Environment plays a key role in performance
Jermaine Jenas when speaking about his time training with England certainly backed up a case that growth and improvement occurs in environments where there is constant challenge and demand. Speaking on BT Sports Jenas said "When I was with England you could feel the winners in the the dressing room. We never preformed really well as a team I never found. There were too many individuals really and not enough of us together. I always felt like when I came back from England my levels went up you know. I could almost feel them dwindle as the weeks went on when I returned to Newcastle. Training at England was at such an intense level, everyone wants to do well and win and everyone wants to be in the team, then i'd come back to Newcastle and my level would be right up miles ahead of everybody, then literally because the demand wasn't as high at Newcastle as it was with England my standards just dropped and dropped gradually throughout the weeks until the point where you bring yourself down back to Newcastle level. The likes of Steven Gerard would in the meantime be at Liverpool, Frank Lampard at Chelsea, Rio Ferdinand at United, remaining with winners and they won things. I suppose that's the difference in the league and it's as simple as that, some people accept their space of where they are in. Whoever is in that dressing room it's up to them to drag everyone together and make sure you go on and achieve more"
The generation with character
Training is vital at every level, but what is even more important is how you train. I recently read an article from a well known ex professional footballer now coaching and playing amateur state side (United States). What was interesting about that article was his comments on environment "Training in English football was always difficult, back then it was known as the old second division which would have been the third tier of English football. It was ruthless, I can remember the demand even at that level 'fucking hell Paul lift your fucking head and get the finger out for fucks sake' 'Paul it's not good enough, get it together'. I think kids now days bite back more or that type of pressure always seems to be frowned upon. Some players crumble under the pressure but others grew from the demand and that's just how it was. Too many players nowadays are content to sit in comfort zones".
The entitled generation
The reference above to a lack of attitude in modern players to cope with criticism certainly hit a cord with me. As someone who has coached numerous grassroots teams at Senior level I can vouch to the opinion that the attitude of some modern players is simply shocking. Players particularly nowadays at grassroots level are too quick to answer back and their reaction to criticism is to deflect blame. In any successful sides I've managed at grassroots level I have found that it's the environments where players demand from each other and set high standards that go on to achieve. You can have all the ability in the world, but ability alone is not enough. If you want to improve then be challenged, if you want to progress then accept challenge and respond to it with your feet rather than your mouth.
When we struggle we get smarter
Science backs up the opinion that improvement and growth takes place in challenging environments. If anyone gets a chance to listen to Dan Coyle's Ted Talk on talent I would highly recommend it. In the talk Dan discusses Futsal. He speaks about the lack of room and constant challenges of the game. Another great example of the influence environment has on growth. Below is a video with Dan's piece on Futsal that is well worth taking the time to listen to.
What is the message to take away?
Pep Guardiola once said "You play at the rhythm you train at. If you train badly, you play badly. If you work like a beast in training, you play the same way", that's a message to stop and think about. If you want to improve as a footballer or coach, if you want to win or achieve things as a footballer or coach be very careful of who you surround yourself with, and above all else the characters you surround yourself with. If your environment doesn't challenge you, then more often than not it will not change you for the better.