• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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The problem of being an attacking player in football

The problem of being an attacking player in football

How do you react in the face of a stressful situation? Do you come up with any strategies to address it? We all have to find a way to deal with whatever life throws at us and the emotions that accompany it. That is the only way to survive and to keep moving. This capacity to survive is referred to as “coping.” To cope, the mind makes some efforts, consciously or unconsciously, to bring about a balance. Hence, we all have to cope with one level of stress or another as long as we remain on planet Earth.

While the general population copes with one stressor or another, people whose profession is to entertain us are faced with very difficult situations. A recent study revealed that players who play in attacking positions are likely to make use of alcohol and other substances to deal with stress compared to defensive players. The study was conducted by the author of this write-up and Dr. Mrs. CM Adewunmi, an Associate Professor of Sports Psychology. It was focused on understanding how youth football players managed various stressful life experiences.

The study revealed very interesting findings that can be seen in football. One of the findings of the study is that football players cope differently even in the same situation. Basically, they employed different coping strategies to deal with the problems they encountered. For instance, some football players may tend to avoid dealing with the problem as a way of solving it.

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Others may employ other maladaptive coping strategies, such as denial of the situation or resignation to fate.

While these strategies may prove effective in the short run, they are often detrimental to mental health, resulting in decreased self-esteem and even physical harm. The problem with maladaptive coping strategies is that they may appear to provide relief.

One key finding from the research was that the playing position in football determines how most players cope with difficulties experienced in life. Attacking players were worse off in terms of their coping strategies compared to defensive players. When presented with stressful situations, attacking players are more likely to make use of maladaptive coping strategies such as substances and less use of proactive coping strategies. This finding clearly explains why most attacking football players fail to deal with challenges they have encountered in their professional football careers. The most recent example can be seen at Manchester United.

While Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire faced almost similar challenges related to their poor performances, it was Sancho who couldn’t cope as well as Maguire. Ten Hag, the coach of Manchester United, said after their loss at Arsenal that Sancho’s poor performance in training was the reason he wasn’t selected for the game. Afterwards, Sancho would put out a reply on social media stating that any suggestions that his training was not up to standard were “completely untrue.” Eventually, Sancho would have some more disagreements with the coach before departing the club. Sancho claimed that the coach wanted to make him a scapegoat.

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On the other hand, Maguire, a defender, reacts better after the coach demands that he fight for his place on the team and show leadership after a poor run. Another example is that of Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United. Due to his poor performance and an unstable relationship with his coach, Lukaku would also experience a lot of performance difficulties, even later admitting to experiencing some mental illness in 2018. While this is not restricted to Manchester United alone, there are other retired footballers from other football clubs, specifically attackers, who failed to cope with the challenges they had. Adriano, Antonio Cassano, George Best, Mario Balotelli, and Ronaldinho, just to mention a few.

One reason attackers make the list is due to their role in the game of football. Compared to defenders, attackers must create chances and convert those chances into goals. On the other hand, the defender’s job is to destroy. As we know, it is easier to destroy than to build. Hence, attackers are generally under pressure to deliver top-level performance. Participating in top-level football is not as easy as we think. There are various challenges that football players must learn to deal with effectively to maintain their performance and achieve success.

Clifford Uroh is a researcher in the Psychosocial Aspect of Sports and Physical Activity. [email protected]