The Psychology of “Celebrations”

Following the Scottish Open Final, and the various reactions to Neil’s early a celebration, including an unimpressed Ronnie stating that he would see it as an admission of weakness,  Worldsnooker has published this article:

Neil Robertson’s 9-8 victory over Cao Yupeng at Sunday’s Dafabet Scottish Open final was one of the most captivating clashes in recent memory. With Robertson searching for his first ranking title in over a year and world number 67 Cao competing in his maiden ranking final, passions ran high. Fire, determination, nerves and relief were all very much on show.

In the latter stages Cao’s devastation was there for all to see, as the Australian fought back to overturn a seemingly unassailable 8-4 deficit. Earlier on, in just the second frame, Robertson punched the air with delight after depositing the black to level at 1-1.There is no doubt that the emotion and desire on display made for captivating viewing, but does celebrating during play spur on those involved or act as an impediment to their focus?

As well as being an extremely demanding sport technically, snooker delves deep into a player’s psychology. Those who can act and think most clearly under extreme pressure are usually the ones who emerge victorious. The complexity of snooker heightens the need for mental strength and focus: it’s chess in motion and poker with balls.  Can celebrating during a match be likened to letting one’s poker face slip?

Terry Griffiths is one of the most sought after coaches in the sport. He has worked with the likes of Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen and Michael Holt over recent years. By his own admission, the 1979 World Champion’s most valuable attribute is his years of experience and the knowledge he can impart on the mental aspect of tournament play. For Griffiths, the pressure cooker environment of top level snooker means players need to let their emotions out from time to time.

Terry Griffiths

Griffiths said: “They do it because they have come from a place mentally they weren’t comfortable with, but have pulled through. They have achieved something. Fists go and you give it everything to let out some emotion. Mark Selby did it against Ding at the World Championship this year. The pressure at the Crucible is unbelievable and you have to remember that. It is very important to the players and when they achieve something in their mind they outwardly show what they feel about it. This sport requires intense concentration. It is inevitable that in a moment like that it is going to come out. It’s like the shaking of a coke can.

“I remember a time when Peter Ebdon used to do it every frame! I watched him face Stephen Hendry in the final of the 1995 Irish Masters and he came from way behind, he was 5-1 down and won 9-8. I was in the press box, so had a perfect view of it. Ebdon was electric, if he potted a good ball he would be punching the air. I think the whole thing did have an effect on Hendry. I have to say I found it stimulating to watch, you were waiting for him to have a big moment so you could see him do it again. It was a first hand display of the power of the person, it was a wonderful atmosphere.”

Other coaches believe that keeping a calm frame of mind without any spikes of emotion is more likely to allow a player to achieve his potential. Chris Henry has coached the likes of Stephen Hendry and Shaun Murphy, using his innovative theories based in neural science. He also works with top European golfer Rafael Cabrera Bello. Henry trains his players to maintain a serene state of mind even under intense pressure, rather than letting emotions take control.

Henry, who spent three seasons as a professional, said: “Celebrating before the end of a match is not the optimum thing to be doing. We know in psychology about what is called the alpha brain wave state. This is a very calm, relaxed and focused state to be in. That then allows you to tap into what I call the brain software, which is a piece of software you have been writing for years. It is composed of things such as driving a car, walking or playing snooker and it lets you do these things without really consciously thinking about it. You can only tap into that part of the brain when you are relaxed. Showing emotions during a match is not advisable.

“I don’t mind my players showing a bit of positivity.  But you can boil over, which is in my opinion what Peter Ebdon used to do. He would get too excited. That’s detrimental to your subsequent performance for the rest of that match. I believe that when he became World Champion in 2002, he was at his most calm. He learned to control it.”

Last season’s 2017 World Championship involved high stakes. It was the most lucrative tournament in the history of snooker in terms of prize money, with champion Mark Selby landing a cool £375,000 for his win. With such a vast amount of money and prestige on the line, the tournament produced raw emotion from those involved.

Robertson’s display of delight in Glasgow on Sunday wasn’t the first time the Australian has shown his fire on the baize. In his epic last 16 clash with Marco Fu at this year’s World Championship, the 2010 Crucible winner Robertson roared with joy after converting the winning black in a scrappy 21st frame. It was eventually in vain as Fu went on to take the tie 13-11. When asked whether his celebrations were premature in the post-match press conference, Robertson remained steadfast in the opinion that he needs to evoke his emotions to produce his best snooker.

Robertson said: “I’ve tried to play within myself but I need adrenalin, I need to be pumped up, I need that to play well. I have to play with passion. I’m not saying that I’m going to start running around the table, but I’m going to be a lot more aggressive. In the first round I was trying to be polite, too polite, I’m going to be showing my emotion when I feel like it.”

Liang Wenbo

Commentator David Hendon has worked with Eurosport for over a decade and has called some of the most memorable moments in recent years. He was on the mic for Liang Wenbo’s thrilling victory at the 2016 English Open. Liang could hardly contain his joy, as he began rapturous celebrations before even depositing the winning ball in his 9-6 win over Judd Trump. Hendon could understand his reaction and believes that the raw emotion of competitors very much adds to the spectacle for viewers.

“It would have been awful if, having celebrated, he hadn’t potted the winning ball. Everyone’s personality is different and he is very excitable. This was the biggest moment of his career,” said Hendon. “I think people warm to that and the public likes to see someone who is genuinely happy. But it’s a good job he got the winning ball.

“In the middle of the match there is of course always the chance it could backfire. The point is: what does it do to your opponent? Does it give them a shot of adrenalin? It could make them want to come back and beat you even more. That’s what we want. We want the rivalries, we want the psychological shifts. That’s one of the reasons people watch snooker.”

Now this is an interesting read, and even more so for me as none of the interviewees even mention the type of perception I have of such gestures. Now, no doubt, there will be people telling me that I don’t understand sport … but all the same, here is how I feel about some of those “celebrations”. I’m not saying that I’m “right” here, it’s just how I genuinely feel when I see them.

I don’t mind players expressing their delight at winning, not even when it means jumping around like a crazy frog. I don’t mind the players clenching their fist after winning a particularly important frame, after a hard-fought battle, the “Yes, I did it” gesture aimed at themselves. But I totally hate the “fist pumping”, with matching face expression. I’m actually surprised that none of the interviewees see this as an aggression, an “in your face!” gesture aimed at the opponent to break them emotionally, even after the match is over, when it’s totally unnecessary. In my eyes it’s mean and bad sportsmanship. Simple as that. I hate it in any sport, and as much as I like watching tennis for instance, this is really something I dislike mightily. It’s definitely NOT what I want to see. Neil’s embarrassment at what he had done last Sunday clearly shows that he knew how it would feel for his opponent, and he went to talk to him, which he deserves a lot of credit for. But it also proves that I probably have a point about the nature of some “celebrations” …

Your take guys … and gals?

About betting …

Yesterday, Ronnie took part in a panel about the relationship between betting and sport as reported here :

Snooker Betting Forum launches in London

Fifty betting executives came to Sports Bar and Grill in Marylebone, London, for SBC’s inaugural Snooker Betting Forum.

Snooker Betting Forum launches in LondonA panel talked about the relationship between snooker and betting with five-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, pictured left.

Hilly Ehrlich, CEO of BetCris, said: “We were looking for a passionate and well-known ambassador and Ronnie fitted the bill perfectly”. O’Sullivan said: “Snooker is interesting to punters around the world. A lot of people love the game and want to bet on something they love whether they play or not”.

Keith O’Loughlin, executive vice president of Sports at NYX/Openbet, added: “The timing of snooker is critical and yields a great content window. Combined with the amount of streaming and 50 markets betting on every single outcome makes snooker very appealing to consumers.”

The panel talked about match fixing. O’Sullivan noted that its hard to make a living in the lower echelons of snooker so “players are in a tricky situation to make a living,” but said “the UK has done a great job of cleaning things up”.

A good-humoured session ended with O’Loughlin joking: “Ronnie is the only player that breaks our trading algorithms.”

Rasmus Sojmark, founder of SBC, commented: “These events are part of our strategy to engage the sports betting community with all sports. Next week sees our Betting on Sports at Olympia in London. We have 1,200-plus senior execs and almost 200 speakers across 44 sessions.”

This once again shows how big the difference is between the perception on betting in the UK, and Asia, and what it is in most countries in Western mainland Europe.

I perfectly understand how important betting is for snooker nowadays in terms of sponsoring, but I’m still convinced that this strong tie is not helping its development in mainland Europe where betting is strongly regulated and doesn’t have a very positive image. And I’m also not convinced that the quasi monopoly of betting companies as sponsoring partners is safe. Remember tobacco?

Anyway… apparently there was some time too for a bite and a game… of pool.

And on that note … Worldsnooker has just announced that the German Masters 2018 has a sponsor, D88, an Asian company with business in betting and online gaming.

 

News from the twitter mill

Ronnie has been quite active on twitter recently and a few interesting pieces of information have filtered. I won’t quote everything relevant, instead you can just read through his twitter feed with replies over the last few days

Here is what I picked out … apart from his political activism:

There will be a sequel to the “American Hustle”, but this time it will be in China and about snooker rather than pool. That’s great news. Still with Matt Smith and probably filming it next spring/summer.

There will also be a sequel to “Framed”, titled “Double Kiss” and it’s due to be out in November. Ronnie believes it’s better than “Framed”

Regarding his snooker, Ronnie insisted that he has nothing to prove anymore, that it’s about enjoying it for him now and that snooker will have to leave time and space for the other things he’s doing. He won’t play a full calendar and, asked the question, refused to commit event to the majors. That said, answering a fan, he also declared that he believes he still has a sixth World in him, maybe even a seventh. He also revealed that he’s “cueless” right now, his old one being “ruined” and he needs a new one. This didn’t worry Joe Perry, who is playing in Shenzhen in Ronnie’s team later this month: “you only need 5 minutes to get used to a new cue” was the Gentleman reaction to the news.

Finally and just for the funny side of it, the man who admitted in his bios that he hated school, and retweets nutritionists advises at every opportunity, was having dinner with his young son, discussing how important education is nowadays… Enjoy the pictures he shared on twitter and the irony

Now a few thoughts about all this, and in particular Ronnie’s stance on snooker. As a fan, I want to see him play and win. As a person, and friend, I want to see him happy and this is more important to me than the fan’s point of view.

In many ways, this route Ronnie is taking is similar to what Roger Federer does in tennis. He picks and chooses. This season he skipped the clay “leg” completely, including Roland Garros. He was quoted by a commentator saying that it was about enjoyment now for him and that people shouldn’t forget that the reason tennismen started playing as kids is because they enjoyed it. Enjoyment is a big factor in a sportsperson longevity.

In the same vein, I also found this interview of Andre Agassi about his work with Novak Djokovic very revealing. I will quote just a short excerpt, but that I believe is very true and applies to Ronnie as well:

Do those long-term plans have numerical value like catching Roger Federer’s total of 18 Grand Slam wins?

‘It’s not about numbers,’ Agassi smiled. ‘The big long-term plan, for a guy like this, is no regrets. No regrets.

If Ronnie hangs his cue with no regrets, be it in 5, 10 or 20 years, or even tomorrow… I will miss watching him play, big time, but I’ll be happy for him. All of us human beings have only this life to live… even celebrities and sporting heroes. We should not forget.

 

 

 

Ronnie at the Night of the 10,000m PBs – Saturday 20th May

Ronnie will be seminar host at the 2017 Endurance Seminar, on Saturday May 20

Read here what this is all about:

HH logo

Night of the 10,000m PBs – Saturday 20th May

Parliament Hill Athletics Track
Hampstead Heath
London, NW5 1QR

Nearest Tube Belsize Park or train station Gospel Oak

** Free entrance to spectators **

Start Lists as at 9th May2017

MaleFemale

TIMETABLE

  • 1:30pm Inter Schools relay
  • 3:15pm Men’s E Race
  • 4:00pm Men’s D Race
  • 4:45pm Men’s C Race
  • 5:30pm Women’s B Race
  • 6:30pm Legends Endurance Seminar with Lord Seb Coe, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Wendy Sly MBE & Ronnie O’Sullivan OBE
  • 7:30pm Men’s B Race
  • 8:15pm Men’s A Race incorporating World Championship GB Trials
  • 9:00pm Women’s A Race incorporating World Championship GB Trials

Read what our seminar hosts have to say about the event

Night of the 10000m PBs logo 2017

Highgate Harriers are excited to announce that World Record holder Paula Radcliffe MBE will be our 2017 Endurance Seminar speaker and 5-time World Snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan OBE will be our seminar host.

Paula says “It’s my pleasure to support Night of the 10,000m PBs. I’ve watched how this event has developed, marrying top class quality racing with a fun and entertaining atmosphere that brings out the best in competitors and fully involves spectators.

This year I look forward to speaking at the endurance seminar and joining the Parliament Hill lane 3 crowd for top quality racing. Good luck to all taking part and if you aren’t racing then come along to support and celebrate our sport.”

And Ronnie stated “I love coming to watch races big or small, but this event really is a spectacular one in my calendar. And it’s one I will always block out of my diary to watch.

It’s a great chance to see the top boys and girls hammer round a track in awesome style and it just gets better year by year. See you there on May 20th!”

Ronnie alongside Nick Anderson & Ross Murray will be discussing with Paula her running journey that witnessed her claim epic PBs of 30.01 for the 10,000m and 2.15 for the marathon.

Our seminar will be held at 6.30pm on May 20th as part of our Night of the 10,000m PBs and will be shown on jumbo screens within the track to allow for large audience numbers.

As part of our club philosophy to make athletics accessible the entry prices will remain free of charge. All we ask is for spectators to bring a non-athletics friend so we can spread the 25 lap joy.

Happy running, jumping & throwing and we hope to see you May 20th.

Ben Pochee
Race Organiser

Paula Radcliffe MBERonnie O'Sullivan OBE

Ronnie supports the 2016 Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs

It is well documented that Ronnie is a keen, and competent, long distance runner and, earlier this year, he was attending the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs.
Next year, the event will be even more special as it will be part of the “road to the Rio Olympics”, and Ronnie is firmly determined to be there once again.
Read it here
HIGHGATE HARRIERS 10,000M TO BE BRITISH ATHLETICS OLYMPIC TRIAL

HIGHGATE HARRIERS 10,000M TO BE BRITISH ATHLETICS OLYMPIC TRIAL
30 September 2015


Jo Pavey in action

The Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs will take place next year on Saturday 21st May and will once again incorporate the British and England 10,000m Championships. For the first time, the event will also act as the British Athletics 10,000m trial race for the Olympic Games.

The first British athlete past the post in both the men’s and women’s races will guarantee selection for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, provided they have secured a valid qualifying mark.

The event will take place at Parliament Hill Athletics Track on the evening of Saturday 21st May and will be free for spectators, it will again feature several high quality open races and unique entertainment.

British Athletics Performance Director Neil Black said: “We’re delighted that the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs will act as the 10,000m trial race for the Olympic Games. This event has established itself as the best 10,000m race in the country and is the perfect place for British athletes to test themselves over the distance. It is also a great opportunity for the public to see world class athletes up close for free and be part of a unique atmosphere.”

Race Organiser Ben Pochee said: “To host the Rio Olympic trials at our 10,000m event is testament to the grass roots lane 3 inspirational PB atmosphere and we now have the elite platform and collective passion to create Europe’s leading 25 lap racing festival on May 21st. Indeed the opportunity exists for each of us to tell people in years to come that ‘I was there’ watching the 2016 Olympic dream unfold from lane 3 absolutely free – so please save the date and spread the word!”

The Night of the 10,000m PBs will again be supported by London Marathon Events Ltd. Event Director Hugh Brasher said: “London Marathon Events is delighted to be supporting for the second year this excellent initiative by Highgate Harriers and Ben Pochee. One of our founding goals 35 years ago was to improve the standards of British distance running and it is exactly this sort of event that inspires athletes to better performances and personal bests.”

European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey (coach: Gavin Pavey) won the British 10,000m title at Highgate in 2014 and is anticipating a thrilling Olympic trial race next year.

She said: “It’s great that the Olympic trial will be at Highgate next summer. I loved running there in 2014 with the amazing atmosphere and crowd and I’d certainly recommend it for any distance runner.”

Jonny Mellor (Steve Vernon) was crowned British 10,000m champion at this event in 2015 and believes it will go from strength to strength in 2016.

He said: “Highgate is a special and unique event, the organisers have done an amazing job in creating a British Championship with a party atmosphere and its selection as an Olympic qualifying event is testimony to this. It is fast becoming one of the highlights of the racing calendar and I’m sure next year will be bigger and better than ever before.”

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan was one of thousands of spectators at the 2015 edition and is already looking forward to next year’s event. The five time snooker world champion said: “It’s great news that a grass roots event like Highgate’s 10,000m will be the trials for the Rio Olympics. I’m going to put it in my diary, I won’t miss it for the world, the last one was a great event and a great night, I can’t wait for May 21st!”

To register your interest in competing at the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs please contact Ben Pochee at ben@lgnwellbeing.com