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Guest Blog: The PSYCHOLOGICAL factors to consider during the first days back at training?

As a coach you not only have to be skilled in the technical and physical aspects but also psychological. In the early stages of training and throughout, it is vital to be positive, filling your team with only positive thoughts will prepare them mentally for a tough session but attack the session as a challenge to themselves. Help your team block out the feeling of pain and discomfort and substitute the thought process into rewards and benefits of the session by reinforcing positivity. Replace nervousness and anxiety with nervous energy and certainty.

Task: List all the benefits of working hard in the session and compare it to the list of negatives to working hard in the session. Now can you see? 

As a coach you should always be aware how your words effect the team. During training sessions have your players fill their inner thoughts and emotions with appropriate language. e.g. replace ‘I can’t’ with ‘I can’ replace sighs and gasps with a smile and laughter. Replace shrugged shoulders with a good upright posture and opened eyes.

Task: FAKE it till you MAKE it – relay this quote to your team, even if they are tired and think they cannot continue, push them to show everyone from the outside they are not tired. Act out role play and by everyone having this mentality, no individual will want to seem like the weak link and if they remain strong visually you know you have a team full of strong characters. As a group being strong and resilient and through body language they can help and inspire each other to achieve more.

Other tips psychologically:

  • Watch inspirational videos together
  • Listen to motivating music 
  • Give more advice on how to prepare before, during and after competition.

How to prepare technically?

Being out of competition for a while can lead to a decrease in technical performance. Technique is not lost however, it is stored; it just needs refining again, minimal adjustments. Muscle memory is powerful. 

Task: The help trigger the process quicker use imagery. Tell your team to close their eyes and think of all the techniques involved in the game, this will transfer signals from the brain to the relevant muscle groups. Now have them open their eyes and start moving the relevant body parts in slow motion (for example: throwing your arm back to front to replicate a javelin throw or a toe down to represent a powerful football kick.

Other techniques to help your team improve technically:

  • Watch footage of their previous performances
  • Watch footage of their role models performing the techniques
  • Give them your own personal feedback

How to prepare socially?

The layoff can result in a short term detachment from peers and other coaches, therefore it is important that contact (if lost) is renewed. It could be a phone call, a text, a planned meeting or a social event. This can release positive energy and allow un-performance related topics to be discussed before the hard work starts. If there are any fresh joining the sessions, in the first few days, this is a good chance to find out a little bit more about their background. A happy environment can only lead to success. A cautious, cagey and nervous environment will lead to a detriment in performances.

Task: During activity in training and in drink breaks have all the players converse with a different person each time. By gaining each other’s respect they can be a lot more open with their thoughts and emotions which will not only will that bring the whole team closer but they also gain each other trust which intern can improve individual performance as well as team. (e.g. a more popular member of the team might be the main target to pass too in a team sport which equals more contact with the ball).

Ryan Byrne, R.B. Coaching Limited - Professional football coach and 1to1 specialist