Love or hate football, the World Cup is everywhere just now – and there are a few things it can teach us about how Non-Technical Skills are crucial to getting the best out of ourselves:
Emotions naturally run high during any competition, but surely never more so than in a World Cup scenario. Anger is inevitably one of those emotions, resulting from thwarted efforts, frustration with team mates and opponents and the fear of failure.
Why bother controlling anger? Surely it is a natural emotion?
If we are to work cooperatively with others, then anger management is essential. Showing anger demonstrates inconsideration for others’ needs, a lack of support for others, disrespect and an inability to deal with conflict.
England’s nemesis, Uruguay player Luis Suarez, is a great case in point for anger management. His inability to manage anger resulted in the infamous incident where he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovicly during a match last year. One theory as to why Suárez lost control was that he had wound himself up for his indiscretion at the other end. It was his handball that gifted Chelsea a 2-1 lead and he was displaying a rabid fury.
He has since worked successfully with Dr Steve Peters a top sports psychologist who works with many leading sports professionals. His specialty is working on reducing the influence of the emotional, rash component of our brain that carries fear, emotion, compulsion and irrational thought and action. He calls it ‘the chimp’. He achieves this by improving the performance of the rational “human” part of our brain. His highly successful book is called The Chimp Paradox.
So far Suarez has not displayed any angry outbursts during the World Cup matches – suggesting that his work with Peters on his ‘chimp’ to curb his aggressive behaviour has enabled him to manage his emotions and focus on his performance.
Our Human Factors and Non-Technical Skills training courses cover many of the principles that Dr Steve Peters teaches. Our training explains how we can manage our emotions to reduce aggressive behaviour with a view to making more effective decisions and improving performance. Although driving trains for example, is slightly different from the rigors of the football field, having the ability to keep your emotions in check is a vital skill.
Unfortunately it appears that Steve’s work with Suarez may have back fired on England following the recent 2 goal assault that Suarez delivered to England leaving their future in the competition in the hands of the footballing gods.
Anxiety and poor performance
Italian legend Alessandro Costacurta accurately forecast that his team would beat England – believing his team had the edge over England mentally because the Premier League’s pace and stress makes it harder for English players. He commented that “With England, they play worse than their abilities suggest they can, because they’re paralysed by anxiety. The Premier League is a lot more stressful and demanding than Serie A, especially this year when Juventus’ title was never in danger. The Premier League was in the balance right until the very end: all of the players from Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea will be more tired than our players.” His prediction was correct and England lost 2-1 to Italy. The team plagued by anxiety lost.
Anxiety can cause real problems with our performance at work and our relationships at home. Some people have a very identifiable cause for their anxiety such as a traumatic incident, lots of stressors or a significant life event like playing a World Cup tournament, moving house, getting divorced, having surgery. However, some people don’t have an identifiable cause for their anxiety and it causes them some distress.
One way of thinking about your anxiety is to imagine stress levels as being like a bucket of water. If we keep adding stressors to the bucket, over time it fills up until one day it overflows – explaining why sometimes anxiety can apparently result from a small stressor such as the regular in-laws visit or commuting to work. It is the proverbial ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.
Our Non-Technical Skills programmes take a close look at how we can successfully manage our anxiety levels, suggesting approaches and techniques we can use to keep our bucket ‘leaky’ – i.e. with enough holes to let stress leak out and go back to manageable levels before anxiety kicks in. The holes will be different for each of us – it may be a walk with the dog, exercising, watching TV, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.
Anxiety is worth managing as it affects our concentration levels – and therefore your driving performance. So make sure you have enough holes in your bucket!
Our Non-Technical Skills and Human Factors programmes cover the full range of Non-Technical Skills required for safety critical roles in the rail industry. Find out about our range of training programmes here, and please contact us if you would like to find out more or about programme availability.
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