Due to Titans coach John Cartwright dropping a mental bombshell in the opening 45 seconds of the Titans media conference following their loss to the Raiders, this weeks’ analysis will focus on that because every coach on the planet stands to significantly benefit if they read, absorb and implement into their coaching the lessons these comments provide.
Here is the bombshell:
“When you look at your draw and you pick out the one’s you should win, it was one we definitely felt we should win, especially coming back from North Queensland with a win.”
Now the earth may not have moved for you when you read that comment; it massively moved for me when I heard it because these words go a long way to explain why the Titans went from top 4 in 2010 to wooden spoon in 2011.
There are so many things wrong with this statement from the mental perspective I could fill the next 24 rounds of reviews covering them. Instead I’ll give you a summary.
• No one can predict future results • Teams cannot even control the result of the game they are playing (I bet Souths thought they had control of the game v Roosters in round 1 with 3 minutes to go) • Forecasting is arrogant; it involves making negative judgements about opposition (If I was from Canberra I’d be offended to hear that the Titans felt it was a game they thought they ‘should’ win just by looking at the draw – it shows no respect for the opposition) • Forecasting shows an ignorance of the negative impact it has on the mental element of performance – which is the main reason why a team performs poorly (coaches will try and tell you it’s the referee or injuries that are to blame) • Who and what decides what matches ‘should’ be won? • By forecasting wins you are also forecasting losses, so John which teams do you plan to lose to? • ‘Should win’ or ‘must win’ games place unnecessary pressure on athletes and often are the significant factor behind subsequent poor performance • Teams that lack consistency often have these views (which is why they play well against teams they expect to lose against, but poorly against teams they expect to beat) • A win in the previous round (v North Queensland) has nothing to do with the following week’s result (if you disagree with this by saying that a win produces confidence to take into next week you are wrong)
Cartwright then goes on to explain the loss due to lack of repeat sets, low energy levels and a lack of urgency. All signs of a team who think they ‘should’ win this game; they are waiting for the opposition to play their role and lie down. Mentally, this is a big mistake; huge in fact.
“Even though we won last week we struggled to build any pressure with repeat sets and we did that again tonight. The difference tonight was that the Raiders held onto the ball.”
This is an admission that the Titans are not in control of their own performance; whether they win or lose depends on the performance of the opposition. The Cowboys gave the match away by dropping the ball and the Raiders took the game from them by completing their sets (just as they did the previous week v Melbourne). So, to beat the Titans, stay solid and complete your sets because they are currently unable to build pressure and put themselves into a position to win the match. This is what the Titans coach effectively just said!
Now the Titans 18-0 win in round 1 is cast in a very different light because it made the Titans look better than they really are. So how do the Titans get any genuine confidence out of this result when the Cowboys gave the match away rather than the Titans building pressure and winning it? The truth is they don’t.
What they get is a false confidence, believing what they did against the Cowboys is good enough to beat other teams. Maybe an NRL team with genuine title aspirations would have put 50 points on the board based on how poorly the Cowboys played. So the 18-0 result is a meaningless guide to confidence levels and form.
The Raiders took some genuine confidence (completing sets, fighting to get back into the match and so on) out of their loss against Melbourne (quality opposition who performed well), while the Titans were clutching at false confidence from their win (but below par performance) against the Cowboys (quality opposition who put in a significantly poor performance). Winning doesn’t always mean a confidence boost and losing doesn’t always produce a confidence drop!
The above points explain a large amount of the Titans drop from the top 4 in 2010 to the wooden spoon in 2012 (how may games ‘should’ they have won when they looked at the draw in 2011, especially coming of a top 4 finish in 2010?). The usual post-season review stating injuries, players leaving, bad calls during games and so on explained the 2011 performance for the Titans; there was no mention of how they reviewed their performance from the mental perspective or if it was even reviewed at all.
To cover the cracks that appeared in 2011, the Titans paraded their new signings to the media during pre-season in an attempt to fuel their premiership hopes for 2012. Clubs often think that new players will change the clubs fortunes, but every team gets new players! If the club is not on the right track from a mental perspective, new players will cover technical/positional deficiencies but have less of an impact on the overall team performance than expected. The Titans spent big, so now the pressure is on to deliver; mentally they don’t look to be able to handle the pressure so far.
From the mental perspective the prognosis for the Titans in 2012 is poor. New signings do not make up for the mental deficiencies reflected by the above comments and the impact they have on the on-field performances (as displayed by the Titans over the 2011 season and into the start of 2012). If the mental deficiencies (see above bullet points) are left alone, this season will follow a similar trajectory as 2011 – underachievement through inconsistent performances.
I wonder who else the Titan’s feel they ‘should’ beat in 2012?
Lessons for coaches:
• Focus on your own teams performance one week at a time • Ignore your opposition – get your own team ready as best as you can (you address you oppositions attack by focusing on your defence and vice versa) • Set realistic expectations for your players based on their skill level and effort levels rather than expecting them to win the comp • Each team has the same chance to win on any given day (50%) • Employ specialists in their respective fields; the mental element needs to be covered by a professional