This week, the Socceroos won a must-win, nail-biting World Cup Qualifier against Chile. They displayed grit, determination, and resilience as the game was decided after extra time in a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out. On the sideline was our very own, O-45s player, Mike Conway, Emotional and Mind Coach of the Socceroos.
Fresh off the plane from Dohar, he shared some of his insight, experience, and advice.
How long have you worked with the Socceroos?
I started working with the Socceroos after the last World Cup (2018). I’d been with Graham Arnold at Sydney FC working to build emotional and mental strength in that squad. We had considerable success building a unique program there so Arnie asked me to help him for the journey to the World Cup in Qatar.
What advice do you have for aspiring professional football players?
For young people. Hard work and a performance improvement mindset are essential. There are no shortcuts – it’s a long journey to build all the skills and it’s a constant learning process. The top players are strong technically, tactically, physically, and mentally. They constantly work really hard at all this. They know themselves well and get to know their teammates too. They are able to overcome disappointment quickly, accept mistakes as a learning experience and constantly work on their weaknesses. We need to remember that at best we have the ball at our feet for around three to four minutes a game. So…what are we doing the rest of the time? We need to learn this as much as how to be a great passer or tackler or dribbler!
Having a good mentor who is encouraging is also important. Coaches have an important role to play here. Ensuring that young people have fun playing the game and that they can grow and improve in both winning and losing.
How have you inspired the Socceroos?
My role in the Socceroos has been both team-focused and individually-based.
Regarding the players, I do lots of work both in and between the camps so after four years the relationships are deep and trusting. All the players are in contact with me throughout the season and the topics of conversation are wide and varied. They know I’m there for them without judgment to help them be the best they can be. Someone could be going through a rough patch at their club, struggling with an injury, or having a problem at home. They may be having a challenging relationship with a teammate. They may feel they are underperforming. They may be new to the squad and not feel like they belong. They might want some strategies to sleep more effectively or to deal with match day nerves.
It’s not uncommon to get into a negative headspace where your fear of the outcome also becomes negative. Most recently I’ve been delivering new visualisation and fast-track mindfulness techniques so players can still practice without the ball and get into a calm mindset quickly. And, also building new on-field communication programs. Anything to give us the extra one percent.
My constant message to players. Anything, however seemingly small which affects well-being and performance and life both on and off the field is my World. Together we will always find a solution to fix it. It’s important that they share. This is a key message for our young people too. Find someone who you can trust to talk about your goals as well as your challenges. It’s important.
How long have you been a part of Avalon Soccer Club?
I’ve been at Avalon for a few years now. Started with the O35s and then into the O45s . Currently with Coach Ed Lamb’s O45 team. Enjoying it all. Great team spirit and top of the table too.
A hot topic right now. So far I’ve been involved in four penalty shootouts and we’ve won every one. I can’t take too much credit for that but having a positive mindset is important. My message for penalties. “When you score, celebrate!”