‘THINK­ING MAN’ COPP HITS 500

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Bai­ley

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.

Pas­sion­ate

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.

Am­bi­tions

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.”

PIC­TURE: Me­dia Image

PARTY TIME: James Cop­pinger is held aloft by his team­mates af­ter mak­ing it 5-1 last week

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