Tuesday, 12 June 2012 02:30
By Dr. Isaac Newton
“The Benna Boyz performed remarkably well given their exposure, skills set, personal challenges and caliber of opponent. They made very few tactical errors and defended the goal commendably,” said accomplished business guru Garfield Joseph.
I asked 35 fans about their feelings and analyses following Antigua & Barbuda’s 3-1 loss against the United States at the opening semi-final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match on Friday.
These informal conversations with friends, family members and acquaintances, all of whom are ardent football fans, ignited flashing consciousness.
Several had travelled from across the US, Canada, England, the Caribbean, and Antigua to support the game.
There were young college and university graduates, grassroots intelligentsias, and seasoned professionals. Yet not one of them had the courage to imagine that Antigua & Barbuda’s Benna Boyz could have beaten the Americans. Most saw defeat as inevitable, a few pictured a far-fetched draw, and the rest predicted that victory was impossible. I suspect these sentiments are widespread.
Between celebrating defeat and basking in victory, lies the widest difference. No amount of losing with unmatched decorum is a good measure of achievement. We need to support a mindset that practices the art of winning, by melting clear standards of excellence with national pride.
If the national team greatly exceeded the forecast, we have major work to do.
I am willing to affirm outstanding efforts. But these attributes must be connected with daring exploits and high expectations. The impossible can become possible. That’s why David defeated Goliath.Overcoming Defeat
Is it enough to simply believe that we belong? The national team needed to play the game of its life and dominate the Americans. Clearly, the Benna Boyz defended well. But could they have attacked more and scored?
Eighty per cent of fans interviewed reported that the team did well. Sixty five per cent felt that we could have done better. Seventy three per cent expressed that the possibility of our defeating the United States was zero, and an alarming 98 per cent shared that they were proud to celebrate our honorable loss.
Twenty per cent insightfully pointed out that the national team’s confidence increased in the second half when compared with the first half of the game.
Judging from the way the match unfolded, despite the weather that caused a slight delay, one fan admitted that the Benna Boyz did not kick off the ball with a winning mindset. The national team wanted respect, and earned a dignified defeat.
Sub-consciously, we think that winning belongs only to the realm of local and regional football. This logic crumbles before international battles. It cannot conquer the World Cup stage.
Instead of projecting victory, the fans wanted to see the national team play in the big league. Indeed, players needed to be surrounded with more fans that communicated winning vibes. Too many talented islanders have dreams that are crippled by restless doubt and bruised by disbelief.
Although I wasn’t able to see the match live, I reviewed glimpses of it on Sunday. Observing the movement from cautious play to tough defense, I wasn’t sure that the players executed, as if unlimited determination trumps limited resources.
I did not get an opportunity to interview any of the Benna Boyz. But I wondered how many of them were convinced that they could have won the match. Did friends and families transmit victory? If yes, did the national team have glimpses of an upset win?
Perhaps we prepared the Benna Boyz to cultivate the confidence and awareness needed to step up their game and win against all odds. But a winning mindset will take time to become a confident habit. The will to win produces quantum leap in outcomes!Practicing Victory
We can execute a winning mindset by rejecting our perceived pious disabilities. It requires cultivating a winning culture that raises expectations. It teaches that excellence is inside us and that greatness is not foreign. It implements strategies for constantly attaining the best, and shows its positive effects on our capacity to triumph.
Even if the Benna Boyz had the courage to believe in themselves, how much did Antigua & Barbuda provide the motivational, cultural and physical support that the national team needed to win?
A culture of support requires: psychological coaching that equips clinical, focussed and classy professionals with an eye for the stunning, adequate public and private sponsorships, and quality medical attention. Add to the list proper gear, solid training infrastructure, and ample preparation time.
Exposures to high quality local and regional oppositions won’t hurt the national team. Several other ingredients are essential to victory: tangible career pathways, multiple strategies for making all the right moves during high stake games, and expert techniques for recovery and counter-attack when momentum is lost. Let’s not count out coping mechanisms. These prevent the team from external distractions and internal attacks.
Perhaps the services of Dr. Oswald Thomas, a noted psychotherapist, could be tapped to help the players cope with competitive pressure, fine tune optimal performance, and address underlying emotional status.
The marketing value Antigua & Barbuda got from the Benza Boyz simply playing at the semi-qualifying game was enormous. We now need to be pound wise, not penny foolish. If we see sports as a credible industry that could bring returns way beyond tourism, untold benefits will transform cemented thinking.
According to media reports, the Americans left the game believing that they can do better, the Antiguans departed with the feeling that they held their own. But there’s no reason why we can’t produce world class soccer players.
Chelston Lee and Seth Burton are excellent communications strategists with regional cultural capital and international penetration. They could help the national team structure their messaging, and provide feedback mechanisms to control players’ brand.
Antiguan born Gordon Derrick, the newly elected President of the Caribbean Football Union, could set our national and regional confidence on fire. By drawing on the legendary performance that the great Sir Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose stamped on West Indies cricket, we can blaze new territory in international football.
Expect the best!
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.