There are many fascinating moments in the Netflix documentary The Last Dance. One of which is when author Mark Vancil attempts to sum up what it is that makes basketball’s Michael Jordan great.
‘Being Present!’. That’s what makes Michael the best, says Vancil. He is always fully present. He’s a mystic. He is never anywhere else.
His words came to mind when watching the FA Cup semi-final yesterday. Manchester United keeper David De Gea had a game to forget. Chelsea’s first goal from Olivier Giroud may have been saveable.
But the second from a speculative drive from Mason Mount, was most certainly one you would expect your keeper to save. De Gea could only push it into the net.
Of all the positions on a football pitch, it’s perhaps the keeper that requires the greatest need to be fully present. If you are pre-occupied, or experiencing doubts, then these create filters over the eyes.
It means you can be susceptible to missing critical information. It can cause you to lose timing; mis-read the pace of shots, and generally lose confidence in your own ability.
It basically means you are not seeing things clearly. You second guess yourself, as your mind, body and the game are all slightly out of sync. You are simply not present.
You don’t see things before they happen. You see things after they have happened, and so have to rely on your technique to get you out of trouble. If you then have doubts about your technique, then you give away goals that don’t match your ability.
The thing about top players is that they solve problems quickly. They are tuned into the micro-details of their own game and process, and know where to look when things go wrong.
That is why their slumps don’t last too long. Of course you can go stale and need a fresh challenge. And the top players know when they need to set themselves new goals and challenges. to stimulate their senses, and lay down the gauntlet to themselves.
What they absolutely don’t do is let things drift. For drift equates to mediocrity. And is the enemy of the top player.
David De Gea still has some years to go before he reaches the peak age for keepers, where experience and game intelligence merges with talent.
But with the pundits casting doubts about your world number one credentials, this is the perfect time to demonstrate the quality that is found in every top player. The desire to prove everyone wrong!