News from the world of mental training – TAG National team



Mental training is one of the prerequisites that allow athletes to perform at their limit. F1 pilots, top athletes, but also Slovak successful athletes Matej Tóth, Ján Volko, or Petra Vlhová. These are just a few examples of athletes where mental training has played a key role in achieving success. Mental training has become an integral part of the training and development of players in team sports. In 2019, the Slovak Football Association decided to establish cooperation with the company SportMind HDTS, which has long been dedicated to the mental training of professional clubs, teams, and national teams. The SR U19 became a pilot project and support for other national teams was added to this. Štefan Tarkovič, the technical director and coach of the men's national team, talked about the mental preparation project for futbalsfz. SK.

What is the reason you decided to apply mental training in the preparation of national teams?

 "First and foremost, it's a global trend. As in all areas, we must be able to adapt to developments and trends in this area, otherwise, we will start to lag behind advanced football. I think that in Slovakia we are significantly behind in this area compared to more developed Europe. I would add that not only the mental training of players but also coaches are very important. Influencing players by coaches, but also vice versa, is natural, and therefore this process must be interconnected. "

 So what is the difference between a player's and a coach's mental training?

 "Mental preparation is an important part of preparing a person for their performance. Another "performance" is given by the player, another coach, another any member of the implementation team. The result should be a desirable, ideally measurable result. I see the role of mental adjustment of players differently in the senior and differently in the youth category. The main goal of senior football is the result in the match, while in the youth it is primarily the development of the player in accordance with his developmental peculiarities. Therefore, the attitude and approach to mental training of people working in youth should be different from those in the senior age category. "

 How is mental training connected with the vision of the SFZ on the long-term development of football in Slovakia?

 "In the long run, the connection of SFZ with the clubs and their academies where these players operate is of the greatest importance in the development of players. Effective player development in the national team is not possible in isolation from the club environment. SportMind HDTS has the necessary experience based on cooperation with several clubs. He knows the football environment and has the necessary knowledge and tools, which is very important for the success of the whole project. "

 What was important for you when choosing a suitable partner for the project?

 "In order to be able to work effectively, it is important to be able to measure the results of work. This is the only way we can set the next step. SportMind HDTS has an analytical tool that is able to measure the mental settings of players, the player and implementation team, and its changes. It was also important to find a partner who can cover a long-term and demanding project with quality, also from a personnel point of view. In SportMind HDTS we have found people who have professional qualifications and experience. At the same time, they are close to sports, whether as athletes or coaches. Their system of work improves the development of players, which is one of the most important reasons for our cooperation. From our point of view, it is, therefore, an ideal partner for this project. "

 What was the introduction of mental training in representations?

 "First of all, it is important to realize that implementing any system in the environment requires time, quality preparation and cooperation of people. To all this, it is necessary to have a good tool, system, and project that will bring the desired effect. Therefore, SFZ launched a pilot project to include a mental coach in the implementation team in the age category U18 / U19. Both age groups are preparing for the final U19 European Championship tournament, although due to the situation of UEFA restrictions due to pandemic measures, the whole project is significantly affected. On the other hand, in the current situation, I see the importance of mental training of players, but also of coaches, even more important. "

 Have you also used mental training from your position of technical director?

 "Yes, he did. For example, one of my ambitions when taking office was to unify the perception of the "Concept of the national team game" by national team coaches. I perceived the low connection between individual age categories and their trainers as an obstacle. In cooperation with SportMind HDTS, we were able to analyze the environment among coaches. We have identified several causes and identified concrete steps to address them. For example, we have introduced repeated meetings with active feedback between trainers and mutual corrections. "

 And what is the result?

 "We managed to create a unified environment in this way. The benefit is the increased involvement of coaches in the development of players of all ages. Over time, I perceive this as a justified means of uniting the coaching group in the perception of the principles of the concept of team play. Our relationships have improved and our internal communication has improved. We want to continue this project with the systematic development of coaches in the application of mental training in their training and, of course, in the training of players. "

 What other steps do you see in the application of mental training in representations based on previous cooperation?

 "After the U19 European Championships in 2022, which will take place in Slovakia, we will analyze, evaluate and decide how we will proceed. My goal is to incorporate the mental training of players and coaches as an effective part of their development. Coaches should learn and be able to make effective use of the possibilities offered by SportMind HDTS. Another goal is to create a long-term effective link between SFZ - national team coaches/academies - club coaches in all areas, not just in mental training. If we succeed in putting this project into practice, I am convinced that in the future we will have even more players of European and world quality. "