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Ansu Fati and fear management

BarcelonaWhen Spanish coach Luis Enrique talks about the group of players he leads, he often refers to them as “mine”. It is a way of marrying the temperament of the Asturian and helping to turn a group of footballers who play in different clubs for a good part of the season into a pineapple. The Spanish coach is the first to defend them in front of the press. Before the last European Championship, he often had to do so in the face of criticism from Álvaro Morata. Just a few days ago, he did it with Barça’s Eric Garcia: “He’s a wonderful player. He knows that if he saw two or three better players than him, he would pass them by. But that’s not the case and I’m satisfied with his performance. “Eric is one of mine.”

Within the circle of protection created by Luis Enrique, the former Barça coach is taking special care of Ansu Fati. After a season marked by injuries, relapses and a last recovery that lasted almost two months longer than expected, the coach has called him back. It is not out of a sporting need of the present, but to care for, pamper and integrate the striker with the group before the next World Cup, which will be held at the end of the year in Qatar. “You have to be very tactful and very calm with him. This call is a reward for him to be with us again. He has to go slowly, there is no hurry. His level is out of any doubt, “Luis Enrique said Wednesday.

The coach made these statements after Ansu was left out of the duels against Portugal and the Czech Republic and before this Thursday’s match against Switzerland. In the face of the Swiss team, it was already hot at halftime, but in the end, in a match in which Spain ended up suffering, the 10 Barça did not play a single minute. Barça sources consulted by ARA highlight the prudence of Luis Enrique. “He’s not stupid,” they say. The Asturian does not want Ansu to suffer new physical setbacks under his direction. The coach is aware that, despite the fact that the player is physically “stabilized” and has already been discharged before the last matches of the season with Barça, he must regain confidence. “Ansu has not yet started with his club. Patience is needed,” the coach defended a few days ago.

A mental issue

From Sant Joan Despí they consider that the pearl of Barça must overcome the fear, but this already depends, to a large extent, on the footballer himself. After a conservative treatment between Madrid and Barcelona that exceeded the expected recovery times, Ansu “is ready” to compete. But to be explosive again and play uncomplicatedly he has to regain confidence after all the physical problems he has had. “Fear is present in sport. In athletes who have suffered injuries, it is normal to experience feelings of fear: fear of being injured again, fear of disappointment if optimal performance is not achieved …”, points out Teresa Álvarez, a former professional international volleyball player with the Spanish national team and a psychologist specializing in sports performance.

Alvarez notes that “thoughts and emotions are directly related to the body.” That is, “mental preparation is crucial, not only when one is injured, but throughout one’s career.” In this sense, the expert states that if Ansu is afraid of falling injured, this generates “a spiral of tension which, in turn, can lead to a new injury and directly affects the player’s performance”. Alvarez is also personally advising athletes, and explains that in order for the footballer to regain confidence he must develop tools such as “learning to relax in stressful situations, working to control dysfunctional thoughts arising from fear and having a internal dialogue focused on positive factors “.

“It’s crucial for an athlete to learn how their mind and body work, it helps them get to know each other and have more self-confidence,” he adds. Both in the final stretch of the season at Barça and now with Spain, patience and support are constant to help Ansu regain his level. “Designing a program of achievable and progressive goals will help the athlete to encourage their motivation and, therefore, their confidence,” concludes the expert. The three matches that Spain has played so far have been with demanding finals, a delicate scenario for an Ansu that still does not have full confidence.

In an interview with ARA, the former Barça player Oriol Romeu, who at the age of 22 had already undergone three operations on his right knee – one for ligaments and two for menisci – explained how he regained confidence. “I really enjoy reading. There’s a sports psychologist, Terry Orlick, who has a book called mind training which helps you imagine workouts or match situations and somehow stay mentally connected. It was recommended to me by Joaquín Valdés, the psychologist who works with Luis Enrique. And the physical issue, when it comes to the knee, is a trial and error: I got here with my leg, nothing happened, so I can do it again. To regain confidence. ”

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