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The Psychology of the Sports season


Posted by Neil B under Football (Soccer), Field Hockey, Rugby Union, American Football, Cricket on 9 March 2013 at 12:00 AM

So you've made an awesome start to the season. Your performances have been above expectations and you’re further up the league than anyone was predicting before kick-off on the first day of the season. What now? Is there any psychology behind maintaining a good run of form?

Converting good result into titles

The psychology behind how to maintain form and performance levels throughout a whole season is a common conundrum experienced by most teams and managers. It is hard enough for the best teams to maintain form throughout a season, so when a smaller team makes a great start, keeping calm and converting it into success can be incredibly challenging. Psychology plays an improtant role in determining how successful you can be for a whole season. Clearly proffessional teams have a far greater knowledge of the psychology behind this as they hire experts. However, there are still endless examples of big teams in professional sports in the past few years, where they have come so close to victory but tailed away before the 'finish line'.  If it can happen to the professionals, with all the resources and knowledge of psychology available to them, then it can definitely happen to amateur teams. 

We have looked into how to create the perfect environment to allow a team to convert a good start to a season, into a title winning success using basic psychology. While clearly it is no guarantee of success, indeed it's far from it, utilizing psychology should help create the right atmosphere and environment to help you push on and maximise your chances of maintaining a good run of form:

Perfection is Impossible 

As famous psychologist Dr Harriet Braiker has argued:

"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing"

It is important that you do not become too fixated on winning every single match. While obviously you should be going into every match thinking you can and will win, in reality how many teams have successfully gone a whole season winning every match? I certainly can't think of any. The psychology of placing such an emphasis on winning every game can be damaging. Don't dwell on any losses or draws. It is highly unlikely that you will win every single game in a season and you don't need to for the season to be a success. This should by no means lead to an attitude whereby losing is ok, but rather should allow you to maintain a positive attitude after a negative result. 

Perfection is Impossible

Focus on the Now  Focus

There is no point in getting ahead of yourself and thinking about what success might happen in the future.  Ok, so you're doing well and could conceivably win something. Does that mean you should act like you've already won it? If you start thinking like this, you will lose focus on what is important; you're next match. The only way to gain success is to take each game at a time. The psychology of this is obvious; if you are looking ahead to the future, then you are not fully concentrating on the now. Forget about what might happen in the future, the next game is the only thing that you should be thinking about. Thoughts any further ahead of that will only put you at a psychological disadvantage and prevent you achieving the success you seek.

Negativity is a virus 

Related to the point above, if you are thinking about the end goal rather than the immediate priority during a game, then it can greatly affect the way you play. As you get closer to the end of a season, if you are thinking about winning the league, it can breed a fear of losing, which leads the team to play negatively. You become too worried about losing, so don't assert the usual authority on a game and sit back and try and prevent the other team from scoring, rather than trying to score yourselves. This negative psychology can run through a team like a virus if they become too focused on the end goal. It will cripple their confidence on the pitch for fear of making a mistake that might lead to a loss. It was positivity, forward thinking and bravery that got you so far up the league in the first place; why change your psychological approach just because the end is near. Confidence breeds success.

Team Togetherness

Build a 'we' not 'me' mentality 

In order to maintain a good run of form, it is crucial that you all pull together as a team. In general people feel far more accountable when it is others that they will let down rather than themselves. The psychology behind this is clear; If you feel accountable to your team mates as well as yourself, then not only will you give 100% all the time, but you will all give 100% together in order not to let each other down. Develop this team psychology by spending time together away from your sport. Team nights out, team dinners or a team day at the races etc., will all help to develop a positive team atmosphere that can pull you across the line.

Training Variation

 Mix it up

Training can become monotonous throughout a long season. If you want players to remain completely focused and committed, it can be important to vary training and your approach to it. If players do the same drills throughout the whole season, not only will they develop less, but will also become bored and possibly lose their enthusiasm for training. Slack training will invariably lead to slack performances on the pitch, which will decrease your chances of success. Give the team days off, incorporate fun challenges into training and mix up the focus of your sessions continually. Keeping the team enthused by the game is half the battle to maintaining good form and acheiving success.

Check out this guide on how to approach players and training throughout a season.

Clearly considering the psychology of the season is no guarantee of success. However, what considering psychology will do is create the ideal platform for a team to kick on from a positive start and maintain their form through to the end of the season, turning that great start into a great season.

Of course every team reacts differently to success. What are your approaches to maintaining good form throughout a season?? Does it differ to the best methods to stop a run of negative results? Is a drop in form an inevitable part of a season?? 

Share your thoughts in the blog below

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I have seen netball teams win every game for the season, easily, only to lose in the Grand Final due to an over confident, almost arrogant attitude. The girls can become complacent and not put in their best effort at training. In the game, they don't come out firing, and have lost that hunger for the ball. I think teams need to be challenged, play some hard games during the season. They definitely need to focus on the game at hand, set smaller, short term goals, rather than dwell on the final series, they may not get there!

    Neil B encouraged this.

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