Sunday, July 14, 2024
Sunday, July 14, 2024

Secret Agent Men

Much of the talk amongst local FMFC fans lately has been centered around the team’s seeming lack of spark or plan when on the offensive. Rob Chappell used the word ennui on the most recent episode of Talkin’ Flock to describe his feelings toward this season’s results, which makes a great antonym for what’s been missing on the pitch over the past few months, a certain joie de vivre. I’d argue that the true key to rekindling that spark of joy is an intangible yet crucial element: agency.

I recently remarked that FMFC fans would rather see us play more exciting/risky football and lose 4-3 than draw 1-1. There’s a section of the fanbase that have deemed a more chance-taking style of play as impossible at this juncture, accepting a fatalistic narrative that the rest of our season is the Titanic sailing on the current of a set of cemented tactics and we’re just a handful of games away from the inevitable iceberg of not making the playoffs. I disagree.

If you’ve actually been to games recently, you may have seen Carl Craig shouting from the touchline for our midfield to push up and take the game to the opposition. So it’s not as if the tactics are to sit back and not move the ball forward, that the directive isn’t to create and take chances, or that our tactics are set in stone. Football/soccer fans are well-steeped in hyperbole, but let’s not conflate our weltschmerz with the usual slings and arrows that are part and parcel of supporting a team struggling to find some form. There’s still runway left, there are still points up for grabs, it’s simply time for these guys to show some initiative and belief that they have what it takes to be successful — a concept with which many younger players struggle.

Agency

In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. Agency is defined by the American Journal of Sociology as a temporally embedded process that encompasses three different constitutive elements: iteration, projectivity and practical evaluation. The iterational element of agency refers to the selective reactivation of past patterns of thought and action, and in the context of sport this could refer to both individual as well as group training/practice/etc. Projectivity encompasses the process of imagining possible future trajectories of action connected to a person’s hopes, fears, and desires for the future, AKA “if I play the ball through here, or take a shot, will it/I be successful? Will Coach be happy? If I play this way, will we win the game?” The practical-evaluative piece entails the capacity of people to make practical and normative judgements amongst alternative possible actions in response to a context, a demand or a presently evolving situation. In other words, the capacity of a particular footballer take their habits from training (iterational), knowledge or hunches of possible outcomes (projective), and piece them together in real game-time situations (practical-evaluative)?

Collective Efficacy

Agency is something all of the players on this team possess, and if Carl’s shouting from the touchline to exercise that agency (potentially over sticking to to a specific, pre-determined tactical formation) isn’t an indication of that, I don’t know what is. One of the foundational mechanisms of agency is the belief of personal efficacy, which maybe needs to be drilled into the younger players more often. Every single player in the squad needs to believe they not only have a part to play, but that the team’s success is dependent on them creating chances, scoring goals, defending well, and generally affecting the game in a way that contributes to team victories. In other words: collective agency through shared beliefs in the power to produce effects by collective action.

A Question of Belief

As I’ve said before, this team’s issues are not talent related, or even tactical. These guys have to believe in themselves and each other, and fight to turn that belief as well as the hard work and preparation in training into making good decisions in games. If they get the psychological piece down (and with a guy like Carl in charge, I know they can, but it’s a question of belief), they can win it all.

Author

  • Andrew Schmidt

    Eclecticist, FMFC supporter, Flock co-founder, designer of things, and taker of photos. Writer, wrench, motorcyclist. Pro-intellectualist, anti-pedant. Drinker of coffee and greeter of dogs.

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