Mention ‘Mind Games’ and anybody remotely acquainted with sport will begin to think about the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Usain Bolt, Mohammed Ali, et al and all of those that have fallen foul of such practices; Kevin Keegan, the ex Newcastle United manager famously succumb to this in a post match interview live on SKY, and Rafa Benitez had his infamous ‘Fact’ rant prior to an upcoming Liverpool versus Manchester United game. But surely the concept of ‘Mind Games’ deserves greater consideration than generating sound bites for the media.
This time last season Star’s players were riding high on confidence having just won the Midland Combination premier division and then going on to lift their Charity Shield. In doing so, Star had gone on a 12 game unbeaten run and had carried this on into the Midland Alliance league. In contrast, Star’s second season in the Midland Alliance has seen them lose their opening four games; leaking goals at an alarming rate whilst at the other end of the field being profligate in front of goals. What is frightening is the fact that with the exception of one or two players the core of the team is made up of the players who won the league two seasons ago. So what has gone wrong?
Football is game watched by many, all of whom have an opinion on how to maximise the potential of the team. Some would argue that the tactics being employed are not right or perhaps that the personnel being selected is not the right mix. Others might suggest that the team is not fit enough and or, that there is insufficient strength in depth, and the opinions don’t just stop there, but for me, whilst those arguments have some merit they are not the main reason why this group of players who convincingly won their remaining games of last season (beating the league champions along the way) to avoid getting drawn into the relegation zone, are currently underperforming; there has to be a solution closer to home.
‘Form is temporary but class is permanent’ is a football cliché that suggest that good players don’t become bad players overnight. One could argue that as well as being able to consistently perform at a high standard, elite performers possess an inner believe, a determination to succeed if you will. It is here that the ultimate ‘Mind Game’ must be won! So one can do all the fitness training necessary and work endless hours on honing their skills, but if the individual is not paying enough attention to developing his ‘mind game’ then everything else could be in vain. The desire to succeed must begin with the individual aspiring to get in the team and then to remain there by performing at a consistent level that makes it difficult for him to be dropped. Sir Alex Ferguson is reported to have once said that he looks at what a player does when he or his team doesn’t have the ball, when determining whether or not that player is going to have the attributes required to be a Manchester United player.
I would therefore like to suggest that until the players (and therefore team) begin to win their ‘mind games’ we will not see the standard of performance expected from the squad of players that we have assembled. If the ‘mind games’ are not firstly addressed and then challenged the players will continue to make the wrong decisions and these decisions will be highlighted by others and then magnified by the player – who in turn will either deflect this by denying that the problem exist or they will look to find fault in others. [Sounds familiar?]
Ironically, top Sports Psychologist, Jamie Edwards, has been working with Continental Star and has put on a number of workshops. It is about time that some of the players began to put these theories into practice.