Says sports psychologist Caroline Currid in an article in the times today (http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/caroline-currid-i-was-shocked-by-paul-o-connell-s-preparation-1.2870537) when describing her initial engagements with Paul O'Connell in 2008. While Caroline readily admits to not being a rugby person, she was dismayed that Paul relied on the perceived-slights/chip-on-the-shoulder/nurturing-a-grudge, and didn't "break it down and go with that process."“I was shocked by his preparation,” she explains. “I was really going down there thinking that this guy had it sussed and that his preparation would be really good and that I would come away with a lot of detail about sports psychology. But he obviously was doing nothing and his preparation was not good.
But in this instance, it is fair to say that inconsistency was not a charge that could be laid at POC's door, at any point in his career.You can’t rely on emotion to get the best out yourself; you’ve got to break it down and go with that process. Otherwise, the emotion will let you down and you’ll have a very inconsistent game: you’ll play great one day and then crap the next
Joe Brolly has had a major pop at sports psychologists recently, referring to it as the bullsh1t industry. Hard to argue when Mayo, the team that you'd imagine most in need of a sports psychologist in Irish sport have had 4 of them - and one explained the reason for their AI replay loss as
That's meaningless guff."Because, in a nutshell, the virtue and philosophy that drives them forward is also internally compromised."
And this is the problem with sports psychology that Joe Brolly has been focusing on (http://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/joe-brolly-why-i-cant-lose-with-a-career-in-the-bull************************-industry-35191230.html). The absence of any accountability for their claims. But in this instance, it is fair to say that inconsistency was a charge that could be laid at POC's door, at any point in his career.
Now, I'm not as sceptical as Brolly about psychology in sport(http://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/joe-brolly-mindfulness-gurus-put-my-bullstometer-in-overdrive-34301432.html). I'm sceptical about the psychologists. Roy Keane was asked if he has read The Chimp Paradox that the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Padraig Harrington lauded. He remarked that his inner chimp would not allow him to buy a copy. Tony McCoy brilliantly put it
Keane & McCoy had the psychology sown up. There was no need for guff. They were relentlessly dominant by simply focusing on beating the other guy. For sure that isn't for everyone, and the rest of the mere mortals need some way of leveling the playing field with these nutcases. Munster rugby, of which O'Connell was the central plank for their greatest decade, are founded on the same relentlessness and 'thickness' that McCoy mentions. Epitomised by the likes of Clohessey and Galwey who went before and Anthony Foley who was there until 2006. By 2008 they had won 2 European Cups in three years off the back of the very same simple psychology - the chip on the shoulder. And yet here we have a greenhorn sports psychologist telling Paul O'Connell that he was doing it wrong?'I have actually read articles about The Chimp Paradox and the three parts of the brain it controls but I would be like Roy Keane in knowing what my ************************************g job is. My job is to beat every fcker out there. So I’m a bit like Keane in being too thick and stubborn to want to talk about the chimp.
As a Connacht fan, that was obvious every time we played them until the last 2 years. The other provinces would waltz down to Galway, condescendingly make the right patronising noises and turn up for the win that they usually got. But every now and again they got their pants pulled down and arses spanked. Not with Munster. They turned up, chip-on-the-shoulder intact, treated Connacht as yet another team that needed to be ground into the turf and did the job every time.
Someone who admits to knowing nothing about rugby is shocked that someone who does, thought Richie McCaw was the best player in the world in 2006. Nonsense. There is a paradox in sport where you do need to believe you are good enough (competing), but at the same time also recognise that you aren't (training). But that misses an even more obvious point - the 2006 nomination (before he met Currid) was O'Connell's only ever nomination when his preparation was so poor. So once he engaged this psychologist, how come he never got one again?And when he hoisted up his barriers in the face of talk about sports psychology, she challenged his logic.
In his autobiography, O’Connell recalls telling Currid about his nomination for the IRB Player of the Year in 2006, which was eventually awarded to New Zealand’s Richie McCaw. Currid was shocked to hear that O’Connell didn’t think he deserved the gong.
The coach of the great Chicago Bulls side Phil Jackson was famed for his belief in mindfulness and use of offbeat psychological tricks and has the championships to back it up. Brian Clough turned up on FA Cup final day with his dog, to give the sense that there was more to life than the occasion and take the pressure off his side. My thinking is that psychology, when it comes from within the players, like Keane or the coaching staff like Jackson, in an authentic way is effective, but when it is foisted on from outside can be anything from ineffective to detrimental.
Back in Mayo, the former psychologist outline how they were "committing to the process"
Brolly finishes his piecedescribing how the Mayo players religiously brushed their teeth with their left hand in order to try and improve their kicking with their left foot.
In response to Brolly's 'attacks' (or voicing of reasonable scepticism) about the lack of any empirical sign that sports psychologists deliver any benefit Currid's answer was very interesting:PS: After all that awkward left-handed and right-handed teeth-brushing over the course of several years, in this year's drawn final and replay, not a single Mayo player scored with his weak foot. Just sayin' . . .
No mention of the improvements in performance, verifiable or otherwise. Counselling is a valuable contribution for sure, but Mayo don't employ sports psychologists to save lives.“I don’t know how many times I have got a call from a young man who wants to commit suicide and the only reason he has my number is because their team took me in as a sports psychologist. It’s incredible and it’s a horrible epidemic in our country. I would love for Joe Brolly to listen to some of these men and then he’d realise how important it is for sports psychologists around this country going into these clubs.”