Does form all come down to a player’s mentality?

Beau Busch Roar Rookie

By Beau Busch, Beau Busch is a Roar Rookie

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    The past week has seen some of the Australian football community express concern over the mentality of some of the nation’s footballers.

    From easy targets, like emerging young stars and an up and down Sydney FC side, to A-League players in general, many have had their mental fortitude called into question.

    The issue of inconsistent performance has been the common of the discussion.

    Whilst some have raised valid points, one thing missing has been a look at what causes these perceived up and down performances.

    The clichés of ‘working harder at training’ and ‘not thinking you are better than you are’ have been wheeled out but they offer relatively little insight. The mind is far from easy to understand and the reasons why some players turn in a brilliant performance one week only to be poor the next are not obvious.

    However, this is not to say that when you dig a little deeper some possible explanations emerge.

    Chief among these is a player not knowing their role.

    Think of any new skill you have learnt, as you learn more about it and practice the more consistent you become. Have a good teacher and you will pick it up much quicker and get to an expert level without having made as many basic mistakes.

    The same is true of football: if you play in a team where your role is clearly defined by the coach there is less room to make mistakes as you know what is expected of you.

    Play a brand of off- the-cuff football and it might work on occasions but it is bound to break down eventually as it places all the emphasis on making decisions on the run. In a pressure situation even the best players are unlikely to get it right every time.

    Some may argue that this does not explain the occasional inability to perform the most basic skills, such as an easy 10 yard pass, which is second nature to all footballers.

    They have a point but there is little as unsettling as playing in a team where there is no organisation, and the effect of this can make you lose the ability to perform the simplest task as uncertainty can undermine your confidence.

    Furthermore the feeling of playing in a side where there is real belief in how the team is organised can have a real positive impact on your mentality. Rather than going into a match hoping things come off a player can prepare for it knowing their job and exactly what is expected.

    With young players this becomes extremely important as they have not played a significant amount of matches and are reliant on the coach for ways of dealing with different scenarios.

    Sometimes a coach may throw them in under prepared and they may thrive initially but a lack of understanding will eventually be exposed and their performances will dip.

    When they do struggle people may quickly label them inconsistent but is a lack of mental strength really to blame for making mistakes when they were never really sure of what to do in the first place?

    The same is true of seasoned professionals as all footballers thrive in an environment when they know exactly what is expected of them, even the most gifted such as Lionel Messi.

    Labels of ‘winners’ and ‘mentally strong’ may be common but the people who win more often than not are the ones that understand their role in the team best, not just the ones that want it most.

    Of course, mental strength plays a role in deciding who wins. But knowing what to do and how to do it is essential as uncertainty can undermine a player’s best efforts.

    Follow me on Twitter @beaubusch

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    The Crowd Says (5)

    • February 29th 2012 @ 4:06am
      Spooony said | February 29th 2012 @ 4:06am | ! Report

      Main thing is the tactics by the coach and each position that have a player that fits their stile. Like Pep for Barca.

    • February 29th 2012 @ 9:50am
      Futbanous said | February 29th 2012 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      Beau maybe you are overlooking a major difference between Australian players in the A-League & those brought up in Europe.
      I call it the “Looking over your shoulder” complex.
      Because Europeans are surrounded by football atmosphere & every kid who plays the game knows theres another kid breathing down his neck looking to take his spot,they can’t afford to ever relax.
      Put in inconsistent displays & Johnny will take your place. Or nowadays some kid from Africa,Asia,Australia wherever.
      So whilst I don’t disagree with the other factors you mentioned pressure from below IMO to perform is not yet advanced enough in the A-League to provide consistency.

    • Roar Guru

      February 29th 2012 @ 10:24am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | February 29th 2012 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      Nice article Beau – I’m really enjoying your articles. It’s very insightful to read a pro-footballer’s opinions into such issues that affect pro-footballers.

      In relation to “mental weakness” or “thinking you are better than you are” I don’t think such issues are confined to this generation of pro-footballers.

      Rather, from my observation, these are afflictions that are present in this generation of Aussie society, who have developed under educational & parental philosophies that:
      a) promote mediocrity (poor school work is given “a star”)
      b) avoid direct criticism (you cannot tell kids “you’re not good enough, you need to work harder”)
      c) ignore discipline and allows anti-social behaviour to go unpunished (my mates & I got swift clips across the ear if we misbehaved in public)

    • February 29th 2012 @ 10:47am
      nordster said | February 29th 2012 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Not allowing players to “think they are better than they are” really just impedes progress and ambition. Especially in creative attacking positions. How can someone build belief in their abilities otherwise? As long as the hard work is going into making up the difference between reality and ambition, they have every chance of progressing.

      agree with Fuss we fall into easy mediocrity in this country, its not just a football thing. I hope that challenging this defines an Australian way of playing, going into the future. Rather than getting trapped by it.

    • February 29th 2012 @ 11:13am
      Roarchild said | February 29th 2012 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      I think it’s a shame that the Fury were all hands on deck just surviving and couldn’t take advantage of Beau Busch more.

      An articulate and qualified journalist on the playing roster seems a massive PR asset.

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