A Winning Mentality
If you are reading this post then I have added another winners medal to my trophy cabinet.
Now before we get too excited, I realise my entire football “career” has been undertaken in and around non-league.
My journey has taken in such clubs as Bromley, Tooting & Mitcham, Lewes and Cray Wanderers as well as my most recent Ashford United.
I mention the club’s above as they are all clubs that I have picked up silverware in some shape or form and I’ve been trawling through my memory banks to see if there is a common denominator that has enabled me to win trophies in each of these teams.
Could it be the genius of the manager? Was it the huge budget of the club that allowed them to attract the best local players? Was it an exceptionally gifted player that carried the rest of the team?
In my opinion, no. It was more often than not a combination of a variety of factors. Belief in each other. Togetherness. An enjoyable dressing room. A common goal. A trusting manager that allowed players to express themselves. Players that bought into the manager’s philosophy. A winning mentality.
I’ve read a lot of literature over the years around elite sportsmen and women and the thousands of hours of practice it took before they were able to consistently perform at the levels required to reach the pinnacle of their sport but for every Serena Williams or Tiger Woods there are a whole host of professional athletes that have plied their trade and picked up a wage without ever putting their hands on a senior trophy. Non-league football is full of players that have never won anything. Not a single team trophy.
What were these athletes missing from their skillet? A winning mentality.
Consider the worst losers in professional sport. I think of someone like Lewis Hamilton. His inability to take defeat well resonates with me. First rule of being a winner, be a terrible loser. I don’t mean storm out of the clubhouse in a huff or actively ignore team orders but don’t spend the time immediately after a loss laughing in the bar. Think about how you could have done better, reflect on the performance and come back ready to improve or work harder or both. A winning mentality.
Different personalities approach and prepare for a match in different ways. There is no secret one size fits all solution. Allowing players the freedom to take an approach that works for them is crucial. There are talkers and there are those who prefer their actions to do the talking, there must be a place for introverts to play a part as well as extroverts.
Managers and coaches being able to understand and recognise that each player needs a different style of man-management based on confidence, experience, role and responsibilities enables the team to operate cohesively and effectively.
Building a core nucleus of players that “self-manage” the team with regards to the ambience cannot be underestimated. Some of the most successful sides in recent history will talk of 2 or 3 players that policed the team in such a way that poor performances were all but eradicated. Roy Keane is a stand out example. What was that special ingredient that he had? A winning personality? Certainly not. A winning mentality? In spades.