The psychology of England’s history-making mindset

If ‘Sarina, you’re the one’ was the soundtrack to last summer, ‘Sweet Caroline’ wasn’t far behind.

The Atomic Kitten-inspired homage to manager Sarina Wiegman rang around the dressing room in the aftermath of England’s historic European Championship final victory.

Rewind 13 years to the last time England met Germany in a major women’s tournament final, and the post-match reaction was markedly different.

A 6-2 defeat stunned then-manager Hope Powell and her squad, who were still playing on a part-time basis.

However, a longer-term evolution was taking shape amid the immediate disappointment.

This is the story of the Lionesses’ mental transformation, from Powell’s decision to hire the first psychologist used by any England national team to the ‘how to win’ culture that inspired the team to glory in 2022.

Short grey line for presentation
“Wanting to win does not make you a winner.”

Kate Hays’ words are straightforward but instructive. The Football Association’s head of women’s psychology explains the reasoning behind an ethos crucial to a Lionesses team that has swept all before them in the last year.

Hays, along with Wiegman and her coaching staff, has instilled a “how to win” culture in the England camp since her appointment in October 2021.

The philosophy is rooted in a shared purpose, a deep understanding of the players’ characters – including what motivates them and how they respond to stressful situations – and defined measures of success, and it is embedded in everything from pre-match preparations to the style of play.

“Everyone wants to win in sports; that’s the dream,” Hays says.

“However, you win by having a really good success strategy and real clarity around what you need to do and how you go about your business.”

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