The match of the year, how do you best prepare for it? Mental coach explains: “Anything that is unprepared creates extra pressure”

Will captain Teddy Teuma be there on Sunday at the Bosuil or not? It is best to make that decision in good time, thinks mental coach Kris Perquy. — © BELGIUM

Sunday is the day: the match in which Union can take a giant step towards the title. But also the match in which it is possible that Union may finally forget the title. How do you prepare for such a crucial match? Mental coach Kris Perquy explains: “The fact that Union lost the title in the play-offs last season can play a role mentally. Both positive and negative.”

Thomas Cami

“This will be the most important game of their careers for most guys.” Union coach Karel Geraerts does not hide the importance of the match on Sunday. Lose in Antwerp and the title is definitely flying. Union even has to win to have everything in its own hands on the final day. But how do you best prepare for such a hugely important match? We asked mental coach and sports psychologist Kris Perquy. “There are different scenarios that we go over with coaches in such a situation. For example, you can pretend it’s an ordinary match like any other. But this approach is not appropriate, because in the end everyone knows that it is a crucial match. So you try to make players believe something that is not correct, and that can cause a double feeling.”

“We prefer a different scenario, namely that the coach realistically indicates the importance of the match, without changing anything in the preparation. So there is confidence in the preparation that has been used all season, because it has already ensured a top season. Teams that normally do not go into isolation do not suddenly go into isolation, for example. So nothing else happens, although the importance of the match is underlined, which increases the pressure”, says Perquy.

Kris Perquy. — © Geert Van de Velde

There is a clear plan to deal with that pressure. “We have to look at what pressure does to the players, although these are conversations that normally also took place earlier in the season. For example, Union has already played important European matches, so they can learn their lessons from that. In the match discussion it is also important that there is a very good task focus: a number of clear assignments must be given for players individually and for player lines. This helps players deal with that pressure. What helps is to discuss different scenarios in advance. What if we fall behind after a few minutes? What if someone gets a red card? What if we lead 0-2? It is important that different scenarios are drawn up, so that there are as few surprises as possible. Because anything that is unprepared creates extra pressure.”

Union lost the title in the play-offs last season, something they don’t want to experience again this season in Sint-Gillis. “That can certainly play a role mentally, both positively and negatively,” says Perquy. “As a coach you could use it by emphasizing that they were so close last season, and that now is the chance to make up for that and take that prize. But on the other hand, it can also cause additional pressure. It won’t be true anywaycan play in the heads.”

With or without Teuma?

A blow for Union is that it may have to miss captain Teddy Teuma on Sunday due to an injury. The Maltese captain was already absent last week, and is now also highly uncertain. “In such a case, we always try to inform the coach and the medical staff to decide as early as possible. If you only make a last-minute decision during the warm-up, you ensure that the whole team is involved. Our advice is to decide the day before whether he is fit and whether he can play or not,” concludes Perquy.

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