Peak Performance: What can we learn from England’s World Cup campaign?

As England prepare for their most important football match in 30 years, we take a look at how team engagement is proving a decisive factor over in Russia.

It’s been the most entertaining tournament in recent memory, that’s for sure. We’ve had goals galore, close encounters, unexpected giant killings and even a few penalty shootout wins! We’re still in shock.

The biggest stage for the beautiful game is all about maintaining a high standard and reaching peak performance when it matters most. Right now England are one of three teams remaining from the initial 32. It makes us wonder what exactly has given this year’s squad their competitive edge.

Let’s dive straight in, shall we?

Team spirit, sports science… and unicorns

It’s been fascinating to see Gareth Southgate’s preparations play out on the pitch. The England manager seems a notably different breed from his predecessors, less old school and certainly more willing to experiment with new methods of engagement.

The recent photos of the England team’s post-match pool session are a prime example. They show several members of the squad – Harry Maguire, Jordan Pickford and Jesse Lingard – laughing as they race inflatable unicorns from one end of the pool to the other. These pool sessions (usually without unicorns) are a key part of recovery after matches, but Southgate and his engagement consultants took the chance to liven up the routine and develop greater relationships between the players.

The psychology of penalties

Southgate has also been garnering more and more attention for his focus on sports psychology. The shootout win against Colombia, for instance, was down to intricate research on placement and the psyche of individuals.

Players practised hitting the same spot every time in training, making sure it was beyond the ‘diving envelope’ as shown below. They even recreated the long walk from the halfway line for every penalty to simulate the in-game experience step-by-step.

Engaging your talent

On the surface these extra efforts made by Southgate and his backroom staff may not seem like much on their own, but they form a crucial part of the high performance culture he is building. By analysing every possible driver of success and leaving nothing to chance, we give ourselves the best shot at reaching and sustaining peak output.

Attention to detail is essential, as is getting the team to buy into the leadership and vision of the organisation. This is ultimately the reason England’s talented players are uniting and thriving at just the right time. Oh, and judging by the individual performances of Harry Maguire, Jesse Lingard and Jordan Pickford in recent matches, it seems to be doing the trick.

Want to find out more about the relationship between engagement and top performance?

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