By Adrian Scoffham
Once you get up to the higher echelons of any profession virtually everything that you do is a pre-trained action – time needed to take decisions is in the hundredths of a second range, something that some would call intuitive. That means that on the field the superstar footballer is no longer actually actively considering what he’s doing with his motor systems – those are running fully on autopilot. What he’s reacting to on the field is the way that he feels about himself, his team, his coach and the way the game is going. On leaving Real Madrid Özil said “At that moment (a few days ago), I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that the coach and the board no longer had confidence in me, I am a player who needs that confidence and the possibility came up to go to Arsenal, which is why I chose to go there.”
Contrast this against an interesting section of the bitter statement released by Daniel Levy upon announcing that Gareth Bale was to join Madrid “”Such has been the attention from Real Madrid and so great is Gareth’s desire to join them, that we have taken the view that the player will not be sufficiently committed to our campaign in the current season. We have, therefore, with great reluctance, agreed to this sale” – in other words Levy didn’t feel confident that Bale would perform because his head had been turned by another club, indeed his annoyance at the public flattery of Bale was widely reported.
Indeed the effect of this public flattery of Bale combined with the arrival of Isco into Real’s midfield served to deliver a clear message to Özil that he was no longer loved at Madrid. Some observers have gone on record saying that he never played a major part in big games – yet by deciding to move to Arsenal he has made clear he has every intention of taking centre stage. All of his comments made thus far centre-in on confidence.
Arsene Wenger has played a long game to get hold of Özil, gently making encouraging comments over the years as he worked as a co-commentator on France’s TF1 in full knowledge that this would filter back to the player – it is evident from his comment that confidence is the major issue for Özil “Arsene Wenger showed confidence in me and now I will be able to continue progressing as a player.” In other words, the way Madrid had made him feel is that he would stagnate by staying.
Now consider the way that the Sunderland players are feeling, Paulo Di Canio is a charismatic and inspiring character, yet talented players like Özil would not perform for him following his public comments regarding members of his playing staff. It is essential for professional footballers to feel the confidence and trust of their coach or manager when they go on the field – for without this they no longer feel free to perform to the best of their abilities – in fact doubt serves to move them from using the highly automated learned actions to regress back into conscious thinking mode – where far more mistakes are made, in turn more criticism is made and the downward spiral continues.
The positive spiral of confidence – performance – confidence -performance is easily unbalanced by careless talk – it is therefore essential for anyone making public statements that will be seen and heard by players to express confidence in their abilities and performance, for the more talented the performer the more sensitive their radar is in seeking out positive and negative cues from key influencers. On and off the field the game is decided in the mind, of that we can be confident.
— Mark Sheasby (@marksheasby) September 5, 2013
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