership at Dynamo Kyiv: 1974-1990; and 1997-2002.

Over these two periods, Dynamo Kyiv’s goals scored and conceded were:

The gap in the data between seasons 18 and 19 signal Valerij’s absence from the club. When he left at the end of the 1990 season, Dynamo Kyiv were in the USSR Vysshaya Liga. On his return in 1997, the team were in the Ukraine Premyer Liga.

1974-1990 Vysshaya Liga (USSR)

In the eighteen seasons Valerlij and Anatolij were together at Dynamo Kiev, the club won: eight Vysshaya Liga titles ( 1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1990); six Soviet Cup finals (1974, 1978, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1990); two UEFA Cupwinners’ Cup competitions (1975, 1986); and the UEFA Super Cup (1975).

In 1976, the Vysshaya Liga was divided into two seasons (Spring and Autumn). The club finished seventh in the Spring and second in the Autumn. In that year Valrij coached the Russian Olympic football team that won a bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics. Valerij coached the Russian national team in the 1983 and 1984 seasons. Dynamo Kiev had their worst two years in the Liga since Valerij had arrived (7th in 1983, 10th in 1984). When he returned in 1985, Dynamo Kyiv won the league title and did so again the following year.

In 1974-1975, Dynamo Kyiv defeated CSK Sofia, Eintrach Frankfurt, Bursaspor, PSV Eindhoven, and Ferencvaros (3v0 in Basel) to with the UEFA European Cupwinners’ competition.

In 1985-1986, their opponents were: Utrecht, Craiova (100,000 spectators saw the second leg at Kyiv), Rapid Wien, Dukla Prague, and Atletico Madrid.  Dynamo Kyiv won the final 3v0 in Lyon.

1997-2002 Premyer Liga (Ukraine)

Valerij returned to Dynamo Kyiv at the start of the 1997-1998 season. At this time the team were in the Ukrainian Premyer Liga. In Valerij and Anatolij’s second partnership at the club, Dynamo Kyiv won four consecutive league titles (1997-1998, 1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2000-2001); and three Ukraine Cup Finals (1998, 1999, 2000).

Valerij’s last game was away against Metalurg Zaporizhya on 7 May 2002. He suffered a stroke shortly after the game and died a week later on 13 May. Dynamo had won the game 3v1 and were leading the League by four points. In that season they had won 17 of the 21 games they had played, were undefeated and had scored 52 goals and conceded 7. Their only defeat that year came in round 25 when Shakhtar Donetsk beat them 2v0 to win the title by one point.

Anatolij died four years later. He was still working with the club at the time of his death.

Greater than the sum of their parts

I have been fascinated by a friendship that started in 1968 and only ended with Valerij’s death in 2002. This friendship combined a very special coach and an analyst who was around at the time it became possible to use computers in sport. Together they took part in a golden age of Dynamo Kyiv football and did so in two distinct phases of their careers.

I thought this quote, attributed to Anatolij, embodies what this friendship meant:

Ideas are good, but most important is to realise them in practice. Valerij is the unsurpassed master in the realisation of ideas. What’s more, he does it in his own way. (GOTP, 2015)

Photo Credits

Dynamo Kyiv 1975 (Game of the People, 2 November 2015)

The group of four (Pasquale)

Valerij Lobanovs’kyj (Alchetron)

Anatolij Zeletsov obituary (Dynamo Kiev)

Postscript

This is my fourth post about Valeij and his coaching career. The four posts are my belated attempt to research a remarkable part of football history that has relevance for coaches and analysts. The limitations of language have prevented me from pursuing granular detail in this research.

The posts combine three of my passions: coaching; analysis and analytics; life history.

Valerij, Anatoli, Oleh and Mykhailo

Valerij Lobanovs’kyj

Anatolij Zelentsov

#WLeague 2017-2018: goal scoring after week three

Week 3 of the 2017-2018 W-League season concluded on Sunday afternoon. A Canberra United player, Ashleigh Sykes, played her 100th game for Canberra United in her team’s win against Sydney.

43 goals have been scored in this season’s competition (21 in the first half, 22 in the second half). Week 3 total goals scored (17) were the most scored in a round this season.

By time interval, this is when the 43 goals have been scored:

All 12 games played this season have been won by the team scoring first (9 home wins, 3 away wins).

Photo Credit

Here for the 100th (Edgar Crook, Twitter)