As the Summer winds down and draws to a close, for every football fan in the country it’s a fresh start. A clean slate for their teams to build a strong foundation for the long gruelling season ahead. However, this year, football came home. As an avid fan of the sport from a young age, seeing England lift a major international trophy for the first time sent me into hysteria! But once the initial elation simmered down, I thought about the magnitude of what they had actually just achieved. Not only had they won the tournament, they had dominated it. Our ladies were relentless, scoring 22 goals in six games. For comparison, only one other team scored more than ten. This unprecedented performance isn’t possible based on ability alone, the margins are too fine at the highest level of any sport. We need to talk more about their mindset and character.
All of us, at some point, have experienced considerable pressure (though the weight of a nation on your shoulders is surely an entirely different beast?). The knowledge that millions of people will be watching, pinning their hopes on you. Every decision made will be scrutinized across social media and in passing conversation. Ruthless critics will poke fun at every mistake, belittling women’s football at any opportunity. Which brings me to the point I really wanted to focus on here:
MENTALITY AND BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
In the case of football teams, each player and member of staff needs to be absolutely committed in order to achieve peak performance. But perhaps more importantly, they need to have resilience. Ultimately footballers are human, just as anyone they’re susceptible to good days and bad ones. They experience swings in mood and form. This is where the Lionesses’ ability to face the test of adversity shone. England overcame an equalising goal from Germany in the second half of the final, by scoring the championship winner deep into extra time. In the past I’ve seen many an England side crumble in those situations. But The Lionesses stuck with it. (The moniker is well deserved).
But when I look inward, do I see that level of dedication and commitment within myself? How do I respond to adversity? Introspection can be difficult but valuable … identifying and isolating weakness or deficiency in your own character is never a comfortable task; though it is something we must do in order to grow as people and better ourselves.
That is precisely why the England women’s national football team has been a revelation. Each individual from that team possessed an irrepressible desire to do what the team needed of them without wavering. Earlier this year, I read an article on how Leah Williamson had been dealing with imposter syndrome ahead of the Euros. She talked about how there will always be critics, but after all the training, preparation and hard work; all that’s left to be done is enjoy the moment and give your all. Leah went on to lead the team to glory as Captain. And as we know – diamonds only form under intense pressure.
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