The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:

 

KEY POINTS

  • The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma.
  • The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung.

The Freud and Jung banter

If they were alive today, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung might be bantering about the goings-on at the belated Euro 2020 football tournament. Sigmund might have a spring in his step about the Czech Republic team sitting at the top of Group D, no doubt taunting his English neighbours whose team currently lies underneath. Carl might be feeling nervous, neurotic even, knowing that Switzerland needs a win against Turkey to have any chance of going through to the last 16, and dreading another one of Sigmund’s sarcastic texts should Switzerland be knocked out at the group stage.

Where is the psychological perspective?

Despite the rise of sport psychology, there appears to be a lack of psychological perspective of professional football (soccer) in the media (all offers will be carefully considered). The pioneers of modern psychology would have plenty to say. I have no doubt that Freud and Jung would have made entertaining and informative pundits. Their analysis on the philosophies of each team and how they have been moulded by historical trauma could be debated at length, together with a dissection of the significant career events of head coaches.

Freud’s analysis

Analysis of the former playing careers of the international head coaches reveals that nearly all have histories that are focused on defending or stopping the creativity of the opposition. Freud might be concerned that thoughts of attacking may have been buried or suppressed in these individuals. He may suggest a few sessions on the couch to unleash a more entertaining style of play or a change in personnel.

Do we need more goal-scoring coaches?

Only three of the 24 head coaches competing, were forwards in their playing careers. This includes the Italian head coach, the nation’s first such coach in the modern era. Roberto Mancini has transformed the way the Italian team plays and as things stand, after each team has played two matches, the Italians are the top goal scorers in the competition.

Mancini’s new style for Italy

Mancini’s playing career was focused on creating and scoring goals. Mancini was moulded during these formative years and so Freud would surely be unsurprised to see Mancini’s team focused on scoring too. This is not just good news for Italians whose teams tend to hang around until the end of competitions. Fans from other nations are, some may argue for the first time, enjoying watching Italy prioritise attacking.

Football Associations

In the interest of the viewing public then, and to improve the spectacle of each game, Freud might call on football associations across Europe to appoint head coaches who spent their playing days creating and scoring rather than preventing goals. Jung would no doubt disagree at once. Of course, Jung would then have to come up with a reason for disagreeing. He might draw on his own famous quote: “We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become”. This might be good advice for England head coach Gareth Southgate.

Southgate’s Trauma

Southgate’s traumatic history is known to most lovers of the game. As a player, he was positioned in the heart of England’s defence at Euro 1996. It was a tournament that England came close to winning yet did not. The trauma for Southgate was greater still, for it was he who had a penalty saved, England’s last kick of the tournament. Freud might suggest that the experience is still being felt by the child within the England head coach, as a way of explaining why Southgate insists on playing two protective, defensive midfielders in front of his former playing position.

Archetypal Players

Most other teams in the competition seem to favour one midfield anchor, and in the case of the top teams, this player is not focused entirely on defending. Jung might describe the French player, N’Golo Kanté as the archetype of this position in international football.

Creativity from the Depths

Freud might then suggest that Southgate should be searching for a player with more creativity welling up from the unconscious than seems apparent within the tireless, tackling incumbents. Freud might quip that some players seem to love the tackle more than they love the ball! Reflecting on this, Jung might remind us that: “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves” and then support the collective clamour for selecting the ball-playing Jack Grealish.

Loving the Beautiful Game is Never Easy

For lovers of the beautiful game across the European continent, sadly, only one team can lift the Euro 2020 trophy. This will leave the majority of fans suffering, adding another trauma to all those years of hurt. As Freud might remind us after the final has been played and before the studio is dismantled: “We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love”.

Blog originally written for Psychology Today.  See the original article here 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation
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Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports

A fan’s perspective.

When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may sit there on the edge of your sofa, with every cell in your body cheering them on to win. But do you ever tune in to watch a team you dislike hoping you’ll get to see them lose? Maybe your team’s biggest rival?

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude, the pleasure derived in another’s misfortune, has been described as both the ultimate failure of empathy and empathy’s shadow, yet it actually relies on empathy.

Empathy does not insist on pity or a compassionate response. When we witness misfortune, we wince with pain before we laugh; because we became the other in the moment. Whilst being the other, we feel the pain, then rationalise to understand that, all considered, we are glad the other is experiencing it for real.

Although neuroscientists often refer to schadenfreude as an extremely complicated emotion, the process essentially involves the activation of the reward centre of our brain. Schadenfreude looks like pure joy as well as feeling like it. Context can exacerbate this. If the failure of another team increases the chances of success for your own team, your joy is enhanced.

Competitive Nature

The competitive nature of sport offers a fantastic opportunity to analyse this enjoyment of another’s suffering. In 2010, two psychologists, Jaap W. Ouwerkerk of VU Amsterdam and Wilco W. van Dijk of Leiden University, both avid football fans, were watching the football World Cup at home on a Dutch TV channel. Their team was still in the tournament and they often switched over to a foreign broadcaster when they were doing particularly well, in order to enjoy the foreign commentator’s praise. After the Dutch exited the competition, the psychologists turned their attention to their biggest rivals, Germany.

In the semi-final against Spain, to the psychologist’s delight, the Spanish team scored the winning goal just minutes before the end. The psychologists found themselves turning over to ADR, a German channel, in order to enjoy the sound of German commentators wallowing in the catastrophe of their imminent defeat and exit from the competition.

Reflecting on their behaviour was interesting enough, but they soon discovered they were not alone. They found that the number of Dutch viewers of ADR had peaked at 352,000 just before the end of the game when the Germans were staring at defeat.

The Dutch fans wanted to share and “feel into” the experience, in order to gain a better understanding of the pain being felt by their rivals and their fans. The more they could understand the pain, the more they enjoyed it. Research on empathy shows that empathising is easier if we know someone well. The better you know someone the more easily you will understand their pain.

Supporting Sports Teams

When it comes to supporting sports teams, many of us enjoy the banter at work on a Monday morning after the weekend’s fixtures. Consider that guy who sits next to you for five days a week, who you know really well—maybe you consider him your friend. You like most things about him, but not the team he supports. You know when they lose, he suffers, yet you yearn for that and it’s the first thing you’ll mention when you see him. This works both ways. He loves the sport as much as you. He knows how hurt you are when your team loses and he’ll be there waiting for you, particularly if your team has been superior for a long time.

Superiority often annoys us. The status of a team or a professional athlete can be achieved by being recognized and respected by others for good performance or through unethically achieved dominance or aggressive behaviour. Hubris in society tends to lead to a rebalancing. If “superior” teams or individuals are seen to fail, the joy expressed, sometimes referred to as “malicious joy,” can bring them back down to earth. Malicious joy also increases one’s own self-esteem.

Sharing in the joy of your own team’s success may be the most obvious example of fan empathy, but empathy offers different paths to enjoyment. It may not be something you are proud to admit, but be honest: What’s the next best thing to watching your own team win?

References

Van Dijk, W. W., & Ouwerkerk, J. W. (2014). Intergroup Rivalry and Schadenfreude. In book: Schadenfreude: Understanding Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others (pp.186-199) Chapter: 12. Cambridge University Press

Blog originally written for Pyschology Today.  See the orignal article here 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation

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The New Signing

New Signing

Eventually, we’ll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it impact current players? Will it affect their well-being, or team cohesion and performance? And what role does empathy or empathic leadership play?

A squad of athletes may be compared to any social group. Findings have been consistent across studies from military units to troops of baboons. These findings show that a new member will cause disruption that impacts all group members. The faster the new member is integrated, the sooner this uneasy period ends, which is good news for those seeking cohesion and ultimately the success of the group or team.

In sport, a new recruit presents a challenge to the leader. Although a new signing can boost a dressing room, it’s not always easy to judge the reactions across a squad. To do this, an empathic leader utilises knowledge and understanding of individual athletes, and this highlights the importance of close relationships.

In most cases, a leader will know least about the new recruit. One temptation maybe to focus on this one individual, although the whole group is experiencing change and will benefit from the leader’s understanding and if necessary, support. Dynamic communication and reassurances about the situation will help.

Social Hierarchy

There’s also a social hierarchy within groups that new recruits disturb. Typically, low-ranking members of a group (in sport this may relate to younger or lower paid athletes) suffer more stress than higher-ranking members. Yet evidence suggests that when a new member enters, it is the higher-ranking members who will be most affected. Positions are threatened. In sport this is literal; in both status and selection. The stress experienced may result in behaviour that is out of character. Perspectives become cloudy during this period of adjustment. A lack of clarity is due to what is going on at a neurochemical as well as an emotional level.

The perceived threat means adrenal glands are activated and blood becomes awash with glucocorticoids, like cortisol. Any consequences of this are significant if the stress endures, with both mental and physical health at risk. Again, assimilating a new member into a group as soon as possible is better for everyone.

Integration

Once a new signing is integrated, glucocorticoid levels will subside, social behaviour will normalise and the stress experienced will dissipate. Thankfully, there are ways of minimising the time this takes.

A new member entering a group can be less threatening and integrate faster if the climate is empathic and relationships are close. In effect, individuals will feel more secure and be more resilient to change. Furthermore, a neurochemical consequence of an empathic climate is elevated levels of oxytocin, a counter-balance to cortisol; and helpful for mental and physical well-being. As a result, the stress experienced will be less significant and social behaviours less volatile.

It is important to remember that a new recruit should be a positive event for a club or any organisation. An empathic leader and an empathic climate offer protection against the potentially negative consequences of their arrival and should speed up integration. Moreover, leaders of groups or teams in any industry need to remain aware of the perspectives of those they lead and how these perspectives may be influenced by any change, including change of personnel.

 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation

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Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy

Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential and embarrassing political U-turns, the like of which we have seen this week.

An estimated 1.3m children in England will be able to claim school meal vouchers during the summer holidays due to the pressure asserted by footballer Marcus Rashford. Former Education secretary, Justine Greening summed the situation up well: “I think there should be a post-mortem on how come a Premier League footballer is providing better advice to the Prime Minister than ministers and his wider government.”

The answer is empathy. We know that Marcus Rashford was able to provide such good advice because he has relied on such vouchers himself.

Marcus Rashford: Food voucher U-turn after footballer’s campaign >

Marcus Rashford

To begin with, we know that Rashford’s mother struggled to earn enough to feed her five children and had to rely on vouchers to bridge the gap. in addition, we are aware that there are more people in the UK living the experiences of the Rashfords than people living the experiences of the Johnsons. However, it is the decisions of the Johnsons of this country that influence the lives of the Rashfords.

To the best of our knowledge Boris Johnson has never had to rely on food voucher schemes. It seems unlikely that any of his family have, or any of his friends or indeed anyone he has ever known. Furthermore, most of his ministers have life experiences similar to his. It should come as no surprise that they didn’t provide better advice, for they too lack the empathic understanding that comes from shared experiences. This was highlighted when Matt Hancock referred to Marcus Rashford as Daniel. He blamed this on the similarity of the name Rashford to Radcliffe, the name of the actor who plays Harry Potter. Marcus Rashford is a Manchester United and England centre forward, but maybe our politicians are more familiar with quidditch than our national sport of football.

Politicians

A UK politician’s unfamiliarity with mainstream culture is no rarity. We didn’t have to wait long for another example. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, no less, revealed his level of understanding for the gesture of taking a knee by saying it came from Game of Thrones. Raab was apparently unaware of the actions of Colin Kaepernick in the NFL.

Looking back there are equally comical examples. In 2015, the PM, David Cameron showed his lack of understanding of football by confusing West Ham with Aston Villa.

Election 2015: Cameron ‘brain fade’ over West Ham / Aston Villa support

A year later, London Mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith couldn’t name which London football team play at Loftus Road. Neither could he name a Central Line tube station in the centre of the capital.

Zac Goldsmith Crashes And Burns In Quiz On London

Of course, we can’t all have the same experiences as others. Empathising is possible without shared experiences, although it’s more difficult and you have to be a motivated and skilled empathiser. You have to be able to use your imagination, drawing on everything you know about similar situations in order to understand another’s perspective. This is often referred to as mentalising or cognitive empathy. Ideally, political leaders employ cognitive, rather than emotional empathy, in order to protect themselves from the draining experience of the constant sharing of emotions. Developing cognitive empathy is certainly possible for those wishing to gain a deeper understanding of those they lead.

Empathy is becoming a more essential tool in contemporary politics. It seems voters are starting to expect it. When it’s clearly lacking our leaders will struggle to hold onto power. Marcus Rashford will walk onto the pitch a little taller this week, due to his empathy, which has enhanced respect and popularity; two things politicians crave. When it comes the empathy, in the match between Rashford and Johnson there is only one winner!

 

Peter Sear, Founder, The Empathic Minds Organisation

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The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
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read more
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read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

read more
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Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

read more
Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

read more

Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

 

Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a positive influence on the other’s emotional state. The good feeling is contagious and an example has been set.

Communication is vital in leadership in particular. Good leaders understand how information will be received and can accurately predict reactions. Using empathy insists that communication is a dynamic process with ongoing feedback from the person with whom one is empathising. The leader needs to retain curiosity to gain deeper understanding that maintains knowledge of the other and moulds future communication.

Empathic Communication

An empathic leader will communicate using choices rather than demands and pursue goals without compromising others. They will also attend to non-verbal methods of communication, like: eye contact, facial expressions, consolation behaviours like comforting touch or embrace, mirroring (including body shape/posture and semiautomatic actions like yawning) and using reassuring words or sounds. They value: the opinions of others and the process of coming to a decision (not just the decision itself). This approach boosts morale and generally leads to better decision making, which builds a reputation of competence and trust.

Carlo Ancelotti is one of the most successful leaders in European football, winning trophies in different countries. Here are his thoughts on listening:

Carlo Ancelotti Head Coach Empathic Communication

Carlo Ancelotti

“Ideas can come from anywhere, so you should always listen to people…Listening is an often-overlooked skill. Listening to what other people have to say – my staff, players, general director and those outside the game – and absorbing it, acting upon it or opening up a dialogue about it is something I very much believe is essential for those who wish to lead… It is very important for me to listen to the players. When preparing for some games, you can give an idea to a player and you have to listen to what they think about it.”

Carlo Ancelotti

“Ideas can come from anywhere, so you should always listen to people…Listening is an often-overlooked skill. Listening to what other people have to say – my staff, players, general director and those outside the game – and absorbing it, acting upon it or opening up a dialogue about it is something I very much believe is essential for those who wish to lead… It is very important for me to listen to the players. When preparing for some games, you can give an idea to a player and you have to listen to what they think about it.”

Carlo Ancelotti Head Coach Empathic Communication

As well as failing to listen, poor communication can be due to: a lack of knowledge of the other, lack of clarity, stubborn preconceived ideas, jumping to conclusions, or not understanding another’s needs. Poor communication has a negative impact on relationships. Empathic communication brings people closer together. This can improve cohesion in a team and alignment within an organisation.

There are some great examples of empathic communication in the biographies of great leaders. The quote above was taken from Carlo Ancelotti’s Quiet Leadership, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Peter Sear

Founder

Carlo Ancelotti Quiet Leadership Empathic Minds Organisation

Quiet Leadership by Carlo Ancelotti

Click here to buy from amazon.co.uk

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

Empathic Accuracy and Sport Coaches

A predictor of outcomes:   KEY POINTS Empathic accuracy is employed by successful coaches in various sports. Coaches gather impression cues and make inferences about how players are thinking, what they're feeling, and how they will react. Empathic accuracy can...

read more
Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate Leadership

It begins with self-compassion and ends with contributing to the greater good:   KEY POINTS - Compassion can be seen as a four-step process: awareness, connection, empathy, and action. The element of action is what takes compassion beyond feelings of empathy or...

read more
The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

The Psyche of Euro 2020 Football Coaches

If Jung and Freud were European football pundits:   KEY POINTS The coaching philosophy of head coaches is moulded by their own experiences and trauma. The collective fans of European football could learn from Freud and Jung. The Freud and Jung banter If they were...

read more
An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

An Unprecedented Swing in the Personality of Presidents

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have starkly different personalities. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics. America has seen its presidency change from Republican to Democrat before, and vice versa. There have been regular swings in the sizes of...

read more
Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Sports A fan's perspective. When it comes to sport on TV, what’s the next best thing to sharing in the experience of your own team’s victory? Whatever your sport, you probably prefer to watch your own team rather than any other. You may...

read more
The New Signing

The New Signing

New Signing Eventually, we'll reach the end of another football season in Europe. Clubs will be considering improvements to their squads. So, what happens when a new signing enters the dressing room? Does it lift the moral and emotions of the whole squad? How does it...

read more
Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Rashford V Johnson : Passing Empathy to Politics

Empathy Empathy is about understanding and is often fuelled by experience. Empathic politicians need to understand those they represent, yet we regularly see evidence of a lack of understanding, due to a lack of empathy. This leads to a fall in popularity or essential...

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The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

The Empathy of Cummings & Trump

Cummings and Trump We have seen Cummings and Trump dominate the news and public discourse for two weeks, with both being accused of lacking empathy. Moreover, Piers Morgan recently suggested to the viewing public that President Trump, who he knows personally, has a...

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Empathic Communication

Empathic Communication

  Communication is possible without empathy, but a non-empathic communicator will never be as effective as they could be. Empathic communication is characterised by listening, compassion, concern, and support. Such efforts are noticed and appreciated. They have a...

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