If there ever was a stressful job, the affable Sam Allardyce definitely has one. The man known as Big Sam is at the helm of Sunderland Football Club in the English Premier League, arguably the toughest and most competitive sports league in the world.
The rivals are unrelenting, the owners’ expectations are flying high (especially with Leicester’s sensational title winning campaign proving that everything is possible, even for smaller clubs) and the football fans can chant your praises one weekend only to demand your sacking a week later.
On top of all that, it’s that time of the season for Sam Allardyce and Sunderland.
Staying calm and grounded in the heat of relegation battle
With only the last matches of the season remaining, Sunderland are currently 17th in the league table – only one place and one point above the drop zone. For a proud but financially light-weight club, Premier League survival is nothing short of an existential make-or-break moment.
Fortunately for Sunderland and its supporters, the 61-year old Allardyce who took charge of the club seven months ago, has that something extra up his sleeve.
“Transcendental Meditation is just taking 25 minutes out when the day is finished,” he reveals.
“I might be in the office and I just chill out. I’m not a great sleeper, so half an hour of meditation they say in research is as good as two or three hours sleep, which is why you feel a bit better.“
And doing TM sure helps dealing with the pressure. Allardyce admits that he has taken to more laid-back ways of dealing with disappointment and anxiety.
“Practicing the technique helps you cope with the pressure you come under in this job. It was brought in for my players when I was at Bolton and I tried it myself to have a better understanding in case the lads said it is a load of rubbish.”
Don’t spill the beans to fellow managers!
In his 25 years as a football manager, Sam Allardyce has seen number crunching and scientific rigour become an increasingly important factor in the beautiful game. In the same way, he didn’t just jump into Transcendental Meditation – he first read the research on it.
Big Sam, who had heart surgery in 2009 while manager at Blackburn Rovers, explains:
“I read the science on it and it gives you a better insight into how it helps to reduce your blood pressure and keeps you calmer. You don’t need to go into a quiet room with music on, you can be anywhere at any time, in a relatively quiet place. It refreshes you and makes you feel good to push on.
“The science behind it proves it actually works if it is done in the right way. It’s helped me cope with the pressure of management which is why I still do it today.”
Not that he has been pointing out the obvious benefits to his managerial counterparts.
“I don’t talk to colleagues about it. If it helps them then it might make them better when they play against me, so why should I help them?“ Sam Allardyce smiles.
As he prepares for the season defining matches at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, he might be only half-joking in that regard.
Read coverage in British media:
“Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce using transcendental meditation to keep calm during relegation scrap,” Mirror
“Sam Allardyce reveals use of Transcendental Meditation amid relegation struggle,” The Independent