Welcome to <SKILL UP> episode 03!
Let us introduce our third player - Siam Haddy, the 30 year old British footballer.
Please tell us about your Mental Preparation for a Game!
- Siam's Mental Preparation
An old message by the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, has always stuck with me: “...before I got in the ring, I’d won it out here on the road... the real part is won or lost somewhere far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym and out here on the road long before I dance under those lights..." You win with the thousands of collective hours spent as a team before the 90 minutes on matchday. But that's the second thing you have to remember. The first? You make sure of one thing: whether you win or lose the game, you learn.
It takes a long time to build a routine for a football match. There are so many intricate things that can make the difference. I may be different to others, and what may work for me will certainly not be guaranteed to work for others.
For me, the preparation can start numerous days before the game. From the food that is eaten, to the beverages consumed - it's always at the back of my mind. On the evening before the game, I have a heavier loaded meal of carbohydrates. It fuels me up. As we often say, "to go to war in those 90 minutes the following day".
I get decent sleep - not too much - which leaves you lethargic. I take light, mixed-nutrient filled food 3-4 hours prior to the match. This will get you dietarily ready. The time spent socialising with my teammates as you approach the moment before the pre-game chat is crucial. Not too much new information is given during this time and the things we already mostly know are reiterated. We then head out together, prepared, get a solid warm-up led by the trusted captain. That's it. Arms in, all together, ready for a fight.
Managing one’s mentality is not easy. What is the most basic attitude you require to do so?
I think setting up the mindset and mind frame is important. There are a number of words that can almost be used interchangeably – mind frame, mentality, attitude, character, drive. You have to step back and look at the bigger picture – put things into perspective. You have to be able to carry out the finer details, with the ability and vision of seeing where it all fits in. Look at the path that has been set out, stick to it, do your best – and I mean really do your best – to achieve your best. Attitude and mentality is everything. Being one of the older ones in the group, I can now see the increased importance in things I didn’t take much notice of when I was younger, or thought it would have as much of an impact. It’s a bit of a natural progression - you learn as you get older. I say to some of the real talents in the squad, "If you had my work rate, you wouldn’t be playing here”. Well, in reality, it’s more like I’d be playing at a higher level if I had their talent!
Moreover, the mindset applies in a number of aspects. Do your best before training. Prepare for the game. Get the correct gear. Get punctuality right, ask the right questions, and follow-up with questions. It’s all a part of the process of improvement. All of this happens before you even start to talk about getting onto the pitch. There are different abilities that can be developed on grass.
Like I say, for me, it’s all about the mentality. Talent is a gift, but it's crucial when the team needs the most talented to stand-up and be counted on. Mentality means hunger, drive, and passion. The appreciation for the game at its core is at the very forefront of what can make the difference - the difference to win. When you play against players of the highest ability, very often, mentality can be the difference – and it’s said a lot – the winners are those who want it more.
How do you manage (or help manage) others’ mentality in a team? What do you do to motivate players?
It's important nowadays to acknowledge that everyone’s different. Different things make different people tick. The modern game consists of modern players, with entirely different and finer forms of management and leadership. That’s why there are two main things we have to enable to get the best out of a team.
First, we must create the right environment for everyone to thrive. It’s often said, “We are a product of our environment”, and as such, we have to cultivate that environment to allow the talent to grow and thrive. Second, we don’t have a single leader in a group - we have multiple leaders. One of the thoughts I’ve come to have is that you don’t need a captain’s armband to be a leader on my pitch. You can ask those who have known me for a few years that I’ve had this view for a little while.
A lot more man-management is required by the modern coach. Rightly or wrongly – long-gone are the days of the scruff-of-the-neck leadership style of a Roy Keane. His style clearly worked for the Manchester United side. He embodied what Sir Alex demanded of his players out there.
Other notable leaders in my eyes are recently the likes of Jordan Henderson. Clearly a captain and leader in that side. Constant talking on the pitch, re-assurance, encouragement – the lot. In that Liverpool side, you have the likes of Milner and Virgil, who are also obviously very much leaders in their own right.
But then you also have the constantly vilified Granit Xhaka, who is a leader on the pitch for Arsenal. He more recently coined the (or should I say, my) phrase that, “You don’t need the captain’s armband to be a leader”.
There can be 11 different management, coaching, and motivation styles for 11 different players - not to forget the impact of the substitutes either left out by selection or forced out due to injury or other issues. Managing the players’ mentality is a skill that takes years to hone and develop, and I think that nobody really ever knows all the answers. We can always be learning, and we have to ensure that we’re ready to put our egos to the side.
You can win or lose. But you will always learn.
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