100% Positive – How to apply Mindfulness when watching football
For the first blog, I was going to write about the information that was imparted to us at the Members Convention – how we are playing a pressure based, forward half system that relies on ball retention to work the ball out of defence so we can lock the ball inside our forward 50 and get repeat scoring entries.
Then the AFLX debacle happened, and I realised from many of the reactions that while the side might have changed 11 players, the fans are still exactly the same.
If you’re going into this season thinking that things will be different in our gamestyle, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s going to be exactly the same as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. What I am expecting is constant pressure around the ball and a ferocious appetite for the contest at every opportunity. We play this way, we will win the flag. Because this is how the Bulldogs won their flag, and it’s how Richmond won their flag. The side that creates the greatest turnover differential will always win – whether it’s through elite skills like Hawthorn (fewer turnovers) or manic pressure like Bulldogs/Richmond (more turnovers created).
But in order to do that, our players need to feel that playing our system is actually a good thing. Think about it – how deflating would it be if you were executing the gamestyle to perfection, keeping an opposition side to their lowest score before half time in their history…and you could feel the crowd getting restless because they felt that it was boring?
So I have a proposition, which I’ll get to at the end of this article. But first, some background.
There have been many studies done that affirm the power of a concept called Thought-Emotion-Feeling – basically, the upshot of it is that if you want something to happen, you need to condition yourself to feel as though it had already has happened. You see, I’m of the opinion that we lose to West Coast so readily because everyone goes to the ground expecting to lose to West Coast. And it happens. Everyone goes to the ground expecting to lose to Adelaide. And it happens. When we had zero expectations of winning against Hawthorn in 2015 with Wines and Gray out of the side, and the crowd had a feeling of ‘Well, let’s see what happens’, that quickly morphed into ‘I can’t believe this is happening’…and it almost didn’t.
In fact, go through every game you’ve ever attended, and recall what the energy of the crowd was like before the game. What were your emotions? Expectation? Excitement? Anticipation? Dread?
How many times did that feeling come to fruition?
In 2013, when the slogan ‘We will never, ever give up’ was first trotted out, the crowd went to Footy Park with zero expectations. We had just come off a poor season and while there was optimism because we had a new coach and a new captain, along with some fresh faces, there was no emotional baggage from the crowd to weigh players down.
In 2014, after a disappointing yet noble performance against Geelong, the excitement of moving to Adelaide Oval and the first game against Adelaide gave the season a feeling of excitement. We weren’t at Football Park anymore – this could be a true home ground. NTUA was new and fresh, and the crowd took to it with great zeal as an anthem of unification of the club. And up until the prelim final, we rode on a wave of positive emotion – ‘Yes We Ken’.
But in 2015, something changed. The mood shifted from excitement to expectation. Suddenly, just winning wasn’t good enough. We wanted to win like Hawthorn, like Geelong. But those teams took time to develop, and we fell into a hole of mediocrity. Not initially, mind you. The first five games went pretty well, a 48 point loss to Sydney notwithstanding. Wins against Adelaide, North Melbourne and the reigning premier Hawthorn and a 7 point loss to Fremantle at Subiaco proved that we were right in the mix in terms of being contenders for the flag, since all five teams played finals that year.
But it was the loss to West Coast that the mood changed. Suddenly, the players didn’t want to break their back for the crowd anymore – it was like they were coming down from a high of excitement. And why? Because we didn’t provide the same energy anymore. Games had become routine. And so, 20+ points up at half time against the Eagles…the players stopped caring. Because the crowd had stopped caring. Now, the game had become a job.
So we come to my proposition.
For one month – go to the games with the feeling that we are going to see an exciting win. Feel exactly what you would feel when the siren sounds and we have just demolished Adelaide by 100 points. Feel the excitement of a Chad Wingard screamer before it happens. Get the stadium buzzing again. And if it works, and we are winning…keep going to games with that mindset.
But don’t stop there. When watching away games – feel the same feeling. Not just that we’ve already won, but the feeling of jubilation that comes from winning.
I promise you, if you do that, not only will the wins come, the exciting football will come as well. And we will win the flag. If you don’t think emotions have an effect on the performance of the players, look at Richmond. They won the flag off the back of the emotion of having their home fans at the MCG.
During the 2004 finals campaign, the Port Adelaide board on BigFooty ran a thread – 100% Positive.
That’s the theme for the 2018 season – 100% positive.
You can find Janus hovering over at the Port boards