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STEP UP! – Mental preparation for higher-level struggles in team sports, Episode 3: “Team-oriented” personality types in the higher leagues

As we’ve seen, fundamentally self-oriented players are attracted and move up to a higher division, and if we don’t ruin their enthusiasm, they provide the team with serious dynamism and a chance to avoid relegation. For team-oriented players, the situation is nowhere near as simple, as they need to work on the deepest points of the psyche to start a higher-level tournament with any acceptable performance at all.

Team-oriented mentality

Routine, familiar elements, and a familiar environment are the basic success criteria for team-oriented, Supporter- and Expert-type, players. Common sense dictates that none of these is given in a new league when the team first moves up. Just as it should be a rule for Supporter children to break out of their usual environment only as a last resort, because it is very difficult and very stressful to find their place in a new environment, we have to say the same about Supporter players. They alone cannot cope with such a challenge. And here, it is very important to know that no matter if you are an elite athlete or an average person, your reaction to similar situations will be similar. Their preparation is, therefore, a longer process. However, it should be noted that even if we have done everything perfectly, they will not be the ones to save the world in the season’s first matches. If a Ruler or Individual player doesn’t find themself in the first 4-5 matches – generally that is two home and two away matches – and they still cannot show their true skillset, then there’s a big issue. And we can check whether they are playing better from match to match anyway, but that doesn’t mean anything to their mental development. Because they need a clear, spectacular breakthrough. One where we no longer doubt that they have “arrived” into the new league. The situation is completely different for team-oriented players. What’s really important here is to evaluate a player’s courage, activity, and level of fear by comparing the matches. If one can see improvement, then that player will have no problem and will find themself really starting to get used to the new environment. This can be measured in “normal activity”. It is not necessary to consider whether they are forcing passes, shots, attempts, or perhaps activating themself when the coach grumbles, but whether, from their own motivation, they are naturally moving towards an active state.

The Supporter and Responsibility

This can be greatly aided by a coach whose job is to take responsibility, because Supporter players are most afraid of new responsibilities. What if I lose the ball? What if I avoid the situation? What if I ruin the team’s result with a mistake? After all, they are most afraid of harming the team, their community. They do not dare to take on this responsibility. In such cases, the coach needs to intervene, and the phrase “the next situation is yours, it’s no problem if you screw up, I will take full responsibility” can help a lot to dynamise a fully capable Supporter player. Many people say these words, of course, but not at the right place at the right time. There are great dangers in generalisation. For example, if a coach encourages a self-oriented player with the same sentence, they can be sure that they have bought 5-6 thoughtless, hasty, and usually unsuccessful attempts or passes. Because for a Ruler or Individual player, it’s oil on the fire to act even more selfishly, as they now have the authority to do so! For Supporter players, it is very important to keep the coach-player relationship at a high level in the first matches, because this way, the coach can also monitor the true state of mind of the player, and for Supporter athletes, everything depends on that.

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STEP UP! – Mental Preparation for Higher-Level Struggles in Team Sports, Episode 2: “Self-Oriented” Personality Types in the Higher Leagues