Danish Soccer Club Hire Director Of Character Development

Everyone wants to hire for character, but no-one wants to develop it. Until now, at least.

Danish club FC Nordsjælland have appointed what they believe to be the world’s first Director of Character Development.

The same ownership group control the football club and the Right To Dream academy in Ghana, which is where the idea started. “I saw the former Everton coach Steve Round say on Sky Sports that he thinks the next big gain in football over the next ten years will be in the area of developing character” says Tom Vernon, a former Manchester United scout who is now chairman of Nordsjælland. Pondering that further, Vernon realized that the way elite juniors were being developed, nothing was being done to train for character.

In an article for Leaders In Sport, Vernon outlines the seven character traits they built their curriculum around. They are:

  • Self-discipline
  • Integrity
  • Initiative
  • Winning
  • Giving back
  • Social intelligence
  • Passion

The implementation of character training doesn’t just fall to the Director, either, coaches and other staff are involved in the delivery so that it doesn’t fall to just one person. “We’ve got 250 players across Ghana and Denmark and it can’t be the work of just one person to deliver what we want delivered” adds Vernon.

Coaches are expected to keep up-to-date with reading about character development, including highly influential books like Mindset by Carol Dweck and the Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters.

Most encouraging, is that Vernon speaks outwardly about this being a long-term play for FC Nordsjælland, rather than a marketing gimmick. “We wouldn’t expect tangible results from this until the medium term” he says. “As we recruit new players, we will draw on both their character and footballing abilities and look to see how we can support and develop them to flourish with us.”

This is people innovation at its best. With companies struggling to engage Millennials, a Director of Character Development role could help you create a bridge over the generation gap. Or, it could help leaders identify opportunities for further people strategies that would have employees feeling more like a part of the family, than another cog in the wheel.