As a basic definition, momentum may be seen as something which has energy or drive. It has gained a degree of force behind it which may be added to or taken away. Momentum in sport can be seen in the competitive environment all the time. But often players, coaches and supporters do not recognise its influence, or when it has been influenced in the moment. The timeframes by which we recognise ‘momentum’ can be from an instance to months and even years.
For the best part, from the mid 1970s through to the early 1990s Liverpool FC would have been regarded as the best team in England. they carried all before them year in, year out. Yet with the onset of the Premier League in 1992, Liverpool have not won the League Championship in England. Their momentum has passed, more or less to Manchester united who have now spanned a similar timeframe to Liverpool in being the top dogs in England. Over the longer term (months to years) it becomes that psychological influence which begins to erode the confidence of other teams before any ball has been kicked.
But momentum can change in an instant. One decision, one action, one fortunate (or unfortunate) occurrence can influence an individual, team or country for years ahead.
TAKING STOCK OF MOMENTUM – POSITIVE, NEGATIVE OR NEUTRAL?
Lets take a simple situation. that of a normal match. From the moment of kick of, the momentum meter will start in a neutral positions. What happens in the next 2 minutes may completely influence the rest of the match. Teams talk about ‘getting a foothold in the games’ or ‘earning the right to play’ as commonplace references to gaining the balance of momentum as it exists. Some teams will aim to achieve this through possession of the ball; others will look for territory as being of greater importance.
There will be key moments in any competitive situation where momentum has a chance to be influenced. A 50/50 tackle for example between two players. Winning the tackle becomes important, not only in the player-v-player situation, but also as each teams looks at the victor in the duel. Who has emerged as the stronger player. That too might effect the crowd as it may cause them to burst out with applause or cheering, or leave them tutting into their tea!
Players, coaches, supporters and especially the officials have the chance to influence momentum. A single decision from any of these can completely swing the momentum of the match towards them or away from them. A substitution coming on an scoring is often hailed as a stroke of genius by the manager. The ruling of an offside, award of a free kick (basically any decision by the referee!!) will positively AND negatively influence both teams!
MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND UNDERSTANDING THE SWINGS
In isolation it is often easy to get caught up in the emotions that can (sometimes understandably) accompany the individual decisions and occurrences that are presented within a match. What is more tricky is to take a ‘helicopter’ view of where the balance of the momentum is. If it is with you, your aim is maintain the imbalance of momentum in your favour. When it is against you, you must recognise the opportunities to wrestle momentum back towards you.
Examples of this may be to in fact break up the tempo of the game. Sometimes that might mean speeding it up with fast free kicks, playing direct from back to front to create a defensive, backs to the wall mindset in the opposition. Or conversely, slow the game down by setting up every throw in, goal kick and corner with in the realms of patience of the referee! This will effect their natural rhythm!
Of course you can create a negative mindset in your opponent by pushing for another goal straight after scoring. This is normally a time when teams look to respond and make good the goal conceded! Or vice versa!
Momentum exists in sport at all levels, and at all times! Learn to recognise, manage and manipulate it!