Method in Mourinho’s madness?
During a recent interview with Dinamo Zagreb’s performance psychologist, Boris Balent, the conversation turned to Jose Mourinho. Balent, who has worked at the top of the European game for over a decade, effusively recalled comments the current Spurs manager gave about the balance between players’ confidence and focus.
The essence of the remarks, which can be found in Mike Carson’s book, ‘The Manager: Inside The Minds of Football’s Leaders’, is that whilst confidence is important, focus is paramount. More striking than Mourinho’s viewpoint, though, was the obvious professional regard in which he was held by Balent.
It’s easy to pour scorn on the ‘confrontational leadership’ which, according to well-placed sources such as Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Athletic’s Tottenham correspondent, Mourinho favours. When it leads to public criticism of players, the approach seems glaringly counter-productive. In an interview with the Beat The Press podcast last year, Professor Marc Jones, a respected voice in sports psychology academia, said that pinning blame on individuals during post-match press conferences ran contrary to almost any theoretical guidance on motivating players.
However, Jones and Balent were also quick to point to Mourinho’s coaching track record and tendency to challenge orthodoxy. At a time when support for the Spurs manager’s methods is in short supply, it’s worth remembering that the ‘respect’ Mourinho craves can still be found in expert circles. With this summer’s managerial merry-go-round sure to start soon, don’t bet against him finding new employers before long.
ps: I should point out that the interview with Balent was conducted prior to Tottenham’s defeat in the recent Europa League last-16 tie against Dinamo Zagreb. A post-match discussion on Mourinho’s mastery of confidence and focus would have been interesting, to say the least!
Hasenhuttl’s motivational videos: choosing the right moment to inspire a team
It was interesting to hear Ralph Hasenhuttl discuss plans to show his squad some motivational videos, ahead of their FA Cup semi-final against Leicester. The Southampton manager appeared to imply that the practice was infrequent (and probably not to be repeated, following yesterday’s defeat), pointing to a 4-0 win against Portsmouth in 2019 as an example of when similar pre-match films had paid dividends for him.
Whilst this might seem slightly counter-intuitive, given the amount of footage and ease with which videos can be produced, Galway United head coach Lisa Fallon has previously highlighted the diminishing returns which can set in if motivational props are routinely used.
During an interview with Beat The Press last year, Fallon, who was tasked with creating pre-match videos as part of a previous role within Northern Ireland’s coaching setup, remarked that the international football calendar is more conducive to deploying such tactics.
“It’s different for a club team because I think if you use them (videos) every week, they probably lose their value,” she said.
“You have to choose your moments. With international football, it’s probably the perfect environment to do them because there could be six months between games, so it’s easier to create a new story that is reflective of the moment that you are in.”
If you’ve read this far…a recommendation for the week ahead
If you’re looking for inspiration which can be accessed more frequently than every six months, check out the new Performance Lab podcast (hosted by Ben Welch), which contains some excellent interviews, including a really interesting discussion with former Arsenal striker Kelly Smith.