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Has psychologist Pippa Grange spared England from grief?

Here’s something a bit different to think about during this World Cup. Given my personal interest in psychology and how it can affect our mindset and lives, I’ve done some research about Pippa Grange, the psychologist appointed by Southgate to work with the English World Cup squad in order to boost their resilience and help them deal with the pressure of the World Cup. Without any doubt, Pippa has also focused on mentally preparing players for those dreaded penalty shootouts, which are so notorious for seeing England out of major international tournaments!

And it seems that so far, Pippa’s work might have had its desired effect; England won a penalty shootout against Colombia, and have just secured their spot in the World Cup quarter finals!

Who is Pippa Grange?

Pippa, 47 years, is a Loughborough University graduate, in possession of a Doctorate in applied psychology. She is also a former basketball player in the National League. She spent over 20 years working in Australia, where she worked as general manager of culture and leadership at the AFL player association, and then as consultant to AFL clubs. In November 2017, she was appointed by the FA to help the English team get over past losses, especially in the event of penalty shootouts! Right now, she is in Russia together with the English team.

How did Pippa deal with English players?

Pippa talks to the players individually as well as in groups, and has been preparing them to build resilience in order to overcome decades of heartbreaking losses at the penalty spot. One way of doing this is by getting players to admit to vulnerabilities, and thus change their mindset for the future. It is said she has also prepared them to deal with instances of racism.

It was indeed an open-minded decision on the part of Southgate to seek her service. He must have recognized that in the case of football, improving technique and physical fitness is often not enough in order to win the World Cup. There are far tougher challenges, and these, mostly, have to do with being able to perform well despite the pressure.

Some statistics about England and penalties

  • In 1990, England lost in the World Cup semi-final to West Germany after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed at their spot kicks.
  • In the Euro 1996, Southgate’s own penalty was saved and sent England home
  • In 1998, England got knocked out on penalties following Paul Ince and David Batty’s misses.
  • At the Euro 2004, England was sent home after Darius Vassell’s penalty was saved.
  • In 2006, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher missed their penalties.

That’s a lot of baggage when you think about it, and even if the current English squad is different from what it used to be, it is very easy for us humans to believe that bad luck can in some way be inherited, even if this sounds irrational. It is in fact ‘passed on’ if we believe that it can be, since people sometimes tend to set themselves up for failure through their mindset – by convincing their own subconscious that something is not attainable. This is precisely what Pippa has been trying to avoid, and so far, it looks like it might have helped!

And yet, there's been a lot of scepticism following her engagement. The below is a screenshot from an online newspaper:

Pippa Grange appointment reactions


Comments like these show that there’s a long way to go when it comes to changing the way we think about the psychological component to sports, but perhaps, just perhaps, Southgate’s open-minded decision will prove many people wrong!

What do you think? If you believe Pippa and Southgate's strategies can help the team win their next World Cup game, you might want to place a bet or two. Head over to our World Cup odds page to view the best odds on offer by our recommended sites for UK punters!