Archive for the ‘The Athlete’ Category

Understanding How Mindset Can Affect An Athlete’s Potential

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has been studying mindset for over 20 years. She has marvelled at the fact that there are people with natural athletic abilities who feel they cannot improve on their God given talents (Fixed mindsets) and those who believe their potential can always be improved upon (Growth mindsets).

Athletic scouts tend to look for natural talent, not potential. Potential is different from natural talent, as talent tends to be more obvious. However, potential can make a champion, as long as they have the right athlete mindset.

Scouting for Talent

When sporting scouts are out looking for recruits they tend to focus on talent. However when we look historically at the qualities one might look for in a prize fighter surprisingly Muhammad Ali lacks almost all of the traits one would expect in a natural: He is not built like a champion, nor does he have the fists or reach of a champion and yet he was arguably one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time.

Golfer Ben Hogan had a wild hook that could have cost him his career had he not persevered through practice and self improvement. Often in sports when people are not viewed as naturals they are in essence being told they lack potential. Yet many prime athletes have proven this theory wrong through tenacity, focus and practice, demonstrating a growth mindset.

Harnessing Potential

A student of Dweck’s did an honours thesis that showed that those athletes who believed that success is reachable through determination and hard work proved to be more successful the following season. Athletes who felt their coaches supported this view also had greater success.

Further studies by Dweck tested the theory of mindset intervention by trying to teach students to have a growth mindset. Her studies found that students who were taught and understood that the mind was able to constantly grow and form new connections that would help them become more intelligent were able to grasp and embrace their growth. They were able to apply themselves and see improvements in their grades which motivated them to continue to strive to improve their grades and performance.

This demonstrated that there was the possibility to teach growth mindset. The effects this could have on athletes have proven to be quite remarkable.

Coaches who choose to work with the athlete mindset and performance intervention could teach athletes, even those who have suffered set backs, or are disenchanted with their sport, that practice will allow them to reach their full potential and learn to love the game again. Therefore potential is the seed required to groom athletes into champions.


Olympic Winter Games: Where Has All The Consistency Gone?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


With an increasing number of my clients coming from the extreme sport culture, I have been paying a lot more attention to the mental game and reality of life as an extreme sportsperson. And from countless hours watching and learning about these subculture sports – their endeavours taking them from the depths of the ocean to the harshest land conditions to the dizziest of heights – I have realised these fringe athletes really are no different from “other” elite athletes. In fact, despite being seen as more party dudes than seriously competitive professionals – there really isn’t any difference!

Having worked with bobsleigh and ice skaters over the years, and more recently for the Games, has given me unique insight into those who live their lives inside an ice-chest and strive for sporting equality alongside the more traditionally viewed sports.

With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in full swing I have been enjoying the introduction of some of these extreme sports into the Olympic family. As an ex-gymnast I am mesmerised, and technically intrigued, by aerial skiing (albeit my knees hurt just watching); the athleticism of the slope style; and the creativity of the half pipe.

As with any world event, it tends to magnify what we already know. There has been much media-driven controversy about the quality of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, predominantly focused on the local living conditions, social issues, politics of different disciplines and in some cases the dangerous performing conditions some athletes are finding themselves in.

Of course the physical and mental health and safety of the athletes should be paramount and the consistency of the equipment is vital when you are speaking in fractions of a second between first and third and where athletes are putting their bodies – and often lives – on the line for glory.

No one is contesting the need for stringent regulations for world class events to ensure an even and fair playing field. But from a performance consistency perspective, I feel these 2014 games have shone a light on the glaring areas that need to be more accessible for these outstanding winter wonders.

As a professional Mind Coach working on the mental framework of athletes, building a behavioural structure conducive to them producing a consistent performance, I have been bewildered by the number of consistent fails in consistency.

Top Ice skaters are succumbing to hoodoo pressures and fall on skills they really shouldn’t, speed skaters are making novice mistakes, aerial skiing and slope style athletes are not holding their nerves at that crucial time.

There is no doubt these are phenomenally talented and gifted athletes who do things us mere mortals could only visualise performing. However there is something at play that is hampering the rise and rise in extreme pursuits that could be addressed in order for it to burst through into the platform it needs to.

Is it as simple as accessibility? Or is it maybe they see themselves as “different” and not in need of more traditional athletes tools such as mental coaching? Having spent some serious time with the more traditional sports, there really is a culture where some of the performers clearly do see themselves as different and the thought of needing someone to help them balance their emotions and train the mental efficiency is seen as a weakness.

This saddens me as I, for one, love these out-there sports, the guts and glory athletes who do amazing things. I see them as just another discipline of professional sport, in need of the same physical and psychological advantages.

So come on you extreme sports athletes – don’t be shy. There is no shame in treating your mind the way you treat your body! Lets begin thinking big picture and gain the edge the smart way.


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The Athlete Mindset: Fixed Versus Growth Mindsets

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013


Athletes and sports professionals are becoming increasingly aware that it is more just the fitness and talent of an athlete that will lead to high performance; it’s equally important that an individual’s athlete mindset be fit and flexible too.

Preparation for AthletesAthletes often will have one of two different mindsets, one of which will work to the detriment of an athlete’s performance whereas the other will help the athlete grow and surpass his or her competition.

The Fixed Mindset

The fixed mindset is common amongst athletes, but it’s a dangerous one to have. With a fixed mindset, an individual will only perceive that he or she has “x” amount of value or have “x” level of talent and ability. They tend to measure their success by the amount of setbacks and mistakes they’ve made. This is an incredibly limiting way to look at one’s self, particularly as there is always room for athletes to grow in a number of different facets which will significantly improve his or her performance.

Another issue with the fixed mindset is that they work overtime in making sure that they “look good” and will do anything possible to conceal their shortcomings. While some athletes may start out by doing this publicly, soon the mind begins to adopt this way of thinking privately as well, which leads to the rejection of valuable opportunities to learn and improve.

The Growth Mindset

Champion athletes who continue to excel in their sport and set the bar for other performers are those who have a growth mindset. With this mindset, athletes are constantly looking for ways to learn and improve and aren’t afraid to say, “Yes, I could use the extra training” or “I’ll gladly accept some additional coaching!” Rather than reject the idea that they may need to work on their serve or learn a new skill that will help them and the team excel, they’ll openly accept the learning and work on it until they get it right.

And that’s another key difference between the mindsets: effort. Those who possess an athlete mindset of growth know that effort is a must if they have any hope of improving or bringing a brand new skill or ability to life. Those with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, tend to believe that if the true ability is there, that it doesn’t need to be nurtured and improved upon. The result? A lack of effort in the areas where it is needed most and ultimately an unsatisfying and often short career in their sport.


The Rocket Gets a Mind Coach: Ronnie O’Sullivan back on top

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Rocket gets a Mind Coach
As a youngster growing up in the UK with parents involved in the pub game (public house) across London, my childhood was a healthy mixture of vivid experiences, and none more influential than the many different and diverse sports consumed as our national pastime.

Football, rugby, darts and snooker were a staple of our weekend discussion and this has remained a major part of my sporting passion into my adult and professional life too.

Today snooker and darts are as influential, professional and big business sports as Rugby and football. Jostling for TV and sponsorship rights with the big boys, their stars are as big as the football players who once donned the sporting royalty crown.

Some time ago I was watching the former world snooker champion, Ronnie (Rocket) O’Sullivan, giving a press interview after a particularly poor championship performance. He was talking retirement from competitive snooker due to a long and painful run of poor performances culminating in his possible relegation from the top world players.

He was clearly frustrated and despondent and didn’t know where to turn – that much was obvious – and so retiring was his only ‘real’ option (in his mind). All these negative emotions were clouding his ‘natural’ skills and his successful behavioural patterns. The more he played the more the weight of losing was playing on his mind and throwing up obstacles.

As I watched this painful and dejected interview I could see where his performance patterns had let him down, the self-initiated habitual behaviours that were working against him rather than for him; his mindset that was a hurdle growing in intimidation by the minute, reinforcing his negative views on his ability to play snooker and the sport itself.

Even through all this negativity and frustration, I could see a way out for him, a way back to the top – a revamp of the champ! It wouldn’t be easy but was doable.

So I actively set about letting Ronnie O’Sullivan know I had his solution. I could get him back winning and all it would take was some serious hard graft…

…and some time with me inside his head.

Simple as that!

I tracked down his manager, a process more troublesome than it first appeared. Undeterred by the many dead ends and unanswered messages I eventually found the agent and his business address. So I sent him a detailed letter, explaining who I am, what I do and how I can rescue Ronnie Rocket O’Sullivan’s snooker career.

“It’s what I do,” I told him, “I rescue careers.”

So I sat back and waited, waiting for the knock on my door, the inevitable call to rescue Ronnie O’Sullivan’s career.

…Maybe even a book or film deal at the end when he comes back to win the world championships once again, against all odds! I could picture it, it was there ready to be played out in front of millions of fans and the Rocket was the right athlete to do it…

As the weeks went by the silence was deafening. No knock at the door, no acknowledgment of my master plan, not even a sniff of a book deal.

So, the manager clearly couldn’t see the value in working with Ronnie’s mental state, in building emotional stability and productive cognitive skill-sets. Clearly he wasn’t going to see the wood for the trees and my efforts were waisted on his narrow views. But I shouldn’t be surprised as that is how ‘most’ people see sport, as just talent not humans.

I will go directly to the source! Ronnie himself, I thought.

But finding the agent was tough enough, getting access to arguably the most successful snooker player in the world of professional snooker wasn’t going to be easy. Where does a man turn when his back against the wall, when a potential clients career is teetering on the edge of a career chasm, when every turn is a dead-end?

He turns to his Mum of course.

As a former hard-nosed publican she knew how to extract information, she had her highly tuned ear to the ground and her fingers on the pulse of who lived where and with who. She staked out leads, hanging out in snooker halls, bars and outside gated mansions, dodging police, media and looking for someone carrying a long thin cue case with a bad attitude.

For weeks I worked on my plan for Ronnie here in Australia as mum worked the haunts. It paid off, she got me Ronnie O’Sullivan’s postal address. She came through and not one (proven) stalking charge to her name.

It was on, time to send my detailed plan, the solution, the method in which to get Ronnie the Rocket back to the top of his sporting career. Now again it was time to sit and wait, to wait for the knock on the door, the ring of the phone that all important email.

This week it happened.

Ronnie O’Sullivan lifted the trophy on the world title once again, the fairytale had come true, he had beaten all the odds and turned around the mindset to play like the true champion he is.

The once lost, down-and-out champion was back at the top and humbly thanking his Mind Coach, the man (he says) showed him the way back.

The plan had clearly worked, the shift in mental, emotional and cognitive structuring had managed to turn the spiraling out of control athlete around. Pointing him back to the top position in world snooker.

And yes finally it was a Mind Coach that had been recognised as the pivotal piece! I can see the book deals, the movie rights, George Clooney playing the Mind Coach, the clients knocking down the door wanting that same ‘edge’.

Unfortunately for me (this time), I was not the professional Mind Coach the Rocket selected for his triumphant return. But what I am ecstatic about is finally a true champion has acknowledged the importance of mental training, and in turn given permission to other athletes – junior and senior – to look outside the traditional approach, to see an alternative path other than to just put up with it or retire.

Mind Coaching is gaining more and more traction in the preparation and sustainability of elite and professional sport.

And so for that I thank you Ronnie and Dr Steven Peters who was that Mind Coach.

What are you prepared to build into your development to ensure you not only reach the top, but stay at the top?