Big Sam and The Power of Silence

Altan Ramadan Toffa Leave a Comment

silence is sam allardyce’s secret weapon against the stress that comes with EPL management

Big Sam’s Secret Weapon
Sam Allardyce, the garrulous manager of Sunderland Football Club, is known for his old school approach to football.  Uncompromising, direct and not known to back down from an argument he also has the capacity to surprise.

His disclosure, prior to a crucial relegation decider for Sunderland, that he practices Transcendental Meditation (TM) was greeted with an element of shock in the UK media.

But given the value of TM and other forms of meditation the biggest surprise is that more coaches and athletes are not making it part of their daily routine.

The Difference it Makes
Speaking to the Guardian Allardyce reflected on a season of high stress trying to keep Sunderland from plunging through the trap door of relegation.

In a year when Premier League broadcast revenues are set to dramatically increase, this season is about the worst time possible in the last 20 years to be relegated.  The pressure on a manager, particularly one locked in a relegation dogfight with a marginal squad is immense.

“[TM] has helped me cope with the pressure of management.  That’s why I am still doing it today.

It’s very relaxing, very calming and you can do it anywhere.”

For the last 12 years Allardyce, affectionately known as “Big Sam” has been practicing TM three or four times a week at the end of the working day.  His sessions usually last for 20-25 minutes and have been credited with both mental and physical benefits.

Peace of mind and a broader view have helped provide perspective when the going has become tough during the course of the season.  This benefit has allowed him to make the right strategic decisions at key times.

Certainly his performance in the transfer market in January has made a huge difference to Sunderland.  Bringing Lamine Kone (centre back), Wahbi Khazri (attacking midfielder) and Jan Kirchhoff (defensive midfielder) to the club were three excellent decisions.

Likewise, the physical benefits provided by TM are valuable for people of any age.

Reduced stress and lower blood pressure can add years to your life.  Not only is longevity extended but also quality of life.

For Allardyce, TM is incredibly useful in helping to keep him at the top of his game.  Not many managers of Premier League clubs are in their 60s given the demands of the job.   Watching the performance of Sunderland through the second half of the season the sense was that Allardyce is not going anywhere quickly.

Other Athletes and Teams
The lack of a widespread uptake of meditation within professional football is possibly due to a bias against an activity that is not based in traditional Western science.  However, from a corporate perspective, meditation is becoming massively accepted, particularly in the United States.

There is nothing like the pursuit of employee productivity to challenge biases.  Many major US companies such as Google and Apple encourage their staff to meditate in an effort to make them more effective.

At this stage it would also seem that the United States is leading the world when it comes to athletes use of meditation.

The Seattle Seahawks NFL squad has a meditation programme and other practitioners include the legendary basketballers Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Implications for Youth Sports
It is generally agreed among sports psychologists, trainers, coaches and athletes alike that the mind’s role in peak sports performance is pivotal. Increased awareness and mental toughness are key to success in any sporting endeavour. Given the advances in various areas of sports science it appears the widespread adoption of meditation techniques will occur in sports and education over the next five to ten years.

Thus, rather than asking “why?” the correct question is more likely “when?” in regards to youth sports.

Every performance gain helps an individual become the best that they can be.  Given TM improves decision-making, concentration and cognition, expect more athletes and coaches to include it in their approach to training.

Top Flight Football Academy and TM
Certainly Top Flight Football Academy endorses the use of TM.  Coaches and players who have learnt continue to benefit from this simple technique.

The inclusion of TM also fits with Top Flight Football Academy’s holistic approach to player development, where the health and well-being of each individual is considered the cornerstone of sustained success.

As TM helps improve the mental aptitude of players as well as providing a wide range of physical benefits, Top Flight Football Academy views it as valuable item to have in any footballer’s toolbox.

Sunderland Stay Up
Ultimately Sunderland stayed in the Premier League with a game to spare.  A comprehensive 3-0 victory over Everton ensured safety with Kone scoring twice.

As for Big Sam, he continued his enviable record of having never been relegated.

With his ability to stay calm when all seemed lost it will be more of a surprise if other managers don’t take up meditation in future.  The benefits are simply too good to ignore.

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