Interview with coach and fitness trainer Janne Mian

The 3rd in the series of Footblogball essential interviews we have Janne Mian who is working as a coach and fitness trainer at top Swedish club Elfsborg .

I have known Janne for a few years  and not only does he possess a brilliant football mind , he also has a great social consciousness and awareness that is seldom seem in football these days.

 jan mian

FOOTBLOGBALL : The  team you are involved with  in Sweden , Elfsborg have just qualified for the Europa League group stages. The club is situated in a town called Borås that has a population of  67,000 which really puts this achievement into perspective. How in your opinion has the club gone about creating a culture and environment so that this can be achieved ?

JANNE MIANIt is an old club with lot of culture for ex they won the championship as early as the thirties(-36 and 39) and in the sixties they won the gold as well.  In 2005  we struggled a bit and lost to Djurgården 8-1 and a lot of people thought that The coach  Magnus Haglund would get sacked, but the board kept calm and he stayed on, the following year he won the league with Elfsborg . The club has continuity which is vital, Haglund had his job for 9 years, Peter Wettergren is on his 10:th year, Goalkeeper coach Gert Hansen ON his 16:th, fysio Janne Andblad on his  9:th year and also not forgetting how  very important  ex player Stefan Andreasson   has been as  Sport manager for approximately 15 years. He has a strategy when it comes to selling players and a strategy when it comes to giving  young players a chance in the first team. They also have a good relationship with other clubs (camp Elfsborg ) where they develop coaches and players in the district through different projects.

The way we work with the youth teams is also very important , Youth manager Tony Lundqvist is doing a great job combining football and letting them being kids. The strategy they have is to find coaches that are fit to work with kids and if they don’t have the right education they provide that but the  first thing they check is if the coach is suitable. They also keep the boys together for a very long time (15-16 y) so there is seldom any player moving up or down the ranks, Tony is very strict on this, he seldom moves players between the U17-U21 either. Going abroad, attending cups etc. are also regulated thus everybody must attend and the club has to afford it, they don’t allow external funding’s to insure everybody is treated fair and the groups are intact and the Elfsborg spirit can be built. Around  15/ 16  things get  more serious where they buy young talented players, but only those who have played with the national youth teams. There seems to be  a strategy with a minimum of 3 international players, 2-3 players fromm the greater district area and the rest must be home  grown talent. The young players that Elfsborg buy get a room in a house owned  by the club and are socially well taken care of. They have a strategy that you might want to discuss or even want to change but most important thing is that they have a strategy that they believe in. I have now been working professional for 14 years and I believe in hard work and being prepared and what I see here in Elfsborg is a lot of people willing to put in long hours and hard work. This is something I  have not seen in many clubs .

FOOTBLOGBALL : Recently I interviewed Sports Psychologist and author Dan Abrahams

Footballers don’t spend enough time looking at areas to improve because it feels uncomfortable – it can diminish confidence. We are all subject to habits and patterns as we play – breaking them requires self awareness, focus, patience, hard work and discipline.

 In you experience with player development would you agree with this statement

JM : Yes I think most areas in life have cultural  barriers , often revealed in words and sentence. We often say “this player wont be good enough” instead of saying “not now, but maybe later” or “maybe in another environment”.  There is also the question of hierarchy where one man often decides everything (the coach/manager)   The players are therefore so used to be told what to do and  when to do it , that they become like  puppets on a string.

In football I have at first hand seen two nations analyse and revaluate  themselves with dramatic changes and that is the Danish and the German football associations . It takes courage and knowledge

In the past I worked as a talent developer for the Swedish FA and at one point we had a lot of seminars about getting stronger in one against one  situations  in defence and attack though this was the big difference between us and the best in Europe, the seminars were very good and the coaches were enthusiastic  , but when it came to the actual games the fear of losing took over and the old pattern of play was maintained. It will take a new generation of players and coaches to change that .

FOOTBLOGBALL :   Our brains grey matter that has been growing through our childhood shrinks dramatically in our teen years while at the same time white matter . made up of axon fiber connections between brain cells  increases. This white colour comes from myelin  and is a key factor in regulating the speed in neural circuits so that they combine at the right time. As football  is a flexible circuit activity where the player must understand and solve many problems and apply the right skill to these challenges , what advice would you give to a coach who wants to use a more brain centered approach to his coaching of young teenagers who have already been coached in a more  traditional way?

JM : My advice would be to use more perception training (kinetics) and to interact it into all kinds of sessions, passing drills, small sided games and warm up . I would also give the players problems to solve i.e. Here is the ball and you have one team mate one defender and a keeper to beat, 2-1 show me how ! You as a coach would have a few suggestions but wait and see what they come up with.

Also I would not use A,B,C or cones in the passing drills more than once a week . Sessions need to be alive and with a lot of decision making.


FOOTBLOGBALL:If 6-12 years is referred to as the “golden age “ for player development then could we not describe , with all that is happening in the brain , the teenage years as the” Golden Age ” of  brain game development ?                                    This  “ golden age of brain development “ I feel should be looked at as a time of great learning opportunities  for the young player  to develop and refine the technical , tactical , cognitive and physical at the same time.  What do you think ? 

JM :It is never to late to learn. At some ages it is easier and at some ages it takes more time. If you are 80 years old you can still  learn to play the piano for the first time which means axon fibers can find new connections and the brain can make new paths of myelin, but obviously when it comes to football we should put more focus on this during the teenage years specially when they often have problems physically (growing, puberty, identity  etc ) so they have a higher focus and then introduce the tough fitness training after puberty

FOOTBLOGBALL : We hear a lot about agility and speed in the modern game but for me and especially at youth level , perception and decision making should be trained at the same time otherwise  there is a risk that there will be a break down in the  connection between how the young player experiences training and the real game. Perception can  improve a players agility while the ability to perceive and react quicker ( make a decision ) can help the speed in which an athlete can move in a new direction . Can you discuss this statement ? 

JM  : Yes, as I said before I think it is important to integrate things in training . Speed training should only take 4-5 min of training after warm up, but with the right intervals, measurements and length we can create quicker players, if we then add obstacles, create rules etc. that forces the players to make a decision and to use their perception , then you are close to finding the perfect integrated training .

FOOTBLOGBALL :  When you work with a club at grassroots level the question of talent Identification always comes up. For me it is more a question of talent observation.

What environment does the club /coach create for the player ?  Is it a winning first  culture ?  something that I associate with talent identification  ( based on physical qualities, identify the best player now to win , short term. ) Where perhaps   a “development  culture “ OBSERVES talent  and offers a safe , challenging and exciting environment and encourages intrinsic motivation therefore  enjoyment and a more long term approach where the player takes more responsibility for his own development.

Would you agree with this as a suggested model ? 


JM : I think the hardest thing is to look at development before winning and there are so many factors to be considered like  patience and understanding from parents, club, managers etc. also a coach that feels ok with maybe losing 4-5 games in a row just because he wants them to play from the goalkeeper through  the defence, midfield and forward , you need to be secure as a coach, but I think you need a club to stand behind it all. I think we need people that are educated in the understanding of the child’s  mind and development in football, We need a strategy when it comes to for example working with winning mentality .It is  obvious too me and you but the parent coach needs to understand that and  give them the tools “of having fun”, “giving 100 %” and so forth but you also challenge them and create situations in a game which  for example puts them in a lot of       1 v 1 in defence . In the young age groups  the big one nearly always wins, but you know in the end you will have a world class defender as long as  you are prepared to take a few losses  and have patience. I think we should also look more at the mind rather than the feet when it comes to talent . Work more strategically with mind development like effort in training, social skills, how we react to winning and losing etc   

FOOTBLOGBALL : Our brains by nature look to save energy by automising a process which can create a conflict between our  comfort zone and our development. Discuss.

JM : We are by nature lazy because we are designed to walk 10-20 kilometres  a day and find food and water, but we need to conserve energy in order to do that. For ex if you sit on the sofa for 4 months and you decide to train it will take 2 months before the body stops  screaming you back to the sofa, after that training will become a habit, after that you need new challenges to stay training , you need to have fun and we love challenges and the brain develops with that, it also grows more with fun. The challenge for coaches are to make fun sessions that develops the brain (coordination, agility, speed, perception, etc)   



FOOTBLOGBALL: In my interview with Michel Bruyninckx he stated that

A too early specializing is not good 

Do you think that it is very important that children play as many sports as possible ? and can you give any contemporary social reasons why this is more important than ever ? 

JM : In Sweden we have physical education 2*45 min a week compared to France which has 1 hour a day, in urban areas there are not many things oppurtunities for kids to play .We don’t create enough environments  to stimulate the young  brain. We also struggle to recruit new players , there are  videogames, tv-games, computers etc. The coordination of the fingers are improving but the conditioning, balance and health are slowly getting worse. When you get a young football player in your team it has higher mountain to climb compared to  10 years ago, therefore it is important to have  good content in your training and also to have other activities outside football at least until you are 15 . I think football benefits from that, it also decreases the risk of the players quitting from getting board. Adding to what we discussed in the other question with the brain growing and finding new paths – one movement needs one pathway in the brain, combining two movement needs two paths combining .


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