Flow moves to give players that mental edge
Audley Boyd, Assistant Sports Editor
GETTING in the head of players, especially, may be the best way to get them their game.
This view finds strong support among local top-flight football coaches, whose teams will benefit from a sports psychology session organised by the title sponsors as part of their package for this season's Flow Champions Cup.
"Psychological preparation is very important to the sport," said Andrew Price, head coach of Boys' Town, one of the dozen Premier League teams in the 26-strong field that will be challenging for the island's premier knockout title, beginning Wednesday, October 1.
"I think it is a significant addition to the programme that Flow has and it will definitely help, not only the players, but the coach and the management staff to do some psychological analysis of the players."
Price, who is also general manager of the Premier League Clubs' Association (PLCA), noted that as necessary as it is, mental preparation of players is a rarity.
"We've somebody who can assist us from time to time," he said. "But sports psychologists also need to be paid like doctors, so it's an expense we cannot afford, to have somebody on the books to do that. But we see the need for it; we invite the individual in to give some counselling to the players."
Shrink support is a new innovation for this year's Flow KO, the fifth year in succession that the cable providers are backing the national competition. It will be tied into the annual football clinic, to be led by former Reggae Boy Altimont 'Freddie' Butler at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Academy at the University of the West indies on September 26.
"I think this is a good year to add the psychological component," noted Naomi Francis, corporate communications manager, Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, operators of Flow.
She added: "We've seen where there's a deficit of mental agility and that extra thing to get some championship teams doing very, very well."
The course caters to players, coaches and managers of all 26 participating teams (14 from parish level competition) and will be administered by Olivia Rose, a sports psychologist who Francis pointed out "has been working with many of the sporting teams and sporting athletes from the University level; track athletes, footballers, even basketballers as well as some netballers".
Rose is also completing her doctorate studies.
At the competition's launch on Monday at the same place where the clinic will be held, Rose also used a five-point plan - in keeping with the sponsor's fifth anniversary theme - to drive home the importance of mental preparedness.
"One, Champions recognise the need for training and preparation; two, champions recognise that they cannot do it alone; three, champions don't try, they do; four, Champions are dynamic people; and five, champions never lose," she outlined, adding that "they always gain a tremendous amount of wealth from the experience".
Raymond Grant, general secretary of the JFF, says psychological intervention is significant.
"If you look at the five points that were raised, it is five critical areas that most of our players and teams in general are struggling in. If the PLCA, PFAJ (Professional Football Association of Jamaica) and JFF can come together and get these types of assistance I think it is noteworthy," said Grant, who went on to explore the idea on a wider scale.
"If you look at sports across the globe, many of the champion teams utilise sports psychology within their unit. It's an added element to the sport and I believe it's a fitting one," Grant remarked.
Rivoli United's veteran Premier League coach, Calvert Fitzgerald, was practical in his assessment.
"That's one of the missing aspects in Jamaica's football why we can't get players performing consistently at a high standard," he said.
"I have been advocating for it a long time because sometimes you see these players in training, they train exceptionally well without pressure and come match day you can't believe it's the same player," Fitzgerald said.
That, Rose explains, constitutes the very existence of sports psychologists.
"A lot of times more emphasis is placed on physical training and we omit or ignore mental preparation," she explained. "This is where a sports psychologist comes in and we engage you in a programme of mental training so that you can perform when it matters the most, which is usually in competition."