Suarez Take Note: Changing Sleeping Patterns Could Cure Cheating In Football

by Phillip Cohen
9th Sep 2018

Cheating in football. What more can I say? It happens. It’s not even hidden. And what’s worse, the players aren’t even embarrassed; they don’t even try to hide it. Instead, in the world of golden boots and goals, cheating is almost considered tactical, another asset in the team’s artillery against their opposition, but why?

With so many skills and plays at their command, why do players feel the need to cheat as a way to ‘protect’ their win? It’s almost as if they don’t believe they’re good enough to go it alone.

It’s a question that football fans worldwide have been asking more and more over the past decade. In any other sport, cheating would be deemed embarrassing, a career destroyer. Just look at cycling’s Lance Armstrong, Russia’s Olympic doping scandal and, most recently, Team USA swimmer Ryan Lochte – all he did was have a vitamin infusion and he was banned for 14 months!

But as much as we joke and can laugh at Neymar’s Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ or Ramos and Suarez’s active pitch bullying, this needs to be nipped in the bud. Otherwise, cheating will destroy the Beautiful Game.

Interestingly, the cause isn’t as pitch-based as one might think. As much it as it may appear pre-meditated, cheating in football has it’s own set of ‘rules’ and, often, is far more likely to be related to one’s subconscious behavioral patterns than conscious ones. It’s habitual so, with help, can be stopped. However, first, we must determine the cause.

The root is far more psychological and sleep related than pre-meditated.

Researchers at Northwestern University have found that one’s visceral state (current mood) can determine one’s likelihood to succumb to temptation. Whilst other research has gone further, determining a direct correlation between sleep and mood, also finding that one’s sleep quality and patterns strongly influence every stage of our decision-making, particularly under pressure.

With that in mind, regulating player’s sleeping patterns could provide a potential cure. Moreover, when implemented alongside complementary trance work in hypnotherapy, it could provide a long-term solution, as the hypnotherapy would provide opportunities to practice calmness and clarity of thought, body and mind, which, over time, would regulate their behavioral patterns and help them to maintain the zone without the cheating.

What happens inside a player’s brain when they cheat?

The brain performs 4 decision-making processes between the stage of the player considering their current status to deciding whether or not to cheat. For all players, the opportunity exists; this explains why some act on it, others don’t.

Situation > Attention > Appraisal > Response. Each stage is vulnerable to the influence of short sleep or sleep deprivation. Therefore, in 2 scenarios the situation can be the same, but how it plays out is a direct consequence of your mind. For example:

The Situation: It’s the World Cup knockout stage. The opposition is 1-0 ahead. As a defender, you’re protecting the goal line incase the ball gets past the keeper. Suddenly, it comes flying towards you, a sure goal. (Important Question: Why you are always chosen to take up this position in the first place?)

Scenario 1: Bad Sleep

Stage 1: Attention
Under pressure and passionate about defending your country, you are hyper-vigilant and in an agitated visceral state. As a warrior, you know only one thing: a goal spells death.

Stage 2: Appraisal
There is no time for logical appraisal. Experienced, you’ve seen this played out before and are primed to act from your amygdala (fight or flight reflex). No cortex involvement occurs, just primitive reactiveness.

Stage 3: Response
Using your hand to deliberately incur a penalty, you don’t care if you get a red card. You know you have done your job (at any cost). This is your role after all.

Scenario 2: Good Sleep

Stage 1: Attention
If you have slept well and are in the zone, aware of all the possibilities, but not in a hyper-vigilant visceral state, you’ll be calm and thinking clearly.

Stage 2: Appraisal
Your job is to defend the line incase the goalkeeper misses. You have developed strong, amazing skills with your head, and practiced this over and over again in your head. The brain doesn’t distinguish between reality and imagination. In hypnotherapy, you have visualised this scenario exactly over and over again. You simply jump up to meet the ball, headering it and diverting it from the net legitimately. You practice this 100 times every day using visualization and you sleep peacefully every night knowing you are prepared and skilled enough to do it if required.

Attention and appraisal (happen almost simultaneously). Your eye never leaves the ball for a second and as it comes flying at you.

Stage 3: Response 
Calm and in the zone, you line up on the goal line trusting your abilities, knowing that you are the best person for the job because you can header any ball away from the net.

Reaction: Your body reacts in sync with your mindset, just like you’ve practiced 1000’s of times before. Rising up to meet the ball with your head, no problem! Legitimate save and you are a real hero.

This is the difference between training for excellence and training to win at any cost, which in my mind makes cheating a strategy.

As a player and as a fan, what would you prefer to see?

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