BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Falkirk hope to clip Rangers’ wings in the title race this weekend after training their minds to find an ‘inner buzz’.
The Bairns have been working with Connie McLaughlin, a broadcast journalist who has set up as a life coach with a consultancy specialising in ‘mindfulness and well-being’.
Knowing manager Peter Houston through working together at the BBC, McLaughlin offered to initially work for Falkirk for free, and then for half price.
However, Houston has revealed his players were so desperate to continue their sessions they asked him to find the finances when the weekly get-togethers were bumped up to full cost.
The Bairns boss admits he does not know exactly what his players discuss in the meetings – and insists he does not want to know.
The only concern he has is that there is some benefit from the mental work-outs, which often include meditation, and he is convinced his players are definitely getting an advantage on match-days because of the ‘Your Inner Buzz’.
Speaking ahead of the visit of Rangers on Saturday, he said: “Over the last year, this group of players, having been to Ibrox, Easter Road, Tynecastle, semi-finals and finals, with pressure on and bigger crowds, they’ve gained from those experiences. The players are now handling the situations a lot better.
“I’ve got to give them credit because they’ve grown up a little bit. A lot of that comes down to winning matches, which brings unity, but also from the Inner Buzz stuff that Connie McLaughlin has been doing.
“I know her well from doing bits and pieces with the BBC. We were the guinea pigs, because she asked if we could see if the methods worked in football because it works in big business. I think it’s certainly helped.
“She did it for the first eight weeks without us having to pay for it but the Falkirk Business Club, which started at the start of the season, has since paid for 16 weeks of Inner Buzz, which the players wanted to continue with.
“They’re feeling the benefits – but it gets dearer every time Connie comes in!
“I don’t go in and I don’t ask what goes on, because it’s a confidential thing. She speaks to the players individually and in groups, about trying to think positively, even when things go against you. I think there’s a bit of yoga involved as well.
“In my day, and even at some clubs now, players wouldn’t buy into it. I gave them the option of going in to listen, or to drop out if they didn’t want to do it. One or two don’t and they haven’t been pressurised.
“The majority did the first eight weeks, the second block and are now on their third block. They’re into it and asked if I could find the funding to continue it. They don’t see it as a chore, even though they’ve given up their afternoons to do it when otherwise they’d have free time. It’s helped.”
One player identified by Houston as having specifically benefited from the work is defender Aaron Muirhead.
At first glance, the no-nonsense former Partick Thistle player would seem like the kind of player who may dismiss any psychological assistance.
However, the 25-year-old has embraced the work and is adamant he is seeing the benefits on a Saturday.
He explained: “When I first came in here the boys thought, not that I was angry as such, but that I was certainly straight to the point. Connie has helped give me a different outlook.
“Obviously, sometimes it can affect you, if you’re uptight, but she has certainly helped calm me right down and take a step back, whereas before I got a wee bit of stick for what I would say was a ‘will to win’.
“She has had a good effect on everyone, not just myself. The work she has done has brought the boys closer together.
“It’s kind of mind training to focus on the here and now. In football there are a lot of pressures – winning games, new contracts and the likes and it’s how to deal with all different things and train your mind on how to deal with it all.
“With me being calm it helps my performance because I’m able to play better and not worry about arguing or getting in a tussle with someone, and then it helps my outside life because this is what pays my bills at the end of the day.”