Safa CEO wants psychologist to work with battling Bafana Bafana

With Bafana Bafana in a real rut at the moment after a series of disappointing performances on the field, South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Dennis Mumble wants to hire a sports psychologist to work with the team

Mumble said in a statement released on Tuesday: “We would all agree that the mind of a player is critical to performance. How many times have you heard the terms ‘mental toughness’, ‘confidence’, ‘attitude’, ‘focus’ or ‘teamwork’ used to describe elements of success?

“That any team at international level would not already be working with a sports psychologist is a bit disappointing, therefore the good news is that Safa are now open to using such expertise. This is a positive step forward.

“But there is something concerning in the reports too, which I think speaks to a misunderstanding of what sport psychology actually is.“

Mumble said sports psychologists are not motivational speakers.

“There is a bigger problem at play here if our players (the best of the best) lack motivation to play for their country. Players don’t need inspiration – emotional hype doesn’t last long. Neither does a quick ‘positive thinking’ talk help.

“As someone once said: ‘You can’t sit in your garden and think: ‘There are no weeds, there are no weeds’ and hope the weeds disappear. Find the weeds and rip them out!’ Players need mental and life skills training, which takes time and effort from all involved.

“Far too often, I have someone new call me up a few days before a major event wanting some help. This is not how sports psychology works.

“There is the trusting relationship that a sports psychologist builds with players and teams. Who would want to talk with someone they hardly know about their insecurities, anxieties or worries? I wouldn’t.

“It takes time to get to know athletes and for them to get to know you. Often, the real value of a sports psychologist lies in the relationship built.”

Mumble said that in addition to mental skills, life skills and self-development were crucial. “For sustained performance, players need to learn to manage themselves both on and off the field. There is no quick fix to this.

Mumble said they were looking to work with someone on a full-time basis.

“I just think there needs to be a very clear understanding of what it takes to help players from a psychological point of view, and a collective will to do the work –  because it can make a difference.

“Being mentally tough may not win Bafana Bafana the game, but being mentally weak will lose it for them.

African News Agency