I’m probably like you – I can’t wait for the World Cup. It’s one of the great sports tournaments – highs and lows in equal measure delivered to your small screen (or big screen if you’re down the pub!) – tension, drama, tears and tantrums – a great sporting spectacle. But you know what – there can be so many bad games. So much rubbish played. Why? Because of fear! Here’s my guide to banishing fear at the World Cup.
Dare to Lose to Win
Former England manager Sven Goran Erikssen often used a sport psychologist throughout his career – a man named Willie Raillo. Willie came up with this sentence – “Dare to lose to win”.
So what does that mean? It means having a relaxed attitude to the result. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome of the game. It means to give yourself and your team the best opportunity to have a positive result you have to free yourself up and be less concerned about the notion of losing.
A fear of failure stifles performance. It narrows your vision, slows down your anticiapation and creates indecision. A fear of failure causes a lack of mobility and movement. It means you are more likely to hide on the pitch – a player chained through fear won’t call for the ball or show for the ball.
Willie Raillo knows that sporting performance falls under one of life’s paradoxes – to give yourself the best chance of winning you have to be less than concerned about losing. You have to accept that losing might happen. Acceptance is huge in sport – it’s massive!
Win, Free, Front
I want to see players and team who play to win, rather than play not to lose. What does that look like? What does that feel like?
I want to see players and teams who play with freedom, rather than with fear. What does that look like? What does that feel like?
I want to see players and teams who play on the front foot, rather than on the back foot. What does that look like? What does that feel like?
World Cup Freedom
I want ot see players in the World Cup express themselves. I want to see them throw caution to the wind. I want to see them play head up. I want to see them take risks from the back – because within risk lies the genius that unlocks victory.
I want to see players pop the ball about quickly in the final third – in fact I want to see players move that ball through the thirds with speed and as if they don’t care about outcome.
Sure a footballer has to focus. Sure a footballer has to be disciplined within his or her role. But players are capable of adopting a conservative strategy with a cocky confident execution. They are capable of playing with belief in a system that protects their goal.
For this to happen tactics and psychology must fuse. The coach must give the players certainty of tactics but freedom to express within the system. That is world class coaching. That is world class football psychology. I hope that will be World Cup football psychology.