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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Part 2 - The mental shift Spurs must make

Spurs Need To Go Mental - Part 2

As a sports coach the question you have to constantly ask yourself is, how can I improve myself, what more can I do to improve my coaching?

That approach is the same approach the coaches at Tottenham should be taking and the same approach that every player should be taking, unfortunately however it is not.

Improvement does not have to be big improvement but tiny improvements. When you add up continual tiny improvements they make a significant difference, they can then equate to major improvement. Japanese manufacturing used this method to lead the world, it is known as the Kaizen method.

The process is like taking a car engine apart, analysing how every piece can be slightly improved upon and putting it back together to have a more powerful, more efficient, faster unit.

A player or a coach is no different. A coach should be analysing their own performance and making continual improvements to each aspect he can. He or she should be doing the same for each player and each player should be doing the same for themselves.

Players are paid a high wage to be the best they can be, not to go through the motions or perform at what they believe is their best as that is merely a glass ceiling.

Spurs have significantly improved the training facilities, the medical care, the nutrition available over the years. However any improvement is offset if a players mental approach is not that every game is a big game. A player who gets himself up for Manchester United but not for Crystal Palace is a player who is going to let you down.

Not only must a players physical and technical aspects be broken down and continual fine improvements made but his mental approach must be taken apart, improvements made and and rebuild with these lasting upgrades. That takes specialist knowledge, that takes a sports psychologist, a football coach doesn't have the capacity to do that.



The mental shift Spurs must make


If you look back over the past few years where we have been striving for Champions League we have been the nearly men, the men who have bottled it at the crucial stages again and again. We have bottled it in the big games because players in their heads believe themselves as a whole to be inferior and bottled against perceived lesser teams because players don't have the internal motivation for them.

Portsmouth in the FA Cup semi-final was a case in point. We have succeeded in some perceived bigger games yes, that will always happen but overall there is a clear pattern, overall the team with the better mental approach will win.

Two players of equal ability can have contrasting careers if one has a winning mentality, if one sees every game as a big game and the other does not. One will be consistent one will not. One will earn more, achieve more, play for bigger clubs and win trophies, one will remain stuck at a lower grade, a nearly man. Tottenham are a nearly team.


The mental shift Spurs must make


To change a players mental approach you have to pay attention to every little detail. Family life, food, physical, mental, tactical, social, everything. You can't just turn up for work and say OK now I'm going to be motivated. If you are out getting drunk and falling over you are not ensuring you are in optimum shape to perform your best regardless of recovery time.

As I pointed out with Paulinho, a streak in one aspect of your life will impact and affect other areas. Admitting he was too lazy to learn English demonstrates clearly the wrong mental approach. Communication is vital, understanding what your coaches want, what your team mates want during a game has to be enhanced if you can understand what they are saying.

In this day and age there is software available that can instantly isolate a players performance during a whole game, whether that be on the ball or off the ball. The first step would be to take a series of these games and analyse exactly what the player does. You will find repetition such as the Assou-Ekotto back heel when near the touchline in defence.

Now remember you are looking for every aspect of the players performance so for instance if he puts his hands on his hips he is indicating to the opposition he is tired, he is indicating a weakness.

When he goes for a header is it with total determination to win the ball or to just be involved in an aerial duel. The approach of Dawson and Chiriches in that respect is marked. There is no doubt Chiriches is a more talented player than Dawson but Dawson has the mental approach that every game counts, every challenge counts, Chriches doesn't and is thus a lesser player.

You all see defenders like Dawson or John Terry dive in front of a ball to block it in any way they can, others stand off, turn their back when there is a shot, stopping the ball is not everything to them, they actually don't want to get in the way. Is that the right mental approach?

If a sports psychologist could get hold of Chiriches and change his mental approach then he could become a top top player, without an improvement in his mental game he won't.

Mentality is what makes a player. Look at Jan Vertonghen and compare him when he was motivated every game to now with no motivation at all, it's not the same player.


The mental shift Spurs must make


As part of my preview for the Fulham game I looked at how many times we have conceded the first goal in a game recently, 10 out of 11 was the incredible answer, before Fulham it was 8 games on the trot. That has nothing to do with ability, the players have the ability, that is solely a mental approach problem.

Injuries are another example during a game, fake injuries I mean. The player who goes down when hardly or not even touched and then clutches an imaginary injury, especially if the game is continuing is another sign of weakness. The guy on the floor is being dictated to by the opposition and he is of no help to his team on the floor at all.

You see mentally weak players arguing with the referee because the player knows they have make a mistake and they want someone else to blame, the referees for not giving them a free-kick. That is a weak mind. If he goes over to easily it is a lack of physical strength and the opposition will just exploit that, knocking him off the ball continually. He will either then become a terrier or a player who moans to the ref all the time.

Some players will fight for the ball back others will whinge and moan while sitting on the floor. You can almost hear them crying, it's not fair mummy. Frustration leads to a lack of concentration which leads to mistakes.


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Change the mental attitude and you will eliminate some of the mistakes, no football technique will change that, it has to come from the mind.

Strikers are subjected to mental pressure constantly. They are paid to determine the result of games by putting the ball in the back of the net. If a striker misses an opportunity and series of opportunities his confidence can start to dip because he is letting his team-mates down.

Two things will happen, he will either hide and avoid chances, playing in areas of the pitch where he contributes but doesn't appear in the box too often or he'll keep putting himself in the position to score again.

Regardless of whether he keeps missing, if he is still constantly in the box he is demonstrating the right mental approach, don't back down from the challenge, don't hide. stand up to be counted. Eventually the tide will turn. You can add to the other aspects of his game to improve him but the player who hides is mentally weak, he is simply trying to avoid further embarrassment.

Roberto Soldado has had a bad season but the one thing he has not done is hide, he has still been prepared to put himself in the position to try again. After a summer of relaxing the mind he'll start next season without the pressure he has put himself under this season and we hope we'll see a different player.


The mental shift Spurs must make


Sandro's tweet on Saturday morning was a mistake, yes he is telling the fans he has not been picked, which he doesn't deserve at the minute anyway, but it's just his hurt pride and his desire to play in the World Cup. He knows he has been poor, he knows he has been off the pace, easily beaten, he wants games to get himself ready for Brazil but that is not our problem. It shouts me me me although I must say he normally gives us 100% so I can understand his frustration, he is letting off steam.

Take a look at the substitutes next time. How many subs do you see simply going through the motions warming up, smiling and waving to the crowd, watching the game, chatting to the officials, not at all focussed on what they are doing. They are saying I don't want to warm up I just want to play but it is something I am required to do so I'll just make it look as if I'm warming up.

They are not psyched up for taking part in the game, they are not getting themselves in the best possible physical shape which could prevent them pulling a hamstring soon after coming on. He has to now take the time to try and mentally attune himself and get motivated while the game is already going on around him. The result is a lack of consistency, an inability to get into the game. The result will be ineffectual performances that both he and the crowd will then say were down to him not having enough time on the pitch, when in truth it is entirely down to his poor mentality.

Success come from the mind and transmits itself to the heart. Every action is a positive or a negative so next time you are watching a purported transfer target, watch every aspect of their game closely, indeed watch each Spurs player closely. You'll spot loads of examples of a positive or negative mind.

I'm going to harp back to Nabil Bentaleb again because that lad has the right mental attitude, he doesn't hide, you can see the fight and desire from him all the time. If we had 11 like him we would be winning the title. Sandro is usually another, Dawson has only got where he is because of his mentality. We need players in every position with their mental approach, every game matters, every game is big.

Football is a team game with 11 players. A club should have a playing philosophy from child through to the first eleven, they should all play the game in the same way, to the same formula, the same system.

Louis Van Gall has a system, the system is everything to him but and this is the vital vital aspect, he wants players who will buy into, listen and accept how he says it has to be done. Each player has a role and each player must have the right mentality.

He is reported as distrusting highly paid stars and says if you are good enough age is irrelevant. He is quite happy working with youth because thee is hunger there, there is the mental attitude that can be nurtured.


The mental shift Spurs must make



If you have two teams of equal ability where one has 10 players with the right mental attitude and one has 5 players with the right mental attitude, which side is going to win 9 times out of 10? The answer is obvious.

Let me tell you of a cricket game I was paying in, a meaningless friendly against a Stars XI for what of a better name. I was a second or third team player, I can't remember which bowling against a West Indian test match opening batsman. I was giving it my all, trying my absolute best, as I did for every game. The batsman edged the ball and it went sailing through the slips (they are the people standing waiting to catch the ball) and not one of them moved.

The all stood looking as it flew past them. Prior they had been laughing and joking so i gave them a verbal volley about lack of effort about always trying to give your best. I was basically telling these star paid first XI players that their mental approach sucked.

It worked, the batsman promptly hit my next four balls for four!

That example shows the difference between winners and losers, winners try all the time, losers try when it matters to them and nobody knows when that is.

A team is just that a team, but a team of individuals, those individuals must work for the best for the team which will mean doing the best for themselves every single game.

As individuals they should be asking how they can improve, Gareth Bale didn't suddenly find he could move the ball both ways from a free-kick one day. He practiced and practiced to slowly improve.

How many players after a defeat can hold their head up and say I did my best, I gave everything I had? In that situation all the talk is about we didn't do this, we were poor, nobody taking responsibility saying I was poor, I let my teammates down.

Eleven men giving everything when you are losing will turn a game around, if only half a dozen do it you are playing with half a team and have virtually no chance. Everyone must totally believe that the result matters, that the result is important, that the three points are essential.

 The mental shift Spurs must make


If a side has that total belief in every game they will win 9 out of 10 of them. If you have total belief in something then it becomes possible, if you don't it isn't.

The 4 minute mile wasn't possible before it was achieved, then everyone started doing it, the mental barrier that was stopping everyone had been taken down. It required total belief that it was possible, not hope, but total belief.

The Tottenham players next season have to have total belief in their coach, total belief in his system, total belief that they can win every game they play.

Put eleven men on the field in that frame of mind and it will be a successful one.



P.S. You'll find the like buttons just below in the comments box so press your favourite and share this the first of a series of articles around.


Do leave your comments as well, I do get round to reading them all eventually.
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2 comments:

  1. i love this series. ive been watching football and playing it for 10 years and whenever i say that mentality is the most impt thing, everyone takes it with a pinch of salt. thats why i love tim sherwood, his not that good tactically but attitude wise his brilliant. just like sir alex at Man United, he always demands 200 pct by constantly screaming at them.

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  2. Hello ke yongxiang I think you are right, he has the right mental approach just lacks the coaching knowledge. There are 10 so far in the series so keep an eye out each day, they are scheduled for release each evening at 8.30pm (20.00hrs) UK time.

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