Shona Duff, the Optimum Performance coach who has been working with Jackie McNamara and the team at Partick Thistle gave macb.co.uk this exclusive interview, ahead of this weekend’s ‘six-pointer’ against Dunfermline.
From looking at the team’s diet, hydration and sleep regimes to look more deeply at the mental strength needed to succeed, Shona talks to macb about what we can all learn from her experience with Thistle, and what steps we can all take to be our own very best.
1. This weekend’s game against Dunfermline has so much resting on it. What advice do you give Jackie and the team going into a game like this where so much is at stake?
It doesn’t matter what game is approaching the message is the same, we want to go out and win and to do that we need to work effectively individually and work well as a team.
So the main focus with Optimum Performance is empowering players to work constantly on themselves to enhance their personal thought processes, release fears and get them to start concentrating on what they want to achieve, not what they don’t want.
Using their instincts is also key along with constantly reviewing diet & hydration to optimise energy levels.
Jackie, Simon and the backroom team give the players the technical requirements and make sure they are physically fit, utilising each individual players skills and ability for Jackie and Simon to pick the team. The combination meets somewhere in the middle to get the result we are all looking for.
2. What advice do you give the team on the rare occasions this season where the result has not gone their way?
That losing is part of the experience, Jackie and I only reflect briefly on a game, to see whether the team did the best they could or what areas they could have improved on. That could be energy levels of specific players, injures, goals conceded or set pieces that may not have come off as well as had been expected. From our discussion and the debriefs Jackie has with Simon and the other backroom staff, we all know what we have to work on for the week ahead.
3. Is there any advice/techniques that you use to help Jackie and the team perform at their best that could equally apply to anyone in life?
How I work with the players and Jackie is no different from how I would work with people personally who want to change their lives or corporate clients.
The majority of the players have a drive and passion to be professional footballers and this is key in any career. If you love your job, you want to do well and you will give your best on all levels, no matter how hard it is, to get the results you want, and you NEVER give up, even when you are not getting the results you want.
You reflect on what you have learned and identify what can be improved, ask for help and advice from people you trust and if required be willing to learn new knowledge in order to move forward again.
What I ask the players to do is reflect on their own performance:
- Did they prepare as well as they could have?
- Have they fuelled and hydrated properly over the week?
- Have they used the coping strategies we have given them to mentally be as focused as they can be?
- Have they trained to the best of their ability?
If they have, then that is all they can do, no one is asking any more of them. If they haven’t we address what they feel they could improve on, how they can implement it going forward towards training and the game the following week.
Tickets to Partick Thistle v Dunfermline are available from the club in advance or you can turn up and pay on the day.