Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bafana Bafana Hires Itself a Shrink

I've never been really sure that this stuff works. Sports psychologists having you "picture success" and all, and it somehow making you a better performer.

How many great athletes need a sports psych?


But the way South Africa has been playing, since the Federations Cup, it can't hurt.

This story was reported in the Johannesburg Times, which says Henning Gericke "could talk the hind leg off a donkey." (That's a compliment. I think.)

Given the teams South Africa gets in the first round, he will have to do some really convincing talking.

South Africa opens the tournament against Mexico, which assumes it will get to the knockout round of every World Cup. Then it gets Uruguay, a tough South American side with scads of history, and it finishes with France, a 2006 finalist.

If South Africa had been playing well -- at all -- over the previous six months, you might think the Bafana Bafana have a shot to make it out of group play, which is their goal. South Africa is more than a little worried that it might be the first host country not to get to the final 16. And with reason. It is ranked No. 85 in the world.

But being at home ought to be a big bump for the team. Unless it's too tight to take advantage of it. And that is where a sports shrink comes in, we would think.

The shrink says South Africa's players need to "harness the pressure and let it work for them." He added, "You need to feed the subconscious mind to get a relaxed, creative mode."

And everyone all together now! Ommmmm . . .

Gericke plans to do what sports shrink normally do -- put together videos for players showing they succeeding. And just generally try to chill them out and have a little fun.

His claim to South Africa fame is working with the South Africa rugby team before and during the 2007 rugby World Cup -- which South Africa won. Then, South Africa is one of the elite rugby nations ... but it is most certainly is not an elite soccer nation.

Again, I imagine it can't hurt. But I wonder if it will help. Let's just guess and say coach Carlos Alberto Parreira would rather have another 2-3 world-class players instead of a sports psychologist.

But shrinks are easier to find. And he could come in handy for some long sessions on the couch if/when the Bafana Bafana goes out in group play.
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