‘THINKING MAN’ COPP HITS 500
IF IT wasn’t for the power of positive thinking, James Coppinger says he would be a Football League footnote rather than the newest member of a very select group.
The 35-year-old crowned his 500th appearance for Donny – over a span of 12 years – with the fifth and final goal in the 5-1 rout at Morecambe last week.
With that, this very elite club gained its second member as MK Dons skipper Dean Lewington is the only other current Football League player to have appeared more than 500 times for the same side.
Hard as it may be to imagine now, a vulnerable Coppinger was once at a crossroads after blaming himself for Exeter City’s exit from League Two back in 2003.
But his subsequent experiences with sports psychology inspired him to set up his own company, ProMindset, with a view to changing the way footballers are mentally conditioned to approach their job.
“People think being a professional footballer is all about how good you are, but it’s not,” explained Coppinger. “It’s about how you conduct yourself mentally and that was not taught to me until I was 23 years old. I missed out on that.
“We’ve worked with players and they’ve taken it onboard. Some of those have been outside of football and some have gone on to do really well.
“I’m really passionate about it. Making people aware of how they think has a massive impact on how they perform.
“I have seen so many players with so much ability, but they can’t deal with the requirements and deal with criticism.
“We try to give people the tools to do so. It’s really powerful stuff.”
But, according to Coppinger, the biggest obstacle is convincing people to embrace a new mode of thinking that is often treated with suspicion.
“There is a stigma attached to sports psychology in this country. The mentality is totally different to the United States, where their athletes have used it for years and years,” added the midfielder.
“It’s not for everybody. Some people like it, some don’t.
“You have to have an open mind if you want to improve as a player.
“I didn’t do it off my own back. It was introduced to me and it transformed my life completely.
“It changed my mindset and controlled my emotions. It’s not only about not getting too down after a poor performance, but not being too happy with a good one – a consistency of mind throughout a season.”
And, as special as last weekend’s occasion was, Coppinger certainly will not be patting himself on the back until he helps return Doncaster to League One.
This season is the first time in his Donny career that he has experienced League Two football – and he doesn’t plan for the team to stick around there for long.
But, even if he were ten years younger, a fiercely loyal Coppinger would have been in no rush to leave over the summer.
“It’s rare for players to stay at the same club for three or four years, but at Doncaster I’ve probably seen three or four different teams,” said Coppinger, who had a brief spell at Newcastle during his teenage years.
“It’s only going to get worse, in my opinion.
“For me, at each stage of my career Doncaster and I matched ever other in our ambitions, so there was never any real reason for me to leave.
“There have been opportunities, but for whatever reason they didn’t materialise, and it’s worked out for the best as I’ve been a part of something so special.”
PARTY TIME: James Coppinger is held aloft by his teammates after making it 5-1 last week