Behaviour Development has far greater implications than merely as a model for training and learning. Coaching, teaching preparation and skills acquisition are all things we relate to specific match conditions. ‘Match’ obviously relates to game day, universally understood to be the most intense pressure environment for athletes. We work regularly on this disconnect between the way people practice/prepare for an event and the way they perform in the event itself.

When comparing players behaviour in a match situation to how they attempt to replicate this behaviour when practising the disconnects are all to clear. Practice, it is said, makes perfect and it’s true that repetition helps in the acquisition of a new specific skill. Possessing a skill however counts for very little if it can’t be performed when it truly matters. The key to effective practice, then, is to make it purposeful. Repetition has its place, but to be effective, practice must reproduce match conditions as closely as possible. This is what we like to call ‘pressure practice’.

Pressure practice can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Whether in individual training drills or in team specific training segments. During individual training sessions we tell kickers to mentally picture the game situation they would look to perform in. What is the game situation? What is the crowd like? All this allows them to prepare for a moment that could occur in the game. This prepares the player mentally if the situation arises in the game, limiting the anxiety felt in that pressure moment.

With team sessions we consistently use specific drills in our workshops. This can be done in a multitude of ways such as; box kicking, goal kicking or clearing. What we see often with the kids in our workshops is that they grow in confidence as the session develops. When you combine that to improved performance we see kids developing mental calmness, this will then transfer to the game.

 

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