The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – The Football Yips (The Psychology of Losing)

Back in April of 2017, the Eels were four games into a losing streak when I wrote a post about the sequence of losses. Titled, “The Importance of Winning” , it conversely examined the psychology of losing and began with this quote from legendary NFL coach, Vince Lombardi:

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

I then made the following observation:

“When losing becomes a habit, there’s zero to be gained. The simple things seem strangely complex. You start to overthink every aspect of your play. In working harder and trying harder the errors seem to mount. You lose faith in the footy instincts that made you a success in the first place. Worse still, you begin to lose trust in the players around you.”

At this moment, this tells part of the 2018 story for the Parramatta Eels. It’s not the entire story, because other factors started the sequence of losses. However, this “habit” is now becoming a major contributor in Parra’s current inability to secure victories, even when they are the better team or have significant opportunities to win matches.

2017 – Good times!

In 2017, following that early string of losses, winning became the habit. The Eels secured the victory in 14 of their next 18 regular season matches. Often, their performances were pitched just a little bit above the level of their opposition, no matter what form the opposition was in. In other words, the team found a way to win.

In 2018 the opposite is true.

No matter the opposition, apart from a couple of blow-outs, the Eels are performing at a level just below the team they’re playing. If the opposition is playing poorly, the Eels go that little bit worse. If the opposition is playing well, the Eels are not quite good enough. They manage to find a way to lose, even when they deserve to win.

Just this past week, I was sent a message by a fellow Eels fan, “DOC”, via social media. In his detailed message, DOC likened the team’s performances to a golfer having the “yips”. He further stated that it provided an answer as to why there was a stark contrast between their preparations and their execution on match days.

This clearly resonated with me and I found myself referring back to the 2017 post.

* Atrocious completion rates or critically timed incomplete sets
* Poor body language
* Lack of faith in the player beside them

All of these factors were explored in that post, and I believe it to be as true now as it was then.

Consider last week’s loss to the Knights.

At one stage, towards the end of the first half, the completion rate sat at 51%! That’s ludicrous. Even more frustrating was that it wasn’t forced errors – we saw mistakes in the play the ball and forward passes. Then to amplify the problem, you could see the heads drop after each of these errors.

These moments are far too rare!

And we witnessed the classic example of not having faith in the player beside you – or having a negative mindset – George Jennings and Corey Norman in the in-goal. Norman fields the ball with chasers closing in. Instead of staying wide, Jennings moves behind Norman in case something goes wrong. Had he stayed positive, there were open pastures in front of him as the chase hadn’t shut down support runners. Norman was ready, Jennings played it ultra-safe.

These aren’t complex aspects in football. They come naturally to NRL players. Even more so to those who’ve played representative footy.

Now reflect on how we as supporters are impacted by the negative mindset of our team.

Hands up anyone who immediately began thinking negatively when Gutherson shanked that conversion attempt. The team was on fire, they’d just gone up by ten points after a brilliant try, and my first thought was how those two points would cost us. I wonder whether any of the team reacted similarly?

Could this be symptomatic of the negativity prevalent in the team during matches? I’ve watched BA and the coaches deal with this at training. When the players vent at their own errors during opposed sessions, the instruction is to stop blowing up and stay in the game. Errors will happen, and they can worry about that in the dressing room or the review session. For now, there’s a moment to stay in, a game to play.

How do we find something in this season, with the roster as it is?

Last year I stated that it was as simple as jagging a few wins. Indeed, that eventuality came upon the team soon enough.

This year it’s a deeper, darker hole. The season is nearly over. The victories seem tantalisingly close and yet frustratingly out of reach.

With the rationale that essentially the same coach and players shouldn’t fall so heavily within 12 months, it was suggested by DOC in his message that it may be time for a sports psychologist. Though I should disclose that I hold a psychology major in my own degree, I am not certain how beneficial a sports psychologist can be in a team sport. Those experienced in that field can best answer that.

The Club’s review into this season will obviously have ramifications for the longer term. Recruitment for next season has added three players to this point and I believe the youth in the club will be given their opportunity. But even in a season entering its last seven rounds, we need to look at whatever methods can grab some victories before the year is out.

Answers have been sought. Training has been kept fresh and positive. New staff have been added. Whatever criticisms have been levelled at the quality of the roster, the fact remains that the team have put themselves in a position to win matches. Indeed, look at the number of games statistically lost on goal kicking.

However, none of us are naive enough to believe that goal kicking was the sole reason for the losses. There are reasons that the Eels have not measured up, but we cannot deny that the losing habit, or footballing yips, has taken hold.

Even though we can expect important roster changes for next year, the current team has so much more ability than they’ve demonstrated this season. Maybe it’s as simple as the players realising that they are merely suffering from this short term lack of belief that many sports stars go through. Some players have been accused of not caring enough. Perhaps, for a number of them, it’s a case of caring and worrying too much.

Let’s hope a short term solution can be found. After all, there’s no yippee to be had in those yips!

Eels forever!

Sixties

23
Click Here to Reply ...

avatar
7 Comment threads
16 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
MiloRowdyTadAnonymousJohn Eel Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
BDon
Guest
BDon

Yes sixties, totally weird season. From 2nd half v Storm 2017 finals to now, we have consistently self destructed via fumbling and bumbling. Only 3 or 4 games where we put together good all round stats. It happens in front of our eyes and there’s a 100 opinions as to why. Completions @80%+, errors around 8 and close penalty counts generally see you winning more than losing, but we are mostly well away from this profile. We gifted the Knights their comeback momentum at the same time we couldn’t buy a penalty, a double whammy yet stayed in the game…problem… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Sixties, top blog and reflections and nothing really to disagree with. To me the sooner the review is started and all those who need to be interviewed have their chance and say, the better. I read where BA has indicated his eagerness in having his say/input. Who would like to be a fly on the wall? What you say about the aspect playing just above the opposition with winning and just below with losses actually resonates very well, especially after this was posted on the eels webb site following the loss to the saints, its 5 days old so a… Read more »

Shelley
Guest
Shelley

I think there is something important about on field leadership that stands out this year and last. We won many games last year when we had players out and Gutho stepped up and we had one voice, one person who made the decisions. Look at the difference Cronk, Maloney and Green have made this year and how much more composed the Raiders are with Hodgson back. The other talented, quick, skilful players in the Warriors, Roosters and Panthers need that calm leader who takes control. On the weekend I watched the Broncos v Warriors game and Green kept putting the… Read more »

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

Shelley, I can see where you are going with this analysis, but if it’s Mitch rather than Corey then I would have to disagree simply on the basis of MM’s performance in the 6 or 7 rounds he played as sole playmaker for Tigers when Brooks was out in their run for the finals in 2016. Mitch killed it and won 3 or 4 MoM awards as the Tigers tore teams apart. I believe that was why BA brought him to Parra!

John Eel
Guest
John Eel

Call it yips, call it confidence call it whatever you like the players are losing the game in their head and it is just painful to watch. I agree with Colin the negativity is getting me down and does nothing to fix the problem. All the keyboard coaches are full of dribble and I have barred myself from all social media with the exception of this site Like Shelley I think we are seriously in need of a single voice. Also I have not given up on Moses as our game manager. He has a great footy brain and at… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

interesting comment of yours Sixties- you have a major in Psychology and don,t have a belief in addressing the issues of confidence and communication form a Psychological perspective. I have posted a lot on the other site about this topic. I suppose in some respects you maybe right — having a heart to heart talk fest may be okay to a degree. I think their are different approaches related to this which are very useful. Their is lots of evidence around on many different Psychological methods high performance Athletes all around the world in many different sports use to help… Read more »

Tad
Guest
Tad

that comment made by me

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

Interesting post Sixties. Your point that perhaps it’s as simple as the players realizing they are in a short term slump for whatever reason. Not making of the excellent one you’ve given. I don’t believe our problem is a major one. I think it may well be the small one which you’ve mentioned along with a few other, similarly small, simple problems which can become a habit if not addressed by each individual regarding what he can do. Rather than what he can’t or isn’t doing. I have no degree in anything except a Masters in Hindsight that has kept… Read more »

Tad
Guest
Tad

I like youjr reply Rowdy lost me a bit but has substance

Milo
Guest
Milo

Good post again mate.
The 1%ers seem to come back and bite us; and on field leaders.
Could have, should have, would have etc. a few games we have used these as sentence beginniners.
I think the more i see the team play it seems Sterlo is close to it; the halves not gelling etc. that seems a common trait in many areas.