Football: Cambridge United – The Wembley Effect

So Cambridge United fail in their bid to return to League football. A single goal defeat to Exeter City, condemning them to another season in the Blue Sq. Premier League.

Manager, Jimmy Quinn was gracious in defeat. But he must be bemoaning the fact, that his team, really failed to do themselves justice at Wembley.

Far too much valuable possession was conceded, through poor passing and decision-making. It really looked, as if the occasion had got to the The U’s. Perhaps they had failed to engage in a Wembley familiarisation process.

When you are playing at a venue such as Wembley, it is very important to throughly familiarise yourself with the surroundings. That means, making maximum use of the time you spend on the pitch, after you’ve arrived at the stadium.

Often, you will see players, handling calls on their mobiles, as they stroll across the lush Wembley turf, in their new suits. This serves no real purpose.

The familiarisation process, involves, taking mental pictures of your surroundings. Why? To create a feeling of settlement. That’s one of the reasons, that teams perform better on their home turf.

The players minds and bodies, have become, over time, familiar with their surroundings, at their home ground. This familiarity, leads to a sense of settlement, which creates a relaxed state of mind and ultimately, confidence.

When you are playing at a new venue therefore, it is good mental preparation, to familiarise your self with the surroundings, as thoroughly as possible.

So, with the stadium, quiet and empty, you adopt your team positions on the pitch and individually, look into the near, middle and far distance. You mentally take quick pictures, of everything that is in your gaze. The pitch. The goals. The corner flags. The advertising hoardings. The stadium. The roof. And any imagery beyond the stadium you can see.

Then you move around the pitch, in both defensive and attacking positions, and again take mental pictures of your surroundings. You can then, walk all around the pitch to continue doing this process. Quick mental snapshots.

By the time the game eventually begins, your mentality will feel comfortable with your surroundings. Because, everything you see, will appear familiar. You have been here before.

Thus critical nervous energy, can be directed into your game, rather than handling the uncertainty of an unfamiliar situation. Less unsettled nerves, calmer performance.

If Cambridge United had engaged in the familiarisation process today, there is no guarantee that they would have beaten Exeter City. But, there is every chance, that they would have performed in the manner, that took them to Wembley. As it is, they return back to Cambridgeshire, reflecting upon a lost opportunity. Wembley, simply got the better of them.

Note: Basketball legend, Michael Jordan was an expert in the familiarisation process. He even went so far, as to personally introduce himself to away venue personnel. The more he felt at home, the better he performed.

Posted in Football Psychology, Sports Psychology Blog.