Football Psychology: England – Liberating Roy!

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Football PsychologySo England finally move into the world of 21st century football. A sports psychologist should be a critical part of any high level performance team. Not a late after-thought.

There has been a strong consensus of support for the appoinment of Dr Steve Peters. England’s big tournament failings have consistently been caused by psychological weakness. And it is expected that his work will focus on the psychology of the penalty shoot-out.

But there are other key areas that he can focus on to help England overcome their long-standing tournament inhibitions.

The first and most important task should be to work closely with the manager. It’s Roy Hodgson’s first World Cup. His football philosophy appears to be conservative. And a conservative strategy is unlikely to win a World Cup in this era of fluent flowing football.

Helping the manager to free up his thinking and imagination, would be a good place to start. England won’t get out of their group playing the way they did against Germany, Chile and Denmark. But they may give themselves a better chance if they can surprise their opponents with a sense of verve, passion and the fearlessness of youth. And it all begins with the manager.

Hodgson has to transform his fear of losing, into the willingness to allow his young players to play with an unfettered freedom. Yes they should know their roles. But they should also have permission to play the game as they see it. To not worry about losing the ball, but to take knowing risks, placing high trust on their strengths and skills.

When you have players who have not experienced fear of losing at international level, then you must empower that uninhibited psychology. It will give the players confidence, knowing that the manager has given them licence to play with speed, tempo and boldness. And to make decisions as they see it, not as they are told.

Changing the habits of a lifetime is never easy. But if Roy Hodgson wants to carve his name in English football history, then he has to go to Brazil freed up of a ‘play not to lose’ inhibition. And that should be Steve Peters’ first and most important conversation.