In a recent post on All-Black culture, I discussed some of the value systems that have been put in place. The All-Black culture puts the needs of the team above that of all individuals. The challenge is for each individual to leave the jersey in a better place than they found it – to add value to it.
Upon their return from a bad beating by South Africa in 2004 at a time when they struggled to fulfill their potential, the team management along with performance psychologist Gilbert Enoka, captain Tana Umaga and vice-captain Richie McCaw went about changing the pervading culture over a 3 day conclave - the result being a transference of positive leadership from the coaches to the players.
Evidence based report's suggest that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are obese with levels of growth estimated at about 1% per annum. It indicates a drastic rise from 1993 levels, when just 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women reported to be obese. Scarily, huge volumes of 4-5 year old children (24.5%) in Britain (NHS) reported to be obese in 2008. This does not account for the massive population of children that are just overweight, not yet obese but will be by the time they reach adulthood. If the growth rate continues at the present pace, over 50% of people in these countries will be obese by 2050.
Sharon was recently overlooked for promotion in her job after 20 years service. During that time she had taken on numerous extra responsibilities, from voluntary to leadership roles, in a company that is widely regarded among its staff, to be a toxic work environment. When a new employee with limited experience joined the company and was offered promotion after a very short spell, there was a strong sense of revolt among the staff. While the new employee was very nice and obliging, the sense of injustice among the staff towards Sharon was palpable. The new employee had been promoted after developing a strong personal relationship with one of the VPs and had other links within the company. For Sharon, this was the last straw and she felt she had to resign. It was hard for her to leave the company she had shown such loyalty to, but the minute she left, she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. The company recruitment process was rotten from top to bottom.
Manchester United sacked Jose Mourinho recently after two and a half years in charge. It was reported that senior figures at the club were unhappy with a lack of progress in form, style of play and development of their younger players. The club felt they had sufficiently backed Mourinho with £358.7million in the transfer market on 11 players during his time in charge and that they expected a greater measure of progress within that time-frame.
He was relieved after a poor performance against Liverpool, where Liverpool had 36 attempts at goal to United's 11. United lay mid-table with a goal difference of 0 almost halfway through the 2018/2019 Premier League campaign. The United players were believed to have wanted a change of manager as far back as September 18 and were said to have felt very restricted with the rigidity of team structure imposed on them by Mourinho.
In what is considered to be one of the greatest acts of sporting humility, Sonny Bill Williams gave his winners medal to a young child after he was tackled by a steward when he ran onto the pitch to greet his heroes after the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
People all over the world were mesmerised by the act.
Everybody has anxiety! We just all experience different levels of it with some people more pre-disposed to it than others. It is a topic we hear a lot about recently - a mental health issue that often went undisclosed and unspoken of in times of yore.
Typically, anxiety can be categorised into 2 levels;
1. Trait Anxiety
2. State anxiety
We all have a natural level of anxiety. We call this our trait anxiety or the level of anxiety that we are normally predisposed to. This can vary between individuals with highly anxious individuals experiencing a high level trait anxiety.
At the football World Cup 2018 in Russia, the president of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović flew to Russia economy class. She took a regular seat with her fans in the stadium at all of the matches bar the semi-final with England where she was busy at a NATO conference. At the final, she is spotted in the crowd with her people and invited to the VIP section. She is told she can't wear her jersey or nation's colours in this section. She wears them anyway - supporting her team all the way!
After the narrow loss, she is invited to the presentation podium with national leaders of both Russia and France. While other leaders stand under umbrellas, she greets her team and the opposition with pride in the spilling rain getting drowned wet! She embraces each player at the end, both winners and runners alike like long lost sons! Social media takes it viral! The people of Croatia are ultra proud!
Why was Alex Ferguson so successful?
So we recognise that Alex has been an inspirational leader in the football world for the past 30 years or more, winning numerous titles with Aberdeen and Manchester United. So many managers have come and gone in this time, many unsuccessful. So is there something that Ferguson happens to be good at? While he may not have realised the strength of its impact, his leadership had a direct impact on the reactions and performance levels of his players.
Over time, we have seen how winning teams always seem to have a very positive team ethic and culture. While having a positive team culture doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the sense of winning silverware, it generally ensures that a team gets the most out of itself.
Very often, there is only a minimal difference in skill and or fitness levels between the top few teams in any given competition. As such, the differentiator between being successful and not is often influenced by the level of selfless work-rate that individual members of a team are prepared to take on during the course of a game.
Typically, this selfless work-ethic is directly influenced by the level of team cohesion among team-mates; and team cohesion and work ethic is directly influenced by team culture. As such, the culture that a team management sets around a team is critical to producing an environment where the players are willing to forego individual ego and work hard in the best interests of the group.
I often get asked about how to get the most out of a group of players – from fitness, mental or tactical perspective. Some might ask about technical things such as various aspects of fitness or game plans while others might get frustrated about their players putting in sub-maximal effort. Many wonder what they should say to their players to get them to mentally “peak”.
The truth in fact is that most often, you don’t need to say anything at all – or indeed what you say is often of little importance in comparison to how you say it or how players feel treated in general.
As a practicing performance psychologist, I often get asked about how best it is to motivate a group. My answer often starts with a question or two!
“How do you relate to the players? What is it the group dynamic like? Does the management foster a positive social dynamic? Players most often play because they enjoy the sport. They turn up because they enjoy the sport and the challenge it presents.
They turn off it very often due to a poor relational or social dynamic – often fostered by inadequate managerial skills or through weak management facilitating or allowing a vacuum for dissent, player cliques or player unrest.
Stuart Lancaster is considered to have one of the best rugby coaching minds in the world. He has huge experience at the top level of professional rugby and has been involved in numerous successful teams.
He began his coaching career while working as a PE teacher in Kettlethorpe High School in England. The nature of a PE teaching role just naturally draws you into coaching through extra-curricular sports teams. He had plenty of success as a coach across a variety of sports including soccer and cricket at school’s level as well as rugby, the sport for which he became best known.
We have come to know the current Dublin football team as one of the greatest GAA teams of all time. They have overtaken Mick O'Dwyer's Kerry team of the 70's and 80's having just annexed the first 5 in a row of All-Ireland inter-county senior football titles.
They are obviously a very talented group, but there was always a talented group available in Dublin. They just sometimes they never realised their potential. Marshalled by Jim Gavin, this article takes a deeper look at the psychology behind their success.
Performance psychologist - accredited with Irish Institute of Sport