Posts Tagged ‘athlete’

Is that an Athlete or a Movie Star? The Mighty Sports Marketing Machine

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

 

As the armchair assassins sharpen their tongues, polish their sniper skills on their regular columns and frantically distance themselves from any allegiance to Australian sport, the patriotic finger of blame is ready to be pointed.

Swimmers through the lens

Whilst all this public posturing is going on in Australia, the athletes, coaches and organisers are undoubtedly strategically gearing themselves for a hostile return to Australian soil and to the waiting kangaroo media.

Fair or not it appears to be the Aussie way, known colloquially as the Tall Poppy syndrome – if you are not an under dog and beating the rest of the world then you are fair game to the armchair assassins.

However, there are no easy retorts to the many questions being asked of these heavily funded and high profile Aussie sporting organisations.

They have not performed to what the history and hype had lead the Australian taxpayers to believe was almost a guaranteed medal haul at the London 2012 Olympic Games and a smart investment in their sporting greatness.

In the verbal tsunami of media commentators, posturing on this shock and horror Olympics for high profile sports such as swimming, athletics and cycling, there are many emphatic reasons as to what went so wrong and who is to blame – the metaphorical lambs you might say – are being lined up.

The usual excuses such as underfunding, geographically disadvantaged, not enough or correct support staff, and the banning of sleeping pills – and the list goes on and on.

I agree that some of these claims may have had, on some level, an impact but nothing these athletes don’t deal with on a daily basis. These are professional, full-time and seasoned competitors who continually travel the world competing week in week out in less than perfect conditions – its part of the game.

And for most of these athletes the Olympic games is the pinnacle of their sporting calendar, preparing for many years to perform no matter what. No athlete prepares to lose or even get second, athletes at this level all believe they are there to win and nothing else is on their radar – it’s the athletes way.

OK, so what did go so wrong at these Olympics with Australia’s campaign?

Some of you may have read my recent post  Athletes and Fame: Do They Compete? – this article looked at the immediate impact media and social media can have on an elite athlete’s ability to maintain focus and keep things in perspective during the insular world of  international competition.

I also believe there to be a much deeper culture in Australian sport at the moment, deeper than just the pointy end of the athletes individual performance. I believe the bigger issue is the focus and reliance these high profile sports have on just a few top athletes and the lack of depth developed in many sports due to the ‘now’ mentality.

Historically this has been the realm of the underfunding argument where the few receive the bulk of the measly funding and the rest fall by the wayside due to not being enough to go around, only the fittest survive.

But today with millions of taxpayers dollars being pumped into the ‘sexy’ Australian sports plus the private sectors undisclosed sponsorship funding – the story is very different.

Whereas underfunding may have been the viable excuse several decades ago, I believe today the issue is more by design than attrition – a design where the sponsorship dollar is a far higher sought after commodity than the evenly distributed development of the sports resources and the building of the longterm talent pool.

Realistically there is more than enough financial support to go around, to be effective on a world level and to create the required depth in these selection groups Australia wide.

However some of today’s higher profile athletes are more like movie stars than performing athletes, are better commercially funded than some businesses and utilised for marketing purposes as living commodities rather than their skill-set. This inequality creates a divide that can only be likened to the social divide, where the marketable few get the funding and are kept on the team at the expense of maybe the better performing athlete.

This marketing focus by the governing bodies in some sports, rather than natural talent selection process has lead to this shortfall in selectable talent and reliance on what sells, it also nurtures a short term thinking process.

Taking focus off development needs to be corrected if Australia is to once again return to dominate world sporting events. Its clear the talent is here, the athletes are at the club level, I have seen them – they just need the right opportunities and a more even playing field.

 

 

 

Image Credit: Flickr noobits

Rugby Union, Attitude and Those Who Influence It

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The Right Athlete, the Right Coach and at the Right Time Will Naturally Gravitate Towards Each Other  –  This Is Where We See Magic Happen.

As an avid rugby fan and former School and County Player (scrum half) I have found myself glued to the current Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, as many other diehards have.

As I watch the big hitters such as New Zealand dominate in their opening games, the Springboks play their usual cheeky tactics, the Australian’s scramble due to selection and injury crisis and the England team typically struggle with on and off field discipline and finding form.

I found myself strangely drawn down to the grassroots and intensely study the nuts and bolts of the Welsh Rugby team. They are only just getting the job done in most cases but doing it in such a crude yet inspiring way it is mesmerising – even my Australian wife catches herself barracking for the Welsh (fleeting though it may be, they haven’t played the Wallabies yet).

Wales versus South AfricaI mean I am passionately English through and through and will be ecstatic when Jonny Wilkinson and the boys again take out the Rugby World Cup for England! But, I started to realise there is something about the performance of the Welsh team that is very familiar to me in their attitude and approach… something that isn’t flash, spectacular or even overtly entertaining – but effective, ballsy and synergistic in drive, discipline and passion.

I should have realised this familiarity was due to a mutual connection when I saw his signature style permeate this team. It was, after all, the same person who influenced the direction of my sporting career and beyond to my chosen profession today.

Over the past few weeks as I watched this Welsh team jostle for the ball and make plays out of scrappy nothings, I found myself thinking about my own sporting career, no not my low level Rugby Union success, but International Gymnastics.

“Gymnastics?” I hear you say!

I know – it is not the most socially accepted, publicly revered, or indeed sexiest sport out there – but one I was passionate about and therefore found I excelled in.

To be honest with you, I was more physically suited to Rugby Union than I was Gymnastics: I was stocky, exceptionally inflexible, had the coordination of a three legged rocking horse and, due to a hearing disability, the balance of an intoxicated old man on a Sunday afternoon. NOT the traits of an aspiring dynamic and nimble Gymnast. However, what I lacked in talent I made up for in heart, tenacity and a willingness to learn.

All I needed was someone who was patient enough, technical enough and stubborn enough to mould me into a true sportsman!

But I had a problem (I know I had a few) but this one was huge!

I was very young, inexperienced and oblivious to what I needed…

So how would a young one like me identify and recognise that certain person who had the correct skill-set to get the most out of me; the person who had the opportunity and the drive to push me in the right direction; and the foresight to see beyond my physical shortcomings to see my passion.

Well, I didn’t know where, how or even why I needed to find that coach. That is not to say that I didn’t have the right person, because I did – only I didn’t have the maturity to recognise the right person at that stage of my life. (Funnily enough, these days as a consultant I find this scenario repeated week in week out.)

So I got to thinking as the Welsh pushed on and through their opponents in a scrappy dog fight – does the athlete select the coach or does the coach select the athlete?

As an athlete I would have said unequivocally the coach was along for the ride on the coat-tails of successful, talented and hardworking athletes. As I look back now I would have said the athlete needed the coach in order to be the athlete they have buried deep inside them… and often could not make it without them.

I think it is one of those process of natural selection: the right athlete, the right coach and at the right time will naturally gravitate towards each other, filling the void and finding their positioning.

And this is where we see magic happen. If all the stars line up and the timing is perfect, these two can create a sustainable champion, an athlete, a team even a club that is something special, something unique. It takes both sides to be shining at the same time to make them something special – and therein lies both the skill and the problem.

You see I realised what I was seeing in the Welsh Rugby team was the influence of a special coach-player dynamic, a belief and passion and a synergistic drive.

What I saw was in fact my coach – LITERALLY my coach. Yes, my Gymnastics Coach of many years ago, Mitch Fenner had recently been working with the Welsh Rugby team. The same drive, tenacity and passion he had helped nurture in me was now shining through these hard hitting, scrappy, rough-around-the-edges work horses.

Every now and then someone comes along who helps you become that little bit more than you would have been. They help you shine just that little bit brighter, for that little bit longer.

The secret is to recognise that and embrace it at the time, as together champions are forged and apart athletes are lost.

Hypnosis Hoodoo: Does Hypnosis Really Work for Professional Athletes?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

 

When I work with an athlete there always comes a time when we need to have ‘that talk’. You know the one – the hypnosis talk.

Understandably, most control conscious athletes have a high degree of trepidation about being hypnotised, especially when their only experience of hypnosis has been to see ordinary people on stage encouraged to perform for a man dressed in a sequin shirt and shiny trousers who appears to be controlling them.

And as these ordinary people dance like chickens or joyfully throw themselves into compromising positions with strangers for the audiences entertainment, this orchestrated stage show has little in common with the traditional hypnosis used by therapists every day of the week.

The truth is no one can ‘control’ another person’s mind by mere verbal or physical suggestion unless they want to be controlled – but then that begs the question – who really has the control?

Hypnosis - getting inside another's headEffective suggestibility is a powerful skill to own, it allows you to guide and manoeuvre others in a desired direction – but even with this skill you are persuading and selling, not controlling.

Hypnosis works because it allows us as mind coaches to lower the brains natural internal filters and therefore any conscious resistance an athlete may be having to a certain skill, belief or suggestion.

Our internal filtration system dictates what we will and won’t accept as being true and even if deep down we know something is beneficial for us we may still have strong beliefs otherwise. Effective hypnosis enables us to disengage those filters around a certain belief and subconsciously layer new positive suggestions in their place.

The result, when the mind goes searching for a response or reaction to something that previously could have resulted in fear, panic, sadness etc a more desirable response appears as a viable option such as empowerment, happiness, and confidence and becomes the number one option.

The same process can also help a coach ‘flag’ a specific technique or physical response as the preferred option, and again when called upon, the brain will find the new and improved version over the old shaky or damaged version.

The mind is wired to protect itself and so can often remove options it deems harmful from our search field, burying it in the deepest, darkest recesses of our memory  – however these removed or buried emotionally-weighted actions often resurface causing confusion and emotional discomfort.

Hypnosis can also be a useful technique in managing these kinds of emotional barriers especially if they are inhibiting an athlete from performing and it is all based on the emotions of past events.

Of course these traditional forms of hypnosis where a client is encouraged to close their eyes and relax are not the only forms available to us as mind coaches. If a Mind Coach is particularly skilled the conversational forms of hypnosis such as Ericksonian are utilised throughout most sessions often without the athlete ever being aware they are subconsciously being guided!

Conversational hypnosis is a carefully crafted form of communication where verbal suggestibility is weaved into conversation, layering in better options, new choices, better ways of thinking and even manoeuvring an athlete away from a particular way of thinking.

Hypnosis is one of the most versatile and targeted tools for a mind coach, especially considering there are many different applications and forms of hypnosis available to us.

In order for hypnosis to be truly effective there has to be a deep trust and rapport between the athlete and the mind coach, an understanding that the mind coach has the athletes best interests at heart and is respectful of the athletes career.

Many athletes are amazed at how simple the hypnosis process is, as they can understand and respond at any time. They have full control over their own minds and do not feel manipulated in any way during the process.

So if you have ever considered hypnosis to enhance your performance development then maybe it’s time to have ‘that talk’!

Sports Commentary: Is The Past Really In The Past?

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Does the past always influence the future based on fact, or is it all psychology?

When economists forecast the rise and fall of financial trends or when political commentators predict the swings in government – and get it right – are they just clever predictions based on past events and cold statistics, or is there more to it? Could they be psychologically influencing our decisions and future choices unwittingly with the words they use?

If we take the same parallel with sport, sporting commentators speculate on the outcome of a game based on past results of the player or team.

Again is this just the sum total of interesting statistics, relevant information and probable mathematics, or does their suggestibility hold a more subconscious influence over the players and impact on the potential outcome of the game.

In the same way people are influenced into believing and blindly following social, economic, health and even fashion trends, covert use of targeted language can also heavily influence our athletes into following performance trends.

This could result in either psychologically winning or losing a competition before they ever step onto the pitch – all based on the expert’s analysis.

Most sporting commentators are past or current players, coaches or influential people within their sporting community and often hold a great deal of respect from within that code.

So clearly their opinions and predictions matter to those who they are commentating on!

If the commentators believe a particular team is certain to lose and they publically verbalise these beliefs, boosting their point of view with statistics, history and plays as proof then the self-belief of the players on the potentially losing team will diminish – thus becoming a self fulfilling prophecy instigated from the commentary box.

Humans are socially and psychologically pack animals, guided by the community, socially driven to assimilate and conditioned to believe and follow our leaders – especially those we emotionally adorn. So it stands to reason when a well respected social influencer tells you you’re destined to lose, the doubt enters your mind and becomes a focus point now giving you the option to lose – as it is expected.

The same outcome is achieved when statistics are highlighted as a probable outcome of the future such as ‘the last time these teams met they lost by 100 points’ or ‘this team have never won at this venue before!’ All these factors and the social expectation weigh heavily on their minds and performance.

So has our thirst for up to the minute knowledge, opinions and statistics and the medias willingness to supply that information begun to influence how an athlete physically and mentally performs? Athletes will tell you ‘No!’ They will say the media plays little part in their preparation or performance – they say this because they are told to say it not necessarily because they believe it.

So as a coach or commentator we have a duty and responsibility to understand that what we say could have an impact on the outcome and psychology of an athlete.