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During training as players are walking onto the pitch at St. George's Park, England women’s head coach, Sarina Wiegman, slightly leans forward to listen to her assistant coach.

In September 2021, Sarina Wiegman became England women’s head coach. Within a year, she’d made history. Wiegman guided the Lionesses to their first major title as they beat Germany in front of a packed Wembley Stadium to become EURO 2022 champions. 

And that achievement led to her being awarded a CBE – something which she told us took her by surprise but left her feeling honoured and full of praise for the whole team. 

To have such an impact in a short space of time is impressive. And the journey to achieve that started by developing the right learning environment for the squad.  

“That’s where it all starts. With creating an environment in which there’s trust, and it’s safe.”  

The key to that approach is communication. Ultimately, to develop trust, connections need to be built. 

“Start with talking with each other and asking questions on and off the pitch. Just asking questions and telling a little bit about yourself. Then you learn about players. Every player – every human being – is different, so it’s good to learn about each other. Then you can also adapt your approach to the player to get more out of her.  

“You have to know each other to understand each other better – to give feedback to each other. Because when you create an environment which is safe and [is the one] we need at the level we play, I think you want to give feedback to each other because you want to become better every day. And if you don’t give feedback, how can you become better?”

I think we also need to empower the things that are going really well because that creates some confidence too

Sarina Wiegman

For Wiegman, there must be two-way communication and feedback. This aids the development of the team.  

“I’ll give them feedback, but I expect feedback too. If a player has a question and something’s not clear or they think, ‘well, we do it like this, but it’s not a solution, but we do it like that’, I would appreciate that. That makes us better and gets more commitment of the team. And then it’s more and more our plan. And when it becomes our plan, then a team is growing.  

“When you work with players, it’s good to always talk about their development. The conversation is about how can I help you and how can you make sure that you become a better player tomorrow. And that’s what growth is about.”  

You can tell it’s important to the Lionesses’ boss that her players feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Open dialogue is something she encourages. And it’s not just off the pitch where conversations are held. During training, Wiegman asks questions to get the team working together to problem-solve and hone their skills. 

“In the moment when you’re on the pitch, the players make the decisions, and they take the action. When you’re at training, and it’s a real tactical training, you stop it, and you ask the questions. OK, what options do we have now? What do you expect from your teammate here? So, you’re talking through situations and giving solutions to how we could solve that problem together. And everyone has a role in that.  

“[When reflecting on an action] why did you make that decision? Did you think it was a good decision? How was the execution? Was it good? Why? What makes the chance of the similar action next time being successful?”  

But as well as questioning, the EURO 2022 winning head coach notes that you need to offer praise on the training pitch as well.  

“Also, talk about the good things because we always see the things that are not going well. But so many things are going well. And I think we also need to empower the things that are going really well because that creates some confidence too.”  

When it comes to matchday, it’s on the players to carry out their plans. As soon as they cross that white line, they are the decision-makers. The benefit of Wiegman’s approach to communication and development is that the players have ownership to discuss how to play. They work together to solve the problems the game presents. It gives them the freedom to do what they think is best.

In this video, Wiegman talks about the importance of taking action, making mistakes and helping players to become independent.