England needed to cope better with stress, says UEA sports psychologist
07:33 25 June 2014
England’s players may have flopped in this year’s World Cup because they don’t deal well with stress, according to a sports psychologist.
Dr Simon Hammond, a research fellow at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said Roy Hodgson’s side may have been knocked out early as they saw the tournament as a risk for failure, rather than an opportunity for success.
“When we think about stress it can be very powerful and potentially a force for good but it can also inhibit performance,” he said.
“Some people get stressed before an exam and start cramming, but actually do well. Others freeze. It’s how you respond to it.
“Because the World Cup is not an annual event, although the players are used to big games like the Champions League and Premier League, this is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“But they may have seen that pressure as a threat and frozen.”
Dr Hammond said the performances of young players such as Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley had shown a “no fear” approach could help players.
But players could also overcome stress by breaking tasks down into stages, he said.
“Rather than focussing on winning the World Cup, players can concentrate on individual tasks in games.
“Take Wayne Rooney. There was a lot of focus on him scoring at this tournament and sometimes you felt he was trying too hard.
“But if he breaks down the task and focuses on smaller processes such as getting into the box more or having more shots on target, those small steps can help him reach the overall goal of scoring,” he said.
Even lower expectations did not help England, a factor Dr Hammond thought would come into play.
“I thought it would be a good thing in many ways, but then the fans and the media started thinking we could do it.
“But that pressure should be a privilege as you don’t get many chances to play at a World Cup.”