By Tony Attwood
“Money wears off quickly as a reward, appreciation is crucial. If this is missing, the performance drops. Even those of rock-rich football players”.
The argument is that being noticed and feeling wanted is important to everyone whether one is a low level employee doing a menial job or a top boss. If the individual does not feel wanted then his/her performance level declines.
Two Bayern Munich players are considered: Thomas Müller and Arturo Vidal. Having scored 32 goals in 49 games in 2015/16 Muller sank to nine in 42 last season. The article describes him as “creeping lost between the penalty areas, back and forth.”
Meanwhile, “Vidal appeared as a sad veteran who quarrelled with himself and fell prey to various earthly temptations.”
Then, the paper says, in October the “player whisperer” (an interesting variation on the horse whisperer and a phrase I really must note for the future) Jupp Heynckes came along and “performed a kind of flash healing of the mind.” Vidal demands, shouts and scolds as he used to, in a way that gives the Bayern fans pleasure and horrifies the opposition. Müller picks himself off the ground and performs in a way that defines both the statistics and the normal restrictions imposed by one’s anatomy to get a 5-0 win against Beşiktaş.
Speaking about this the article continues…
“It’s about the right balance between effort and recognition,” says Peter Henningsen, head of psychosomatic studies at the Technical University of Munich – this being the study of the link between the mind and the boy. “If this balance is not right, it can lead to a crisis, in which people do not feel adequately valued. Then their performance decrease, and the likelihood of disease increases.”
For players the solution is being believed in. For in this line of work psychologists often find patients with symptoms that are hard to define and tie down, which are often related to being valued.
Of course being paid a lot is a way of being valued, but for most footballers, so the argument goes, appreciation is crucial. “I think he’s an outstanding player,” Jupp Heynckes said recently about Vidal. And he also said, “that’s just Müller – he can do it”.
This sort of positive commentary is what football is often about in Germany, even when players are not delivering, but it is much rarer in England for such positives to be mentioned about players who are having a more difficult time.
In Germany the appreciation is mutual. Müller raves about the “best man on the sidelines” and by this he does not mean the referee’s assistant.
Thus in German football, the psychology of the players is seen as paramount. “The human being is a social being, his attitude to himself depends on what important others think and say about him,” says social psychologist Dieter Frey of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. He defines the process as being one in which one can”believe in me, and have self-confidence which can be increased because others trusts my abilities.” From this follows the belief in your own ability: I can actually, try it again, exert myself.
Likewise failures are also accepted; tolerance and perseverance increase.
“The recognition must be designed so that everyone feels individually recognized,” says chief physician of Bayern Henningsen. “If that’s done well, the appreciation does not have to be different for everyone, but attending to the individual’s self-perception increases the likelihood of success.”
This is all utterly different from England where the heart of everything is criticism and pointing at failure. Managers may want to nurture players who are having a bad time, but it is hard because of the ceaseless, remorseless criticism that emerges from the media and then in a copycat style onto the terraces. One can see multiple examples in the commentary to the earlier article published here today.
I’ve often written that the reason for the failure of the England team has been the tiny number of top coaches that we have per 1000 players compared with other countries from Iceland to Germany. But I think that theory I’ve been batting around for nearly 10 years needs to be expanded. It is also the lower level of intolerant criticism that players in some other countries get, which helps them overcome crises and develop their abilities.
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