I recently had a conversation with a colleague about a range of issues in coaching. During the course of our conversation he asked how his team could stop being the victim of ‘upsets’ and instead create ‘upsets’ of their own. He went on to say that he had never been involved in a team that had created an ‘upset’ but had suffered from many. To me the point is the difference between matches you ‘could’ win, and matches you ‘should’ win. His teams didn’t win matches they ‘could’ win but often lost matches they ‘should’ win.
I thought that was a great question. It is one of the most common experiences of coaches that the team plays to the level of the opponent. Against very good teams, it is easy to play well, but the chances of winning are small. Against teams around your level, a little below or a little above, it is much more difficult to maintain your level of play and hence upsets occur. To my mind the solution lies in creating internal standards. These are standards of performance, teamwork, commitment, emotion, discipline and so on that become internalised as the basic level of play of a team. Internal standards are created during training and competition. The coach (and team) demands these standards consistently and relentlessly. Ultimately a situation is created in which teams and players measure themselves not against their opponent but against themselves.
When sufficiently high internal standards are established, upsets become a thing of the past. As long as you have a little luck…