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Reflections on the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023!

Updated: Aug 31, 2023


Did you follow the Women’s Football World Cup? We watched in anticipation and excitement as England won match after match, culminating in the first Football World Cup final that any England team has reached in 57 years.


Although the result wasn’t what we had hoped for, we think it is important to reflect on the incredible skills—both physical and mental, that were on display from the players, coaches and match officials.



Image description: A photo of football fans from different nations holding national flags whilst cheering.



What do you think was going through player’s minds as they were standing in the tunnel, waiting to enter the stadium for the final of the World Cup?

The build up to such important events can bring about powerful emotions for elite athletes, such as excitement, fear, or joy. Just like when we are waiting to complete an interview for a job that we really want, or compete in a sporting competition, how elite athletes manage their thoughts and feelings can impact upon their wellbeing and performance too.


Whilst waiting in the tunnel, some of the players were completing breathing exercises, some were being physically active by jumping up and down, and others seemed to be deep in thought—perhaps imagining successfully passing the ball to a teammate. What mental skills might you have used to cope and keep your focus?


 

Once on the pitch and completing warm-up exercises, an interesting observation was the commentary about players appearing to be relaxed and enjoying the moment. Being present and focused on what you are doing right now (also known as mindfulness) is another effective mental skill in a professional football player’s toolbox. This can help them to enjoy important experiences and limit the psychological impact of errors such as a lost tackle.


We can use this mental skill in our day-to-day lives too. For example, when taking on a new hobby or learning a difficult new skill or technique.


 

A critical point in the match came when the referee made the decision that a penalty was to be awarded to Spain. The subsequent penalty kick was spectacularly saved by England goalkeeper Mary Earps.


We reflected on the level of composure, focus and confidence required from the referee to make the decision that a penalty was to be awarded, make the subsequent announcement to the stadium and international audience; and from Mary to save the penalty kick.


Put yourself in the place of the referee, then Mary. What mental skills do you think you might use to cope in these situations? Can you think of any times in your life where these skills might be useful?


 

Are you interested in learning more about the mental skills that elite athletes practice and use to cope in high pressure environments, that can also be used by everyone in day-to-day life? Check out our interactive mental skills tools here!


You can also follow Dr Kate Hays, the England Women’s Football Lead Sport Psychologist, on Twitter, for interesting insights into the vital work that goes into preparing an athlete for competition at the highest level.


 

Photo credit: Canva.

Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Research Associate in the SPRINT Project.

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