It’s been years since I’ve played any team sports (some might argue it’s been years since I’ve played any sport). I was an enthusiastic participant, always eager, always present but light on natural talent.
In Grade 10 I found my niche, eating ice cream under the trees next to the field, offering moral support to the talented and athletic. Radio managers often use sports team analogies when speaking about their own teams. From the dynamics, the plan, the training, coaching, hiring, firing, depth, injuries and competition. It is with this background, countless coffee meetings, WhatsApps and phone calls, as well as my experience in the moral support department that I’d like to talk about the radio transfer season.
The first quarter of the year is traditionally contract time in the radio business with some teams operating in a mid-year window. It’s that period that players start reflecting on their performance wondering if the team owner and coaching staff will offer them a place in the starting line-up of the new season.
That’s the first issue. Neither player or coach should consider team or personal performance once a year. I’ve seen some great radio managers run their teams. It’s an everyday job, with constant communication from both parties. If a player isn’t performing, the manager quickly shares that there is an issue and talent are given an opportunity to correct it. In my opinion, if you’re only ever concerned on a yearly basis about your contract, you are worried about your job and probably the money associated with it. If you are continually bench-marking, comparing, training and practicing, you’re working on a career and you’re less concerned about contract time.
Teams are made up with career professionals, amateurs, wild cards, place holders and play makers. Know which one you are.
Professionals understand the selection process. You don’t need to play for the national team or a large club to be a professional. In fact, you are misguided if you think that’s what makes a professional. A professional understands the hierarchy of hiring, they can look at the players on other teams and know where the strengths and weaknesses are, and they can spot the gaps. Professionals know the real value they offer their team on and off the field.
Professionals have a grasp of their career trajectory. The chances that you go from Wongalethu High first team in Bethulie straight to Bloemfontein Celtic is slim. You probably need to play for second division Roses United first. Professional players (especially the young and talented) and established coaches know you need game time in different divisions to play with the best. Spend time in the appropriate team and become the absolute best. There are many Wongalethu Highs but only one Bloemfontein Celtic.
Professionals understand how the league works. Second Division Teams are still teams. They have logos, grounds and fields, supporters, sponsors, team colours and other players. Respect that. Not every player wants to play for the big regional team, don’t let your misguided aspirations or ego cripple a smaller team. The player is never bigger than the team. Teams are the reason players can play.
Professionals understand that sometimes you need to move to a team that isn’t your first choice. You may want to never walk alone, but your skills arsenal may not create the united front you need. Be prepared to leave the city and spur yourself on. There is a system of clubs, leagues and divisions. Be prepared to work it, and for it.
Professionals know when to retire. There is nothing worse than a bitter player. Bitter players tell you how they played for the last ten or twenty years. They remind you of the goal they scored or how they were key to midfield defense. That’s great. Teams change, leagues and game plans change. Every sport has a veterans league, find yours.
There will always be younger, more talented and cheaper options. They won’t have the experience, but sometimes coaches don’t need experience, they need flair and excitement. That being said, avoid becoming a character from Footballers’ Wives, no team needs that drama.
Professionals invest. They invest their own time, money and energy into themselves for the benefit of the club. Not because the club demands it, they do it because it is for their own benefit, now and in the future. Professionals are in charge of their careers. They don’t wait for owners and managers to make decisions. They are proactive, have plans, options and savings. I’ve always appreciated players that share their future thinking and ideas. Professional players also take mentorship and development seriously. It’s not a money game, it’s a future of the game, game. Use your time spent on the pitch to the benefit of those sitting next to it.
Lastly, if you were to become a team owner or coach, would you hire, you? Would you invest into the thing you do every day, and would it be a good financial decision? I’m not only talking about pitching up to practice or the games, I’m referring to everything else, are you worth it?
You may already be a bit late for the 2020 season but it’s never the wrong time to consider your career.
– Tim Zunckel started his journey in the radio business in 1996 and currently works as a coach, mentor and programmer. His talent lies in broadcast management training, programming strategy and talent development.