Date:Saturday February 25 2012
When The opportunity arose to question a football psychologist who works with Premiership footballers came around, I sent out a request for 6 questions for this man to answer!
That man is Dan Abrahams, and you can also follow him on Twitter @DanAbrahams77
I had a flood of questions on email and some via Twitter, below Dan will answer your questions:-
.1. Why do football players question referees decisions when clearly it does not make a scrap of difference? Shouldn`t it be more like rugby?
D.A.More to the point why do footballers question referee decisions when it takes them away from a focus on the game and their specific role and responsibilities? That to me is even more relevant. The answer lies in how the brain is designed. When someone has a feeling of 'unfairness` they will likely display anger or frustration. It`s an innate human response that, given the pressures faced on the pitch are strengthened in the heat of battle. It takes a footballer a lot of deliberate practice to STOP themselves from questioning the referee. Bear in mind that it`s also something they learn from their peers and role models as they develop as a footballer. To me rugby has a much better playing culture in this respect. But given the culture of 'passion` that football evokes I doubt the football authorities will want to change to the rugby way.
.2. What is with all the play acting - when clearly there is not an injury? They all complain about it but most do it.
D.A.Any beef with play acting in my opinion is cultural. In British football we demonise it and call it cheating. On the continent they see it slightly differently. They believe that if it gives you an edge then it`s a clever way of bending (not breaking) the rules. Such an attitude seems to go against our British sense of fair play. Neither is wrong...they are just culturally specific. And do bear in mind that most fans don`t complain too much when a little play acting leads to a goal for their team, but do tend to complain when it`s the reverse. You can`t have it both ways.
.3. How do Players tone out ridicule and verbal abuse when playing - towards each other.
D.A.Tuning out is very much a skill influenced by the player`s emotional toughness and focus flexibility. Those who are highly skilful at these vary in how they tune out. Some will hear it and won`t care while some will hear it and use it to spur them on. I teach players to SPOT when verbal abuse is either distracting them or getting them down...then SHIFT focus onto their game or use the intensity they get from the abuse to channel into executing their skills in a quicker and stronger manner. It takes constant practice in training and in matches.
.4. A lot of players seem to forget that ultimately the fans pay their wages - how can we re-address getting them more involved with the fans?
D.A.I think it`s important for any fan to understand that very few, if any players go onto the pitch with a goal to play poorly. They may lack confidence or struggle with the correct intensity due to a lack of fitness or a lack of tactical certainty. But I`m sure it`s rare for a player to deliberately sabotage a game. So one way fans can connect with players is to support them through thick and thin.
ff the pitch I think there is a lot of room at many clubs to improve the communication and familiarity between fans and players. To be honest I`m not a football marketing expert but I accept that, just like most organisations, football needs to improve communication channels and visibility.
.5. How does a players mental state affect his performance?
D.A.This is a great question and one that even a lot of top quality coaches just don`t realise. Let`s give you a few examples: I may lose confidence because of a few mistakes. This has enormous knock on effects. A loss of confidence reduces my ability to coordinate my muscles so my first touch, passing etc might not be as good. I won`t check my shoulders as much so my awareness (of my team mates and the opposition) lessens. Less awareness means slower anticipation. This means poor movement, indecision, poor vocals, tunnel vision and weak physicality to name a few. Lets take another psychological factor, concentration. If as a defender I switch off for a second, a striker can get in front of me and bang its a goal. And remember, switching off is easily done. A footballer has thousands of pieces of information thrown at him or her at any given time. Focusing on the right thing all the time is almost humanly impossible. One of the biggest distractions a player has is the ball. Watch the ball for a split second and the striker runs across him and gets a head to the ball. I could go on and on and on about this stuff....psychology, technique, tactics and physicality converge all the time on the pitch.
.6. How do you integrate so many different player personalities into a team bond/spirit?
D.A.You don`t. Research has shown us that Championship winning teams by and large are more task cohesive than socially cohesive. They are all focused on 'winning` but they may not be best mates while doing so. When you manage a team you have, as you point out, many different personality types, but also players with different experience, values, cultures, worries, doubts, fears, wants, beliefs etc. You simply can`t get everyone cohesive from a social perspective. What you can do is make sure there is effective communication running through the team with a common goal and certainty of role & responsibilities, individual and team tasks and tactical know how. Of course the odd team building game or event helps and some social cohesion is important. But you can`t obsess about it. Coaches need to show they 'care` about players and have open forums and open communication channels at all times throughout the season.
Our Thanks once again to Dan Abrahams, you can find out more about him by visiting his site http://www.danabrahams.com - and sign up to receive a free e-book.
Date:Saturday February 25 2012
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