Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning from failures in Team Sports

TEAM UNDERDOGS: From L to R - 1. Meldon (Captain), 2. Sashwath, 3. Abhishek Pathak, 4. Halesh, 5. Asmitha & 7. Abhishek Ghosh [6. Is BFC footballer Chhuantea Fanai. Teams which qualified into semi-finals had the privilege to interact with BFC players] 

What a day it was! Sunday, 14th of May-2017, BFC (Bengaluru Football Club) organised an event BFC Day Out, at Bangalore Football Stadium. For football enthusiast like me, the 5 a side tournament was the star attraction.

It was an open invite, online registration for participation which attracted football enthusiasts from all over Bangalore & also from other cities (one of our team mate Sashwath came down from Chennai).

The 5 a side team was formed by random assignments of the participants. Total of 24 Teams competed in the day long tournament.

Our Team UNDERDOGS, came 3rd among the 24 teams...... we came a long was so near, yet so far. When we started off, none of us expected we would come that far into the tournament. Sadly failing in the semis was heart breaking. A bitter-sweet experience & a day full of bright moments, which will remain itched for a long time in our memories.

I am writing this blogpost, not as a memoir, but from the point of view of a Psychologist (I being a Psychologist). We become wiser in the hindsight, looking back I listed down my learning from the failure we faced, taking the approach of Sports Psychology.

  • Transforming a group into a Team:
Football is a team sport & like any team sport, individual brilliance alone cannot take the team over the finishing line. Therefore the key to success in tournaments where teams are formed by random assignment is transforming a 'Group into a Team' within the limited time period.

When we all met for the first time in the morning, we did put in conscious effort in knowing each other e.g. our names, professions, home, football interests, we sat together in a hurdle chatting & sharing snacks etc. This bonding & camaraderie gave us positive results in the form of 3 consecutive victories. In fact, one of the player from an opponent team asked me "Do you guys know each other & play together?" When I told him, we met just a while back for the first time, he was surprised & complimented our team's good coordination & formation play. I personally believe, if an opponent player was able to make this observation, it must have been an outcome of our collective effort of transforming our group into a team, which played as a cohesive unit.

By noon time, there was a One & half hour break (lunch, rest time). During this break, unfortunately, we didn't hang in together as we did in the morning. Rather we got dispersed for the entire break time, only to reassemble just before our next round of matches. Sadly, this time around we met with shocking results, losing 2 consecutive matches in semis & getting knocked off from securing a berth in the finals.

A word of advice for players, participating in similar format tournaments. Make a conscious effort to be together all throughout. Off the pitch efforts of knowing one other, bonding & camaraderie, will bring positive results on the pitch. One cohesive team trusting & enjoying each other's company, will always outshine their opponents, in a team sport.

Real world evidence of this phenomenon - 

Namdhari XI, who emerged as 7th Hockey sub-junior Champion, beating Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) on 5th May, 2017 is a classic example, which testifies the importance of Team formation in Team Sports.

Namdhari Hockey Academy is based in a non-descript village of Sant Nagar, 55 kms from Sirsa towards the Rajasthan border on state highway 32. Most of the players belong to Namdhari sect & are from same village & they have been training together in the academy since their childhood over several years.

The MSSA team had talented players, who were chosen through a tough scouting/talent search process all through out the state of Maharashtra.

Sine the Namdhari XI players have been together for many years & their bond is at a different level altogether. They were a formidable force all throughout the tournament & ultimately emerged as champions in the fiercely fought final's against MSSA, beating them 2-1.

  • Don't break the momentum:  
While waiting during the long noon break time, I made a comment during my conversation with my teammates Meldon & Asmitha, "Our momentum is broken, due to this long break. It would have been good if the tournament had got over in one shot, rather than being played in two halves, pre-noon & post-noon."
Unfortunately, this passing comment of mine did come true. Once our momentum was broken, our team never, managed making a successful come back in the post-noon session.

A word of advice for players, facing similar situation do your level best to retain your momentum. The time gap, is not in your control but what you do during the time gap is within your control. Keeping the team engaged, staying focused on the goal through planning & discussion, warm up sessions etc can restrict the momentum from fizzling out.

Real world evidence of this phenomenon - 

We have see this phenomenon occur so many times, during strategic time out sessions in Indian Premium League (IPL) Cricket matches. This couple of minutes of break, puts a jolt on the ongoing momentum of the better performing team. When the match resumes after the strategic time out, on many instance the side who were going great guns (either scoring runs or bowling tightly) suddenly appears unsettled, yet to fall into the grove. This break in momentum, allows the under performing team to bounce back & seize an opportunity to turn around the script.

  • Facing stiff competition & Failing early on, is a blessing in disguise: 
In the post noon-session, our team mate Abhishek Pathak did put across a word of caution "In all our previous matches we have always secured the first lead (goal). But if in semi-final match we concede a goal first, let's not allow it to adversely affect us. Let us believe, we can bounce back."

Once again, unfortunately, Abhi's word of caution came true. We conceded a goal early on, trailing from behind being our first such experience in a high pressure match (semi-finals) got the better of us. We probably succumbed due to our inexperience & our lack of grit to effectively handle failure.

A word of wisdom for players, if you face set-back during the early stages of the league see it as a blessing in disguise. These initial failures prepares you to take on failures head on, during the advanced stages into the league.

Real world evidence of this phenomenon - 

Indian cricket team's famous run up to the finals, in ICC World Cup, 2003. In Pool - A, India won all the matches except one against Australia (won 5 out of 6). In Super Six stage, India won all the matches (3), winning semi-finals before the succumbed in the finals to Australia. In other words, India lost the finals after their 8 consecutive victories. Probably, few more defeats in the group stage would have conditioned (prepared) them better to handle tough situations during the final match, facing a tough opponent like Australian cricket team. 

  • Don't allow the pressure of big match, unnerve you:
Our Captain Meldon named our team 'UNDERDOGS', quite aptly. The name suited us, because when we met for the first time none of us had any high expectations nor hope of going so far into the tournament (reaching semi-finals). Hence the name Underdog resonated with us because we were oblivious of both internal (our's) & external (other's) pressures. Our ability to stay away from pressure & expectations paid rich dividends as we won 3 consecutive matches in the knock-out stages.

But as we progressed into the league reaching the semi-finals, the tag of 'semis' played in our mind. We could see the finals just a match away & we wanted to desperately win the semis. This desperation, pressure, expectations became a deterrent to our enjoyment & our natural playing abilities. In summary, we failed to keep things simple during the pressure situation.

Real world evidence of this phenomenon - 

Indian cricket team's famous 1983 World Cup win against defending champion West Indies, is a classic example of this phenomenon. India were underdogs & no one gave them a change. The Indian team approached the finals as just another match & they were happy to have made it so far. On the other hand West Indies had so much of expectations riding on them both internal & external. The pressure on them was enormous & the West Indies players were confident (possibly over-confident) of an assured win, while going into the match. Rest is history, the underdogs India defeated the mighty West Indies & became the World Champion. 

Sadly, this UNDERDOGS Team, couldn't manage to become the Champions on the BFC Day Out Tournament Day (we wholeheartedly accept, we lost to a better team). Inspite of this failure, we achieved a lot on that day. We gained experience of playing in such tournaments, we enjoyed playing football throughout the day, enjoyed competing against several equally talented teams in the true spirit of sportsmanship & above all making forging a relationship of friendship with our new teammates - 'The Underdogs'.