‘They’re passing the ball with real confidence: you can just see how focused they are today’. It’s a line that could be taken from almost any commentator or pundit. It’s also a statement which fans across the world would recognise. We know when our team’s players are motivated. Or do we?
It’s a question that Malcolm Harkness, who was part of Chelsea’s backroom team for just under four years, has been wrestling with. Before leaving Cobham last October to take-up a role with Turkish club Trabzonspor, Harkness – working in partnership with his dad, Tim, Chelsea’s current Head of Sports Science – was responsible for ‘psychologically coding’ the London club’s games.
Recording ‘actions’ – such as a shot, pass or tackle – taken by both Chelsea’s first team and the opposition, Harkness would use a simple criteria to determine to what extent the ‘action’ displayed confidence, motivation or focus.