Playing Against Intimidating Opposition

| Posted inWeekly Blog
So you’re coaching and nice little team and have been working hard with the team all season implementing strategies and skill development and now you find yourself in quite a distracting situation.
Should we prepare ourselves and our players for a constant barrage of distraction coming from the opposition’s bench and supporters, and remembering this won’t happen in every game. It is my belief that teams who practice this kind of intimidation lack the skills to win fairly and squarely.
As an athlete at the Australian Institute of Sport and working with the AIS for six years the psychology behind preparation can be rewarding. We were taught to play within the white lines and to omit external queues from our game. Our preparation was to work on our own responsibility on court and to combine as a team and follow our game plan. We were trained not to listen to any loud or distracting calls from the sidelines and also never to look at the scoreboard. As simple as this seems to be it can be more difficult to put into practice.
It only takes one player to be upset from a comment or take to heart a derogatory comment from the opposition’s supporters or bench and your team can come unstuck.
When I was coaching National League we would have sessions where I would gather some parents and boyfriends of the girls and get them to hurl some comments whilst the players were training. At first everyone found this quite amusing as I was a coach that asked my supporters to be positive on the sidelines. The reasoning behind this was to train the players to ignore the comments and train themselves to be focussed on what happens within those court walls.
At any level of competition the opposition bench can be as negative as supporters so it is important for your team to block out any negative comments. As the opposition bench is close to the action they can be more easily heard when giving the odd sledge. As a coach I also find the opposition bench can distract the umpires and sometimes affect decisions.
It is important to not react to this form of behaviour. Keep your girls focused on the game and request no reaction. Also make sure your supporters and bench don’t yell back as it becomes too stressful and the players will get distracted. Follow your game plan and remain positive and be consistent on a weekly basis so the players remain consistent for you.
Skill, fitness, team strategies, focus, ability to follow a game plan and team work will always shine through. Remember ‘You attend to the process and the process will attend to itself’. Be honest, keep focused and positive and your team will enjoy their experiences no matter who the opposition may be.
Written By Melissa O’Brien