Own the Moment – Prepare for Tomorrow: England Football

Writing from the perspective of an English fan this World Cup is feeling very different. It felt different as we began the build up to the World Cup. There were no great claims about the brilliance of individuals, any showmanship or media frenzy – infact, it was quite the opposite, and anyone who didn’t know football might be forgiven for thinking we were sending out the Englad school boy under 15 squad. I’ve never heard youth and inexperience said so many times by the pundits and press. Yes I know it’s different because we have progressed out of the group stages of the competition, won a penalty shoot out and whilst looking a little vulnerable in midfield we have been playing good attacking football – but there is something else.

The BIG difference that I have noticed is the Manager. Yes I know that many have made the comments about the M&S Waistcoats, the way that he comforted the Columbians after the dreaded penalty shoot out which started the phenomenon #GarethSouthgateWould.

The difference I am focusing on is his professionalism and thoroughness in preparation. I have noticed in most interviews that he repeats two phrases. No not “it’s a game of two halves” or “ we are playing for the result” but rather he lets us know that he has set his players two challenges. The first “Own the process”, the second “Create your own history”. What struck me was how these two comments are connected back to our approach to life coaching at Brand You: Sport focusing on supporting elite athletes as they transition out of elite sport into their next career.

An elite athlete has a very focused, structured existence whilst competing. They have whole teams focused on their success on the field of play in their chosen sport, whether it’ sailing in the Solent, Rowing at Eton Dorney, Rugby at Twickenham or indeed Football in Russia. The one thing that every athlete has in common is everyone around them is focused on the present moment and not using “this moment” as preparation for life tomorrow. The only certainty in elite sport is transition, retirement in your 20’s or 30’s is inevitable in most sports yet there is very little support whilst they are competing to leverage the moment to prepare for “True Greatness Tomorrow” – That’s our strap line at Brand You: Sport not Southgates. However , I’m more than happy for him to use it in any post match interviews because in those two phrases “Own the process” and “create your own history” he is leveraging greatness today for their true greatness tomorrow. So what does he mean by “own the process”?

“It’s about focusing on what you can control, letting go of those things you can’t and being in control of your own preparation”.

How many times do we hear friends, family and colleagues talk about what might’ve happened if only this, that or some other issue hadn’t got in the way? This suggests we are all waiting for things to be done to us as opposed to taking positive steps and owning your own process to get to what you really want, taking responsibility and control. This was modelled beautifully by Kane, as he waited over 3mins before taking his penalty, he didn’t engage with the player who followed him and got in his face. He didn’t engage with those intent on digging a big hole on the penalty spot. He didn’t engage with the protests of the opposition to the referee. He found his own space and owned what was in his sphere of influence and ignored everything else – I didn’t say it was easy but you get my point!!

This leads me onto the second phrase “ create your own history”. If you know what you want to be known for it makes “owning the process” so much clearer and helps you focus on those things that will serve you to “create your own history” Simple, right? So why don’t we encourage our elite athletes to do this for their life post competition? The science tells us it will make them more rounded individuals and help them perform better on the field of play. Whether you are into the science or not its obvious that the manager and backroom staff have spent time with their “young inexperienced team” to support them to visualise and write their own history and in doing so own the process of getting there.

The athlete is encouraged to visualise crossing the line, hitting the winning cross court shot or kicking a goal to win the game with no time left on the clock. My plea is to do this AND do additional work on visualising success beyond their sporting career. What will your life be like at 40, 50 or 80? What can athletes do now, whilst they are competing, to prepare them for creating their history beyond the podium. Athletes have more time than most to invest in themselves and own the process to greatness today and tomorrow.

Good luck to the whole squad ahead of this afternoons game against Sweden.
Mandy Ayres: Co-Founder Brand You: Sport