The Rugby Union team Saracens talk about two types of errors in sport: skills errors and effort errors.
They are pretty self-explanatory from the names and on the surface it seems like a pretty obvious distinction to make, but there is a key impact to those partaking in the sport, of talking about mistakes in sport in this way.
Skills errors are those which the coaches take responsibility for, which creates a ‘no blame’ culture where players are free to express themselves and, if something doesn’t come off, make mistakes. The obligation on the player is to try their hardest and listen to the coaches who are there to help them improve their skill levels and decision making.
Effort errors on the other hand are down to the player themselves – if you are not working hard enough in training or in the game and errors occur, then this is unacceptable to those running the team.
Furthermore, the skills/effort error culture also means that it’s highly unlikely that effort errors will be accepted by your team mates, thereby reinforcing the culture of hard work on behalf of the team.
Whilst this concept has its roots in Rugby Union, it seems obvious that it should translate as a concept to other sports, in particular other team sports such as football. Indeed, in football it is fair to say that, like many other sports, the difference between winning and losing is the ability to play the game for 90 minutes without making too many mistakes.
This got me thinking about the culture of Newcastle United under Rafa Benitez, especially in relation to the comments regarding positive results coming from hard work and organisation, which has in turn led to Rafa being able to get more performance out of the sum of the players available to him.
No offence to the current squad, there’s some great players in there that I have a massive amount of respect for, but I don’t think many people would argue against the fact that the overall technical ability of the players we had during the two relegation seasons in our recent past was higher than the team we have now.
They were, however, far more susceptible to lapses in effort – with the likes of Sissoko, Janmaat and Coloccini not always giving their all.
As we look ahead to revisiting the scene of Rafa’s first game in charge just over two years ago, it is clear that Rafa has instilled a different culture, with a team playing in a more focussed and hardworking manner – and while there are always going to be technical errors, this team no longer concedes goals due to a lack of effort.
As the banner away at Leicester famously said – all we demand is a club that tries, and with Rafa and this group of players we’re at least there on the pitch.