How to deal with a wind-up merchant

Our resident mental skills coach Bradley Busch, who has worked with Premier League stars, suggests six ways of coping with a mouthy player

Find yourself faced with a gobby player who's chewing your ear off throughout the match? Don't worry, just follow this six-step guide to coming out on top. Starting with a bit of oxygen...

1. Take deep breaths

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“When you’re angry the stress hormone cortisol pumps through your body, which affects your ability to focus – you get tunnel vision and miss important cues such as the movement of your team-mates and the opposition. Your emotional state is closely linked to your physical state, so to quiet one down, you have to reduce the other. The quickest and simplest way to take a big lungful of air.”

2. Remind yourself why you’re playing

“The motivation of a player constantly chirping in your ear is to throw you off your game and get you overly emotional. If you allow them to get to you it can affect your brain and your performance. To stop this happening, ask yourself what your aim is: to play well and win the game or get involved in a petty slanging match?”

3. Praise a team-mate

“Use an opponent winding you up as a cue to praise a team-mate for a good pass or incisive run. This is a neat way of redirecting a potential negative into a positive for the good of the team.”

4. Talk to team-mate

“If the chirping is getting to you, find someone who knows what sets you off and ask them to have a quiet word with you. One strategy that might help is if you come up with a word that they can say to when you’re teetering on the edge. It can be personal or simply something funny.”

5. Refocus

“Your brain can only hold a few ideas and consciously process them at once – if you’re allowing it to be filled with things that ultimately don’t matter, then there is no space for the things that do. So, each time he starts winding you up, recount, in your head, what your three performance objectives are for the game. Your focus is now on the match, not him.”

6. Smile

Flashing your pearly whites will frustrate your opponent and ruin his focus if he believes his tactics are not getting to you. Which means you’ve won that little battle and hopefully after 90 minutes, the war, too.”

Bradley Busch is a mental skills coach for InnerDrive.

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