Since leaving the professional Women’s Hockey environment, I always keep up-to-date on England’s performance so I’m really enjoying watching the current World Cup. I remember what it’s like to be part of such a high-pressured environment, where you’re often swept up in a whirlwind of emotions.
Those emotions came flooding back whilst watching England’s recent 1-1 draw against India. Earlier in the year, England had easily won 6-0 against India, so I think that result might have had quite an impact on the team. It left me thinking about how I would be feeling and the things I would need to focus on in order to regroup, and it came down to three main areas.
Come back to the bigger picture
With such a high level of competitiveness and emotion charged throughout every individual, it’s important to ensure everyone directs this towards the same underlying purpose. Performance is always the driving factor for the team and it comes down to the emotional competitiveness that’s bread throughout every individual. This was at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and we knew that anything less than winning really wasn’t good enough – that’s why we were all there! Ensuring everyone was aligned to this purpose was the first step towards a successful performance.
Communication within the team
Things don’t always go to plan, and setbacks are inevitable. When any challenges did pop up, we always aimed to communicate constructively around them and listen to each other’s opinions. This was important if we were to move on as a team and improve on any weaknesses that became exposed when in competition.
Communication also plays an influential role in building unity amongst the team. Engaging with other personalities and understanding what makes them tick is important when competing in such high-pressure environments. Even when we were off the field, the time we spent getting to know each other helped build a sense of community and allowed everyone to be themselves. I think this inclusive behaviour off the pitch is just as important to the competitive nature on the pitch. If an individual is excluded and begins to act alone, it would have caused huge disruption amongst the team which would ultimately affect performance.
I think following the draw against India, it will have been really important for the England team to have an open and honest conversation about their performance.
Understanding your role
One of the main things I learned from my time playing hockey was to ensure everyone was crystal clear on their role within the team. Assumptions can be dangerous especially in a critical moment of such a fast-paced game, and they can seriously derail the rest of your team. It’s important to reduce the uncertainty (or at best control what you can control) when you walk out on the pitch. Everyone in the team needs to know their job, but more importantly, they need to know how their job fits into the bigger picture. It goes back to the wider purpose about being successful as a team, we each had a critical role to play in order to win, and that helps you focus on your performance.
So that’s my swift tour on enhancing team performance! I’m looking forward to watching how England progress in the tournament, I think they’ve got all the ingredients of a high performing team that can go all the way to the finals.