Ferns must focus on what they can control: psychologist

Process, not outcome — that is the mantra the Silver Ferns need to be taking into today’s Commonwealth Games semifinal.

The team is coming off a rough week, having lost to England and Malawi before  its crunch match against Australia.

Pressure would be an understatement and sports psychologist Gary Hermansson felt the team was probably uncertain about where it was.

He said being in a good mental space was key to success in top-level sport and the main thing to do was to focus on what they could control.

"The problem is everyone tends to drive them into thinking about the result against Aussie," he said.

"That’s important, of course, but above all else they need to go out with the mind-set to be competitive and see where that leads to overall.

"The problem in these situations is you get into a lose or go home situation.

"Then the real challenge is to focus on what they can manage, which is their own attitude and their own competitiveness and let the result take care of itself."

That would be easier said than done, of course.

Hermansson said that alongside the internal pressures on the side, the expectation from outside had a huge impact.

Given that pressure has reached something of a peak, he was not sure how easy it would be to do what was needed to get in the mind-set to play Australia.

"I would be worrying about that.

"It depends on who’s able to sit down with them and give them that attention.

"The problem is the coaching staff are often caught up in the same dismay, because they’re on the line as well.

"What I’d be looking at would be some external input."

He said it was quite possible the side would bring in Kylie Wilson, who was the psychologist at the Games.

If she could help return the focus to what the team could manage, then it could do it.However, returning that focus would be hard.

"At the moment they’re going out there with a lot of bruising and pain, emotionally and mentally.

"That can be pretty hard to drag yourself up from.

"At the same time, you can use that as motivation, but the extent of the pain and the despair would suggest to me they could struggle."

He said the start would be crucial because if the Australians exerted their dominance early, it could knock the focus.

That would send the "mind-body alignment" out of line, which could result in panic, freezing and, ultimately, a poorer performance.

"It’s hard to be resilient when you’ve been knocked around.

"Resilience is that ability to step up no matter what the situation is, keep fighting for everything.

"They’ll be feeling a bit of a sense of despair about things that have happened.

"Once they get triggered into that and if they get behind early, it becomes doubly hard to be able to keep lifting yourself up."

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