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Optimism for Footballers and Coaches

A Tale of 2 footballers
It's Saturday afternoon, the game has just kicked off.
Imagine two footballers step onto the pitch, one plays for the number 1 team in the league, lets call him Mike. Sam plays for the 6th placed side, and today his direct opponent is Mike. Both play in centre midfield, and are responsible for dictating the tempo of the game for their teams.
10 minutes into the game Mike's team go one up. Sam lost the ball in the middle of the pitch and his team conceded directly from it. Mike and his team are celebrating their goal. Sam's team are despondent. Not Sam. Sam knows there are 80 minutes left in the game. He sees his mistake as feedback, as a lesson. He sees an opportunity to take control of the game and help guide his team despite the setback, showing what they are capable of. He tells his team, "there is plenty of time left, let's keep playing". Sam's team notice his positive demeanour.
After a back and forth, with multiple transition moments in the middle of the park, Sam's teammate regains the ball and plays Sam. As the ball travels towards him, he looks forward, communicating with his striker. The striker blindsided the centre back and made a great run. Sam plays the ball to the striker behind the last line who goes on to equalize. It's 1-1. Sam's team are celebrating.
Mike isn't happy nor is his coach. "How can we concede against this team?" The half time whistle blows.
A tale of 2 dressing rooms/Half times
Sam's coach is calm and lets the players discuss the first half amongst themselves. He observes and listens. The players are ecstatic, they feel like they can get something out of this game. They scored against the number 1 side having went down early, but played through. They have a positive outlook on the second half. They FEEL like they can compete with this team.
Mike's coach is unhappy. He blames Mike for allowing the pass for the goal, and the centre back for not tracking the striker. he explains to his players they had to win this game if they wanted to win the league, and after the first half, it isn't looking likely. The players leave the changing room with their heads down.
A Tale of 2 second halves.
The game is back and forth, Sam's team is full of energy, they are pressing every ball, competing in duels and running hard on transitions. Mike's team are playing well, they are a very good side full of talent. But they are frustrated. There is nothing tougher than fighting against someone who keeps coming back for more. Mike is struggling to manage his emotions during the game. He cannot shake the goal conceded, even though the result is objectively neutral. On a transition moment, Sam and Mike are both in proximity of the ball. Mike isn't looking at the ball, his head is down.
"How did we lose that ball?" While Mike is thinking about the last action, Sam sees opportunity. He is 'thinking next action'. Sam sprints at maximum speed and once again on receiving the ball. On receiving he looks up, and once again, sees the striker making a run. Sam finds the striker who scores. 2-1. Sam's team are celebrating, his coach is ecstatic, but he knew this would happen. Mike's coach is pissed, he knew this was going to happen. The whistle blows. 2-1 Sam. 
To find out more about optimism and its importance to performance and wellbeing, check out our next blog.

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