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The Legacy of Lasso

Richmond Til We Die... Best Practices From "Ted Lasso", from a Kitman Labs Perspective.

By

Stephen Smith

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As The Premier League season came to an end, we were treated to another end…the final episode of “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV +. While we don’t want to spoil the ending for those who are still bingeing the stories of AFC Richmond, it is worth noting that many of the elements of the club’s rise, and the reasons why so many millions fell in love with the storylines, had more to do with the work we do every day with international football clubs (and those in other sports) than the results we follow on the pitch.

How did we see the ‘Mission’ of Kitman Labs (other than the fact that talk of the Kitmen of AFC Richmond came up in several episodes) align with the fictional club? Well, it’s not that much of a stretch. Some examples.

Analytics – finding the competitive edge.

Ted and team always looked for the edge, especially as they consistently tried to find ways to adapt the “Triangle Offence” run by the legendary Chicago Bulls to the pitch or diving deeper into what the traditional clubs saw as ‘unconventional’ training methods to find an edge – AFC Richmond was always innovating and looking for ways to make lemonade out of the lemons they had gathered. While our work with clubs may not be the stuff of comedy, we are always working with clubs to find their edge – leaning into objective, data-informed strategies to reveal the tactical answers that may not be obvious or conventional.

Health and Wellness – find a holistic approach.

So much of AFC Richmond’s success was tied to overcoming odds with unconventional approaches, and much of that was connected to making sure that the leadership kept the athletes moving forward with empathy and an awareness of their specific life experiences. More and more we are seeing clubs come to us looking to consider the complex issues of mental wellness in the work we do, and is increasingly becoming a priority. Listening to what athletes are saying, and then helping them manage their training regimen and development off the pitch or the field, is an essential part of achieving peak performance. Even at the highest levels of competition, having empathy, understanding and valuing the mind+body+performance connection is critical to success.

Varied Paths To Success – finding leadership.

Ted Lasso coming from Kansas to coach an English soccer club is the stuff of comedic success right? Absurd? Well, what we continue to see is that the best organisations seek out the best, especially on the training side, and geography and or sports type doesn’t necessarily matter as much as it did a few years ago. Given the multinational ownership groups we now see now in sport, it is not uncommon for NBA or NFL teams to have elite performance coaches who brought techniques from The Bundesliga or the Premier League. La Liga and Serie A performance leaders seek out those working in the NHL or in some cases NASCAR, looking to be curious learners so that they can export best practices to help give an edge in the highest levels of competition. That’s where we excel; because our work spans from Japan to Europe, from South America to North America and across such a wide variety of sports, we have the ability to listen and help clubs think and train just a little differently. It’s not one size fits all anymore, and we look to bring variety and best practices to all of our partners. Now do we see a football coach with no knowledge of tactical plays and practice suddenly succeeding at a high level in English football? Well, that’s a stretch. But their performance and assistant coaches? Success can certainly be found in the unconventional.

Team First – finding unity.

Whether you are the Detroit Lions, the Columbus Crew, AFC Richmond or Tottenham Hotspur, you work in a business where your most vital assets are flawed humans from diverse backgrounds and varying temperaments. The goal is to produce and cohesively extract the best performance out of your athletes – as a collective. Ted Lasso was thrown various and sundry personalities with wide-ranging levels of success, yet as players cycled in and out…even the great Zava didn’t last as long as the club hoped despite the coaching staff’s push at adapting styles of play…he always looked to the collective, and the hand he was dealt to see how to motivate and understand each individual as part of the whole. Did it always work? Heck no. That’s sports – sometimes we learn more from failure than success. But we always view our work as what is best for the team…and in learning about the individuals on the pitch, on the field, on the court…we help give the club the best chance at success by leveraging all of the tools and data (quantitative and qualitative) available.

In the end could our work have helped AFC Richmond rise in the table? It would be nice to think so. The truth is that the lessons portrayed in the series imitated reality, with just that twist of fictional comedic talent that made them great stories for an audience that may or may not have been drawn to the show.

However, the biggest take away from “Ted Lasso” for us is in how actor Jason Sudekis continually explained the rationale for the show’s success. It was not about soccer at all – it was about the process – a shared process that fostered focus and unity. It was about crafting a strategy that pulled together the disparate pieces and parts of the team – creating alignment through shared understanding and leveraging the inherent strengths and skill sets of the individuals to advance the whole.

Finding direction in what might feel counterintuitive, is something we do every week with our partners. While we hope our work is not comedic, it certainly has its share of real-life drama. As we all know, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

While the series is over, our work goes on. We do like to think AFC Richmond would be a great candidate for Kitman Labs. Innovation and ingenuity had its place in the series, and is certainly consistent with our mission.

Ted would love it. In football, on both sides of the pond, success is about the people, and we love the people we work with.

Thanks, cast and crew for a reminder of how success in art can mirror success in life.

Richmond Til We Die.

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I share my thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news on an ongoing basis. I welcome your feedback on Twitter or at stephen@kitmanlabs.com.

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TOPICS

  • CEO's Desk
  • Coaching & Development
  • Soccer
  • Sports Management System
  • Sports Science

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs

Announcement

Kitman Labs Joins ‘More than Equal’ Quest To Develop First Female Formula 1 Champion

More than Equal’s mission is to close the gender gap in motor sports and find and develop the first female Formula 1 world champion. They will now have an advanced operating system to centralize data for female drivers participating in More than Equal’s pioneering Development Programme.

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