Expert comment: England women’s footballWednesday 8 July 2015
The future looks bright for women’s football in the UK after England’s Lionesses achieved the highest World Cup finish since the country’s 1966 campaign. The team may have been knocked out at the semi-final stage, but its players hope their success in Canada is only the beginning. Lecturer in Sport Psychology Dr Stefan Koehn discusses how the team’s self-confidence is a key driver in its success.
Sport psychology in competitive settings has received more attention by the general public in recent years. The relevance of the sport psychology discipline may have been raised by research linking the mental side of the game with sports performance. The area of applied sport psychology has become a main focus, or so it appears, through the media attention when elite-level coaches assign sport psychologists to their staff. Integrating a sport psychologist into the team as part of the training and competition routines is more readily accepted and practised in North America. However, some European coaches, including Roy Hodgson, have noted that in addition to physical fitness, confidence is a major component when it comes to being successful at the highest level.
Over the last few weeks, the England women’s football team showcased incredible performances at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada. Over the course of seven matches, the English team showed a very balanced team performance, scoring goals on most occasions and not losing a single match by more than one goal difference. The ‘storyline’ of some of the matches indicated the team’s mental toughness and resilience, for instance fighting back from 0:1 against Norway in the first round of the knockout stage. A strong team effort and team cohesion throughout the tournament indicate that confidence was high on an individual and team level. This team performance has propelled the English squad to heights that appeared to be exclusive to Japan, Norway, or the US.
Despite all rightfully deserved praise for the team performance, one should bear in mind that out of the seven world cup matches, England conceded goals three times in the 90+ minutes. At the end of a long season, some players might be running low on energy, which can lead to less than optimal arousal and concentration levels in the final stages of the match. Nonetheless, the performance from athletes and coaching staff - particularly by Head Coach Mark Sampson - has been extraordinary, and provides a positive outlook for the future of the sport and the potential for women’s football in England.