Sports psychologist, University of Stirling
Being relaxed can be a good thing – but some players require an edge of tension and anxiety to galvanise their effort. Again, I would recommend each player to focus on their individual preparations for the match to help them produce their best performance.
Dr Mathers said that the players most likely to cope best with the situation are those who are able to regulate their individual stress levels, focus correctly, adhere to their process goals, practice positive self-talk, and recover from mistakes quickly. He added that it’s important to create an environment of collective identity – where each player feels part of the group and has a shared vision – but can prepare individually in a way that allows them to deliver on their role.
“I’d be looking to create a blend of group togetherness and individual excellence, which I am sure the coaching staff will have been working on in recent times,” he said.
Reflecting on the intense and emotional build-up to the match, Dr Mathers said: “I am sure the squad will have been relaxed in the days leading up to the game – the test will come when the match approaches.
“Inappropriate emotions can often be a distraction in professional sport. However, some players thrive on high levels of emotion and perceive this as a positive benefit. The manager will know the players well though, and allow each of them to prepare in the way that best fits their psychophysiological make up.
“Being relaxed can be a good thing – but some players require an edge of tension and anxiety to galvanise their effort. Again, I would recommend each player to focus on their individual preparations for the match to help them produce their best performance.”
Dr Mathers believes tonight’s result could be pivotal in terms of its impact on future performances, adding: “Recent performance history shapes future expectations. So, if a team experiences consistent failure, the expectancy of success is reduced. In many ways, the longer a team fails to qualify for a major event, the harder it seems to become. If Scotland qualifies for the finals this time, then there will be an expectancy that we can do it again.”
Dr Mathers, an accredited British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) sports psychologist, is Programme Director for the MSc Psychology of Sport at the University of Stirling. His research interests focus on the delivery and integration of mental skills teaching and learning within elite sport and he provides sports psychology consultancy services to a number of national governing bodies of sport in Scotland, the UK and Europe.