What you can learn from the Melbourne Football Club

If you’re not familiar with Aussie Rules then replace MFC with any struggling sporting team you know. If you’re in England, you might want to insert  “Australian Cricket Team”.

Melbourne FC have had a terrible start to the season, they have been thrashed by massive margins and the knives are out. They have sacked their CEO and it’s probably only a matter of time before the coach (and maybe others) are shown the door.

The media love this kind of thing. It’s the opening story on all the sports shows and it’s the talking point around town (if you live in Melbourne). Nothing like a train wreck to get those talking heads, well, talking.

First things first. The media are paid to stir trouble. Sensationalise and dramatise the happenings is their go. That’s what they do and the more they can rev things up, the better they feel about themselves. Let’s not sugar coat this – in a sterile and supposedly “even” competition, Melbourne’s performances have been terrible. But this is sport. There will always be those teams that struggle from time to time, it’s just the way it is. Sydney, Fremantle and St. Kilda have all had horror runs in modern times. Which teams haven’t?

So what’s the solution?

The only thing they (the players) can do is focus on playing football. They need to ignore all the garbage that has been written/spoken about them and get back to playing the game. The worst thing they could do is hit the panic button and take their minds off the objective of playing football.

Their attention needs to be in the moment. There’s no point to dwell on the past or look to far into the future – this only creates more anxiety and excites Pesky. They need to ask themselves, “what can we do right now that will make a difference?”. Then they need to go do it. It’s as simple as that. A little birdie told me that Melbourne’s training sessions are the shortest in the AFL – so maybe this would be a good place to start. A little more “effective” practice can only be a good thing.

The absolute worst thing any team/individual can do is to play “not to lose”. This sort of thing may limit the damage, and keep the wolves from the door, but it’s not a good long-term strategy. You loose the freedom, flair and the enjoyment that comes when you’re truly able to let go. There’s no flow and the chance for something brilliant to happen is all but lost. Bottom line? Playing safe is a short-term strategy.

And the same goes for your golf game if you find yourself in a slump. There’s nothing like a string of bad scores to knock your confidence and get your mind spinning. But you’ve gotta be brave and focus your mind on the now. “Where do I want the ball to go?” is the best question you can ask. It forces you to be in the moment and your answer is the root of positive thinking. There’s no room for negativity and either you have the courage to stand up and hit the shot you’ve chosen or you don’t. If you don’t have the guts to do it there’s no amount of money, swing tips or new clubs that can help you.

The only real solution to any sort of form slump is to take a deep breath, focus on what you want to do and then go play the game. All the chatter (internal and external) is just noise and an unnecessary distraction. No matter how bad things seem, we all have the ability to focus our minds where they need to be. It sounds simple but its all that we can do – there’s no magic pill. Your next venture into the arena should be seen as an opportunity to succeed and not something to be fearful of.

MFC will have the eyes of the football world on them next time out – what a chance for them to shine and show everyone what they’re capable of.

One final point: If you’re able to avoid panicking, stressing and getting all worked up about a performance rut, you can use the situation positively because you’ll learn from the experience. It might make all that awful stuff just that little bit easier to swallow if you know there’s something meaningful to be had from it.

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  • Terry

    Reply Reply April 11, 2013

    Another insightful column, Cam. Bring back Barassi!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 12, 2013

      Terry: I think a lot of the old time coaches are every bit as effective. Many of them keep the game plan simple and focus more on playing. I reckon a lot of the “scientific” stuff goes a little overboard.

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