Friday, 4 July 2014

Chilled or pumped? It’s a personal thing

I don’t know whether you have been absorbed with the World Cup as much as I have but I just love it when it gets to the knock out phase where it becomes a real test of mental and physical strength and determination. At this point of the competition, coaches have very little need to get their players ‘pumped up’ as, in most cases, the players are going to be highly stressed already. This is where a coach really needs to have a good understanding of his players individually because we all perform at our best at different arousal levels so some players like to be really pumped up but others will perform much better when they are at lower arousal levels. If a coach takes a one size fits all approach and does a stirring pep talk for the whole team which gets their hearts beating fast, their hands tingling and their heads spinning, it may be of benefit to maybe 3 or 4 players but for the rest it could end up having the opposite effect to that intended.

When I used to play rugby (many years ago!), before the match started in the changing room, the whole team would form a circle, link arms and gradually crank up the excitement as we shouted louder and louder counting from one to ten whilst stamping faster and faster onto the concrete floor. Those who managed to avoid turning their ankles then ran out onto the field whipped up like a bunch of crazed warriors ready for action. Except for me, it seemed. Such frenzied displays did nothing for me and so I would spend the next few minutes actually calming myself down before the match started as I realised even back then that I played much better when I was more relaxed.

One of my clients experienced this state of over-arousal when he made it to his first Cup Final. Normally a very confident player, after a heartfelt speech from his coach somewhere on the lines of Shakespeare’s Henry V, he then made his way down the tunnel at Wembley and as he saw the crowd and heard the roar, the whole occasion got to him. He was just too pumped up to perform and he spent the largest part of the match in a state of paralysis.

It is essential to recognise that everyone is different and so it is important to work with people on an individual basis if we want to get the best out of them. By helping individuals tap into what is that makes them tick, we can go a long way to get sports performers into the right frame of mind to perform to their best.

At this stage of the competition, the team who wins the World Cup may just be the one with the coach who understands his players the best.

Andy Barton
Performance Consultant
The Sporting Mind

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