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Getting Into The Mind Of A Footballer

Getting Into The Mind Of A Footballer

This summer sees the launch of a new project by Sam Kotadia, co-author with José Semedo of the book ‘Win The Day’, which was published just over a year or so ago. The Win The Day Goal Setting Journal is the next step in the ‘Win The Day’ crusade if you will, this focuses on YOU, not the man on the cover. Semedo has always been adamant that he has to give something back to the people who have enriched his and the life of his family over the years.

His experiences as a footballer from being a young man in Portugal were documented in ‘Win The Day’ but now it’s about learning how you can utilise the skills you have within yourself that for many remain untapped to achieve your own personal goals in life. The journal is designed to be a memento of your personal journey, your road to personal wellbeing and José was keen to pass on his route to where he is, and hopes that it can help YOU become the best you can be.

Over the past nine years, Sam has worked with José to help him become the player and person that Wednesday fans came to know and love. Where Semedo’s future lies in football at the moment, no one really knows but the man himself puts his relative success in his career down the help given to him by one of his closest advisors who has become of his hypothetical ‘brothers’ in life.

By using the teachings of Kotadia, he has been able to channel his own passion and commitment in ways that even he didn’t think were possible and in the early days, it was directing his passion for the sport which was key, something which José freely admits, was a problem which he didn’t realise was actually a hindrance rather than a help.

“In the beginning what frustrated with me was that I couldn’t win every game.”
José said.

“I tried to help all of my teammates if things weren’t working for them and I stopped focusing on what I had to do, because I was focussed on trying to help them too much it affected my own game.

“I continue with the same desire but now I know when is the right moment to place that desire, to step down or relax. I know when to let things go which I didn’t know before. I now realise that sometimes just keeping going isn’t the right thing and you have to let go.”

In speaking to Sam about his first meeting with José, he remembers their first meeting fondly, he saw a young, fiercely ambitious man whose desire to succeed burned like the sun and it was obvious to everyone there would never be no inch given in terms of his efforts to get the vital three points.

“It was at Charlton when Phil Parkinson, who I’d previously worked with at Colchester United, introduced me to Semedo. He asked me to work with him as he thought that I could get more out of him as he had potential to get better as a player. It excited me as one thing I’ve always wanted to do was exactly this sort of thing to help people achieve their goals and realise their potential.”

He continued: “I think José had a tendency to take a hit in terms of his game if he made a mistake, there was a hangover from his time on the continent and playing in a Sporting Lisbon team where they hardly lost a game. He didn’t have to deal with losing before, and he came to a Charlton team who were winning maybe one game in three or four and he struggled to come to terms with that.

“Parky could see that he needed help in not losing his focus when it came to things not going the team’s way or hide if things weren’t going right. It frustrated José because he knew he was better than that, and he would try too hard and in trying harder it would get in the way of him performing naturally.”

For many football supporters, they would argue that trying too hard is impossible. Seeing someone exert themselves to the limit of their physicality drums up passion, maybe even elevates someone’s status to beyond their actual abilities. Whilst José has throughout his career forged his own character of being full of grit and determination, it’s the positive effects of the teachings in terms of his mental dexterity which have arguably had more of an effect.

“I always had something inside of me which was the desire to win but it wasn’t always in the right way.” He admitted.

“I see this guy (Sam) as very important and from starting to work with him I became a different person. As I said before, just keeping going isn’t the right thing and sometimes you have to let the unhelpful feelings go.”

So, who is Sam Kotadia? Wednesday fans only know him as the man who co-wrote, Win The Day, but where did he come from, how did he become so influential in the life of a modern day Owl’s cult hero? In his humble beginnings as a 20 year old, his path would cross another former Wednesday player in his first role in football at Colchester United.

“I left University and approached Colchester, and met the manager at the time, ex Wednesday player Steve Whitton and told him I could make his players better, and that was when I was only 20 year old.

“I knew nothing about the guy really and I remember walking into his office and he was sat behind this huge desk with both his coaches at either side of his desk, it was like walking into the Dragon’s Den. It was like he had two bulldogs sat either side of him!

He continued: “There were two coaches there, Geraint Williams, and Brian Owen as well as the manager and I told them I could make their players better and I said I’d work for them initially for free so I was asked to start in the summer of that year. Then Whitton was sacked and the club appointed Phil Parkinson who had heard they’d made a promise to me that I would work with the first team, but he said ‘I’m not letting a fresher work with the first team,’ so he shoved me in with the Youth team to prove myself. I was out with them on the training pitch and getting amongst it. Then Parky asked me to work with the first team later after the Youth Team won the League.

“The first player I worked with directly won Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year, Alan White. He’d had a concentration problem and was often distracted by mistakes, so we looked at where he made the mistake and gave him a simple routine to rectify that. I told him that every time he made a mistake, I wanted him to take a deep breath. So the mistake became something that triggered something positive and that one little thing helped him forget the error and get back into position, he was a bit quicker to the ball and obviously when you restart doing things well you feel more confident.

“He won his accolades that season and then in the local paper he told the journalists that a lot of it was down to my work with him. Then following on from that, Parky admitted they should start paying me!!”

Following the initial success, Sam was considered as one of the team helping Parkinson forge a path in management as the U’s moved into the Championship, something which he is immensely proud of playing a part in. That success brought a move for the manager into Yorkshire with Hull City, but circumstances weren’t to keep Sam in the team of staff with Parkinson.

“Colchester were promoted to the Championship on a shoestring budget, together we made something miraculous happen. When Parky went to Hull, he wasn’t allowed to employ me there because he had taken too many staff with him already, It was a shame it didn’t work out there. But since then I’ve worked with him at Bradford and more recently at Bolton Wanderers, we still have a terrific working relationship.”

Mental health has come to the fore in sport more so over the past few years, but rather than seeing it as that, Sam thinks it’s the framing of the situation which is just as harmful. Even though the barriers to accepting mindfulness practices are coming down slowly but surely, things could be better.

“I’m not sure my job is much easier now although mental health is mentioned more, I still think people make the mistake of saying ‘work with a psychologist’ or ‘let’s fix your depression’ there’s nothing to fix, we should just look at making things better, or in sport look at making performance better.

“Words and phrases like ‘mental illness’ and ‘depression’ can make it a bit of a taboo thing too. It can be unhelpful when people talk about mental illness, it’s still a negative phrase, and it should be about how do we feel happier, how do we perform better; it needs to be framed better to have more of an impact which is so important.

“The biggest problem is the mind cannot be ill as such, as we are innately well. We get kind of hoodwinked by a lot of unhelpful thinking on different levels, from schizophrenic levels, manic depressive levels or sometimes just feeling a bit sad but it all boils down to getting hooked into negative thinking. Labels are neither here nor there.

“I think the place to come from is that we are all well and we need to tap into that. I think people switch off to psychology sometimes because people just say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m alright,’ but it’s framed in such a negative way that to see someone you must have a problem. You don’t have a problem, it’s about optimizing what we are already doing, that’s the missing piece in sports psychology.

“Parky always referred to me as a performance coach, not a sports psychologist, I was seen as someone who can help you perform better in all areas of your life. That I think makes a big difference in how things are positioned.”

One of the enduring images that people will have of José Semedo during his time at the club, off the field at the very least, is one of a happy person and someone who is friends with everyone and has time for everyone. Maybe you could say that it’s that performance in life which has made him the man we have come to love, and it’s something which the man who took Sheffield to heart is immensely proud of, He puts that down to working with Sam and José openly admits this help has steered him having the right mindset going into each day.

“People say to me, ‘You are always happy,’ but the natural state is to be happy. Sometimes I do feel down, and when I feel down it’s because I’ve overworked my mind, you go inside of yourself and ask why you are down. Sometimes you don’t find the answer, and now I realise it’s ok to feel down. You will feel ok; you know you will go back to the natural state. I don’t try to fight it, you could say sometimes it’s raining and other times the sunshine comes out, it’s natural.” José said.

“To be the best I can be in each day is all I can do. Today my day was about training as hard as I could as a footballer and make sure that I go home happy knowing I’ve done my best.

“I take this into all my life, it’s the way I am. No one can judge me if I’m happy with myself. I go home every day and put my head on the pillow happy that I’ve done my maximum. No one can ever say that I have a lack of respect for anyone who I have worked with, or accuse me of being unprofessional. It’s a matter of choice in working so that you are ready whenever anyone needs me, and I will always be there, present and ready.

“This is not only for football or any person involved in sport, it’s for anyone and I mean also for working people in what some would call normal jobs. By using the journal day by day then it will make you better, I have no doubt of that. The discipline and the balance this can give you is like when you get advise from maybe a dietician or a doctor, this journal will help you to be present in your day. This is important because we hold onto things in the past too much, be it good or bad things and we forget about the now, and it’s the now which makes the future bright.”

That infectious outlook on life is something that we can all have; it’s just about finding it within. José and Sam are doing their utmost to bring the message to the world, not by being revolutionary but just by asking you to look within yourself.

“Everyone can benefit, if I can get it, my wife and my kids can get it, then anyone can get it. It’s something which allows me to review my day, every day, to know what I have done, and have to do to always be at my best.” José added.

“This journal is something what l use for my life, today I’m a footballer, maybe tomorrow I will be a coach, I want to stay in football but whatever comes next the journal will continue to help me.”

The Win The Day Kickstarter campaign will be hitting the world wide web towards the end of the summer, with the aim of spreading José and Sam’s message far and wide in their words, “It’s for all of us.”

To get a FREE digital copy of the first book in the Win The Day crusade, simply sign up to the Win The Day mailing list which you can find details of the book and gain little tips and nuggets of daily advice, at
Also give @WinTheDayGlobal a follow on Twitter as well as @JVSemedo of course.

*Thanks to Sam Kotadia and José Semedo for their time.  

Unread article 25/07/2017 at 07:48



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