Land of Hope and Glory?

12/06/2014  -  12.39

Professor Andy Lane

Or is Hope a dangerous thing? England head for the World Cup with hope in their hearts!

England soccer team head for the World Cup with the hopes of the Nation packed in the undercarriage of their plane. The English press is infamous for its treatment of England managers with Turnips and Swedes coming to mind.

And at the last World Cup, our hopes were raised as we expected the “golden generation” to deliver success. Success at 2012 has helped engender the belief that we can win on the big stage and with evidence linking sporting success to money invested, surely soccer has an advantage with English Premier league being arguably the richest in the World. Will it be the case though?

To quote Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank  Redemption “Hope is a dangerous thing”!

Are players burdened by carrying the hopes of the nation on their shoulders? Yes, but that is professional sport. The stakes are high. England players tend to come from clubs where success is mandatory; where if the manager loses a few games, he is sacked and if players make mistakes, they do not play. And so they are used to pressure.

So if they are used to pressure; why don’t they play well? The simple phrase “play the game and not the occasion” is what they need to do. Autobiographies of players indicate that they want to win so much when playing for England that they ramp up the pressure in their mind.

A way to deal with this is to put the task in perspective. To remember that games are won and lost by passing, shooting, running and tackling and doing things that they know they can do.

Keeping this in perspective helps; England has taken Dr Steve Peters to help them with this task, and his “Chimp Model” is a fabulous approach to help put negative thoughts, performance pressures and threats to self-esteem into perspective.

We need to have hope; hope in sport is conjured in my mind by Liverpool’s famous comeback in the 2005 Champions league cup final; Manchester United’s come back to win against Bayern Munich in the same competition some years earlier and Wolverhampton Wanderers dream to get back into the Premier League!!!! Yes, we need to hope. Hope is a wonderful thing!

Andy Lane is Professor of Sport and Learning at the University of Wolverhampton’s Institute of Sport.

Andy is accredited from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) for scientific support and research. He is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and has authored more than 100 peer refereed journal articles.