While many Hibernian players have been flying off to take part in international fixtures in recent weeks, the members of the Development Squad who remained at the Hibernian Training Centre had a jet-set experience of their own.
They received a presentation from Lt Gary Clark of the Royal Navy, who teaches pilots at RAF Valley, on Anglesey, North Wales, on their fast-jet training course.
The importance of training, learning, and reacting calmly and in a prepared manner under pressure is an obvious link between the expectations placed on fighter pilots and elite footballers though, as Gary pointed out, there are major differences beween missing an open goal or crucial tackle and having a moment of indecision in a jet fighter!
However, the psychological requirements are much the same for footballers under pressure – and Gary is in a good position to know, being the son of Sandy Clark, Dunfermline’s assistant manager, and the brother of Nicky Clark, of Dundee Utd.
Gary explained the training schedule followed by aspirant pilots, highlighting the need for practice, visualisation, confidence, a calm approach and an abiity to reflect and learn from good and bad decisions.
“Be your own worst critic but best supporter” is the advice he gives to his trainees, which he echoed for the Development Squad, backed up with illustrations of decision making in different flying arenas. As you would expect, teamwork, determination, self awareness, and high level skills were also emphasised.
George Craig, Head of Football Operations, praised the event, saying: “We try to give our Academy players as much information and encouragement as possible, to help them make the most of their potential and the opportunities they have here at Hibernian.
“Gary is responsible for training some of the best jet pilots in the world and we felt he was an excellent choice to highlight the importance of “TCUP” – Thinking Clearly Under Pressure – an important psychological component for young players operating at an elite level and seeking to play to their full potential.”
The Squad reacted very positively to Gary’s revelations on jet pilot training and were able to identify its relevance to their own situation. Education and Welfare Offcier, Seán McPartlin explained that Gary’s visit was part of Hibs ADD – the “Academy Development Diploma” Programme.
“We have a wide ranging and highly qualified backroom staff at the Training Centre who deliver most of the Diploma’s content. In the programme the Development Squad players learn about the skills, effects and impact provided by each department, and its relevance to their own progress. In this way, they understand the importance of each department and are encouraged to make full use of what is on offer – be it performance analysis, strength and conditioning, sports psychology, nutrition, or talent identification and recruitment.
“They will also learn about leadership and administration from members of the Hibs staff, and have question and answer sessions with first team players. It is positive for the staff to define their roles and to encourage the young players to make full use of what they offer in the Training Centre.
“To this are added presentations from outwith the club, such as Gary’s, and on issues like Mental Health and Wellbeing, integrity in sport, the Laws of the Game and Equality.
“For some of the players, the information gathered may well lead to thoughts of sports related qualifications and employment, parallel to their football careers, or later on.
“We have young players who are eager to learn and progress, as can be seen from their recent successes. We hope the Hibernian “ADD” will be a qualification which reflects that they have enjoyed a training in the Academy which has not only equipped them to progress as footballers but has also contributed to their personal development as young men.”
Through hard work to the stars, indeed!