“Soccer is a magical game.” -David Beckham
By Omar Figueroa
World Cup has given us many upsets, but Mexico’s 1-0 win versus Germany was the upset most of the Mexico nation and media deemed too unrealistic. But with Mexico’s team and staff mental training, Germany was an achievable and realistic goal through preparation and committed execution of their game plan. Mexico changed World Cup history by beating Germany, which has not lost opening World Cup matches in 80 years. Mexico was playing with history and the Mexican national team decided it was time to change history.
Mexico’s National team has implemented a variety of changes preparing for the World Cup, but the one addition to Juan Carlos Osorio’s team was Mental Coach Imanol Ibarrondo. Imanol, a Spaniard who is not a licensed psychologist, but a trained expert in mental conditioning and performance. Imanol was contracted by the Mexico National Team in October of 2016 after an embarrassing 7-0 loss versus Chile in the summer of 2016 at the Copa America tournament. The task at the beginning for Imanol was to reunify the team, as it set its sights on qualifying for the World Cup. This year was the year, the Mexican National Team had facilitated one of their best World Cup Qualifying campaigns in recent history.
Mexico’s previous National Team head coaches have had a resistance with mental conditioning and performance, but Juan Carlos Osorio developed a comprehensive performance model which included a mental element. Mental conditioning and performance is usually not provided the equal level of attention as the tactical and physical element. But this time Mexico’s National Team was going to do things little different. The following are 3 ways the Mexico Nation Team used their Mental Coach to do the impossible against Germany.
Provide their Mental Coach with Unlimited Access to The Team
The initial phase of mental conditioning coaching is to establish player rapport and the ideal approach for rapport to flourish is to be provided unrestricted access. Imanol was presented by Juan Carlos Osorio in the fall of 2016 to show the players a comprehensive support system needed to compete with the best National Teams in the world. After the presentation, Imanol was provided the opportunity to contact each player individually and start the process of developing an individual rapport and mental profile.
Provide their Mental Coach with Opportunity to Conduct Team Workshops
As the relationship and trust elements were built over a couple of months, Imanol created group workshops focusing to expose the team’s fears, worries, and dreams. Then guiding the team through cohesion exercises to develop the team’s mental toughness and vulnerability. Team workshops are usually the most powerful instrument for the development of mental toughness because of the support and vulnerability which will arise from the team.
Provide their Mental Coach with An Opportunity to Implement their Plan
In many instances, a mental coach is hired to implement a plan designed by the head coach. But with Imanol, it was not Juan Carlos Osorio’s mental performance plan, it was Imanol’s mental performance plan. Imanol was able to develop a collection of quotes, messages, and stories to share with the team daily. As well as, allowing Imanol to conduct individual sessions with the players and design workshops to identify the team’s mental weaknesses and develop its strengths.
In conclusion, it is vital to understand Mexico’s National Team success is not by chance. Mexico always had elite players competing in the best leagues in the world. But how do you dream about doing something which has not been done before, by implementing a Performance plan focusing on a variety of elements to ensure success.
Regardless, of how far Mexico makes it in the World Cup, the element of mental performance will be an element which will continue to get an increase in attention and use for the benefits it has on player performance, as we have already seen with Mexico’s memorable World Cup campaign thus far.
Bravo Mexico, Bravo.
About the Author
Omar Figueroa is committed to helping people, from students to professional athletes of all ages and backgrounds in the areas of athletic counseling, mental performance, and higher education. For more information on Omar Figueroa, please visit www.futbol-marketing.com.