Castleford Tigers Women aiming to develop more mental toughness for 2021 season
Castleford Tigers Women’s preparations for the 2021 campaign are well underway in a pre-season that will certainly differ from all the previous ones.
As the squad geared up for their first training session last month, there was no warm-up in the gym, no jog around the field or even a need to get your boots.
Instead, the entire squad got out their laptops, found a bit of space in their living rooms and quietly got down to business.
While the situation may not be ideal - especially ahead of a World Cup year - there’s certainly no time to waste. At least that’s the attitude that Lindsay Anfield has taken when planning this unorthodox pre-season.
“We are disappointed that we couldn’t start pre-season like we normally would; all guns blazing, on the field and in the gym,” said Anfield.
“But we just had to accept it and make the best of the situation. One of the things we spoke about as staff was the mental side of things.”
The psychological aspect of the game is set to take a greater precedence over the next few weeks. Mental toughness is an area of training that will be largely led by new staff member, Gareth Timmins.
The former Royal Marine Commando has already taken the squad by storm with his first session.
Speaking about the addition of psychological training during pre-season, Anfield said: “In the past few seasons, there were games where we have never been really physically dominating the ball.
“Fitness wise we have been there or thereabouts, skills wise there or thereabouts. What did let us down - especially in the big games - was poor decisions, other distractions, slight complacency. They were all mental factors.
“We are going to use these next few weeks – with the support of the staff and Gareth especially - to really focus on the mental side of the game. We’re going to be doing tasks every session around those kinds of things. The first session was about redefining expectations and acceptance.
"Looking at the intricacies of the game. Looking at the immediate acceptances but also long-term ones; if you don’t play well in a game or if you lose a final or a game or whatever it is. But this also applies in life. Accepting when things go wrong and moving on as fast as possible.
“That’s what we’re focusing on for the next six weeks – improving the mental toughness and their ability to function in high pressure situations.”
While lockdown may be disrupting certain pre-season plans, it has also opened the door to other opportunities. Anfield argues that without lockdown, her side would not have planned this much time to work on mental toughness and psychology.
She said: “Without the lockdown we would be straight away focusing on the physical side of the game. Getting back into the swing of training and the cons, and the weights room and all the skills.
“We did do a little bit of team related mental stuff but nowhere near as much as we’re able to do now. All the girls have journals and are making notes on the next few weeks up until we start training. Really focusing on the mental side.
“They [the players] are always aware of where they are physically, what the skill set is, how fit they are, how strong they are. But no one actually really thinks ‘well where am I mentally with this, how can I improve my game through the mental aspect of the game.’
“The lockdown has given us a good opportunity which we wouldn’t have had without it. It’s just making the best of a bad situation and I actually think that in the long run, it will be really beneficial.”
When the nation-wide lockdown comes to an end, the Tigresses will significantly step up their season preparations. Anfield is hoping that this takes place in March.
She said: “We’re planning a 6-week block now and starting in March properly, hopefully at the Football Factory and next door at Strong101.
“We’re hoping to use the football factory for the 3G pitch to practise the rugby side and Strong101 for the strength and conditioning. That’s the plan in March if hopefully nothing goes wrong.
“If the starting date does get pushed back, we will be prepared. I think the girls are just really motivated and engaged with what we’re doing.
“It’s all about being in the best possible shape when the season does go ahead.”