Holmgren says working 1-on-1 is key

Updated: October 23, 2009, 12:46 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Holmgren swapped coaching techniques with three of England's top coaches Friday and offered some advice on how to handle high-priced stars.

The former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks coach said the biggest challenge is to keep players focused on winning games rather than securing bigger contracts.

"The NFL has changed over the years. The players had always been paid well but now the amounts they are paid are staggering," Holmgren told the audience at the Global Sport Summit. "So how does a coach who wants to establish team rules, discipline, deal with that player who has just been signed to a huge, huge contract and then starts to act up a little bit?"

Holmgren spoke ahead of Sunday's NFL game in at Wembley Stadium between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. England soccer coach Fabio Capello, rugby union team manager Martin Johnson and cricket team director Andy Flower were in attendance.

"What's worked for me over the years is I've gotten my best players, the most obviously highest-paid players, usually the quarterback on the football team," Holmgren said. "And I've worked very hard with those guys one-on-one saying, 'OK we all recognize the fact that you are the man but here is how we have to work this because everyone is going to be watching you.' "

Holmgren, who led the Packers to the 1996 Super Bowl title, said it all comes down to mutual respect among players and between the players and coach.

"If you start there, if you get that base line there and talk about respect that way, you are a step ahead of the game, you really are," Holmgren said. "So then when things come up you can deal with them a little more fairly."

Respect was also a theme echoed by Capello, who looked to rugby, ice hockey and volleyball for the tips that transformed England into World Cup contenders.

"I don't understand why anyone would not respect the coaches or other people you work with," the Italian said. "I cannot understand why 20 players have to wait for two players that arrive too late or why they don't respect the rules."

Capello took he England job at the start of 2008 after Steve McClaren failed to take the team to the European Championship. Under Capello, England easily qualified for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

"I remember the first training session and I was surprised because the players were really good," Capello said. "And I thought, 'What has happened here? They are good players, so why are they not playing in the European Championships?'

"I understood everything when they played Switzerland in the first match. The same players who played well in training played with fear, with no confidence, and I said this is a big problem of the mind ... what was important for me was to improve the psychology of the players."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press