By Sophia Matthews
When I was a lad watching Liverpool, I never thought of my favourite players as being real people. They seemed just as connected to me and my life as Desperate Dan, Dennis The Menace or Roobarb & Custard. It wasn’t until I was midway through my teens and was walking through Liverpool City Centre one afternoon and I almost walked straight into Alec Lindsay. My God! I thought – these football players are real!
I started wondering – how do these people get the correct mindset to enable them to perform in front of thousands of people, week in, week out? Every game is a big game when you play for Liverpool. How did Steve Heighway do it? How did Ronnie Whelan do it? How does Stevie Gerrard do it?
I thought that if I worked out how footballers prepared for the big game, it would help me to prepare for the big moments in my life – my first job interview, my first (and so far only) marriage proposal, and so on. Has it helped me? I can safely say yes! I still use psychology today, even though now I am in my fifties most of my big days are behind me. I use it when I’m indulging in my main hobby of playing online poker, although I’ve played online poker for years at Full Tilt and I’m still no closer to being a poker millionaire than when I first began.
I put together the important aspects of ‘Big Game Psychology’ into five themes:
- Perspective – Okay, so it’s a big moment for me, but if I mess up, it’s not going to kill me or ruin my life. There’s always tomorrow. I just need to do my best.
- Process – The important thing is to concentrate on the game, and not the potential outcome. If I think too much about losing, it’ll make me nervous. If I concentrate on doing well, there’s more chance of a positive result.
- Present – What’s done and done and I can’t change it. I can only have so much control of the future. If I concentrate on the present, then the future’s more likely to be bright.
- Positive – Positive thinking promotes positive outcomes. Negative thinking gives rise to negative outcomes. I need to stay positive to give myself the best chance of success.
- Progress – I can only influence my own progress. Others will be better than me and there’s nothing I can do about that. I will know myself better if I focuses less on others.
It may sound simple, but when it comes to the big moments in my life, those are the five themes I always try and remember. Of course, I’m never going to lift the Champions’ League Trophy like Stevie Gerard did, but then it’s all a matter of perspective (and process, present, positive and progress!).
By Sophia Matthews