When planning out sessions it is easy to jot down activities and exercises that will address the technical and tactical components of the game. While you could argue that the physical and psychological side of the game are ever-present when training, I think we can be more deliberate and plan to build these aspects into our sessions. 

 

The Chimp Paradox - Dr. Steve Peters

 

Having recently finished The Chimp Paradox, by Dr. Steve Peters, there was one concept that struck a chord with me in particular. Accept the following in life and move on: 'life's not fair', 'the goalposts move' and 'nothing is guaranteed'. Below are some thoughts on how we can teach this to players and build up their resilience.

 

Life's Not Fair

If you go into a game and expect the referee to be perfect and the opposition to play fairly, you're setting yourself up for a fall. That's not to say we shouldn't play within the rules of the game, but there will always be those that bend the rules, claim every ball that goes out as theirs and give a little tug of a shirt for an advantage.

If players can accept that these things happen, and that life isn't necessarily fair, we can start to move on and find ways to deal with this. Here are a few ideas I had for teaching players that life isn't fair.

Starting 2-0 down doesn't sound overly fair to me. However, players that can overcome this and play their game, no matter the score, will be far more resilient and effective when things don't go their way on gameday.

Players sometimes get sent off, or they're late to a game. Figuring out how you'll deal with this and putting players in these situations should mean that if they see that scenario again, they can better adapt to it. You can't change it, so players just need to find a solution and play on.

The Goalposts Move

No, not literally. Though I suppose this would be one way of demonstrating the concept to your players. My interpretation of this in practice is that: what you need to achieve in order to develop, or to win, may shift over time. Other teams are doing the same thing you are; practicing and striving to improve. As a result, the goalposts are constantly shifting, meaning you've always got to be developing and pushing onwards and upwards.

In practice, I think there are a few things we can do as coaches in order to shift the goalposts and 'stretch' our players. In the example below, two teams play a possession game (non directional). In order to score, the team in possession must connect 5 passes in a row. The first team to 3 goals wins.

What the players don't know, is that after each goal, the number of passes they need doubles.

Therefore, Goal #1 = 5 passes. Goal #2 = 10 passes. Goal #3 = 20 passes.

 By shifting the goalposts (the number of passes needed to score) you're 'stretching' the players in their ability to score these goals. By not telling them ahead of time, you're building on their adaptability and resilience as the goalposts have been shifted on them.

By shifting the goalposts (the number of passes needed to score) you're 'stretching' the players in their ability to score these goals. By not telling them ahead of time, you're building on their adaptability and resilience as the goalposts have been shifted on them.

Nothing Is Guaranteed

This is possibly my favorite and one that I have used within sessions in the past. It's tried and tested, stresses players within your sessions (especially the competitive ones) and is a great tool to illustrate that nothing is guaranteed.

In the game below, the coach is the worst referee ever. At the very least he's incompetent. His role is to make bad decisions on purpose:

  • Red team deflects the ball behind for a corner = Red goal kick
  • Blue team player trips over his own shoelaces = Free kick in a dangerous area to the blue team
  • Red team is 1-0 down and goes clean through on goal = Blue free kick (offside!)
 Consider having an assistant coach be the world's worst referee so that you can continue to coach the players. It's important that you teach your players how to react and deal with these bad decisions.

Consider having an assistant coach be the world's worst referee so that you can continue to coach the players. It's important that you teach your players how to react and deal with these bad decisions.

Having your players understand that nothing is guaranteed is important for their mindset and mentality towards training and gameday. There's no guarantee the ref is going to get everything right. Likewise, just because you beat a team 7-0 last time out, doesn't mean that today's going to be the same story. Nothing is guaranteed. So be prepared to adapt.

Key Takeaways

  • Finding ways to teach the psychological side of the game is important for player's development
  • Life isn't fair. The goalposts move. Nothing is guaranteed. Accept these and find ways to adapt/ persevere.
  • The Chimp Paradox is a good read with a lot of transferable content - give it a read.
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Written by Dean Atkins