Posts Tagged ‘mental game’

Mental Strategies to Coach Sporting Professionals into Sporting Champions

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The Secret of Success is Achieving More With the Mind.

I was recently asked to visit a newly constructed sporting facility as it proudly opened its doors to the sporting elite. It was billed as the best of it’s kind and I was exceptionally excited to see it in action.

I arrived and met with the other invitees, the press, the sponsors and us technicals. When we saw the building for the first time it was indeed impressive. Even from the outside it looked ultra modern and eerily menacing.

As we walked through the front doors we were greeted by a pristine, clean and busy hub. A state-of-the-art strength and conditioning gym; a lecture theater that would rival most major universities; a rehabilitation clinic many hospitals would sell a patient or two for (or at least their spare parts); a nutritionally managed canteen; a wade pool heated to optimise recovery; and lastly, a team meeting room that would make Google HQ jealous.

However, as we were lead around and proudly shown just what it was capable of, I was struck by just what it wasn’t doing. The more that opened and shut the more it was apparent to me it had been created looking from one aspect only. It was only catering to one discipline of the athlete’s preparation and competitive sustainability – there were gaping holes (in my opinion) in the thought process behind creating this athlete haven.

The physical aspect was truly outstanding, it came with everything: bells, whistles and even the kitchen sink. But so much more mental stimulation could have been built in to enhance and support the physical focus, to craft a more rounded environment for these sporting gladiators to prepare.

At the end of the tour I was asked my thoughts on the facility, and of course I willingly gave them. The centre truly was outstanding – however I do remember saying it was like entering into a 100m race with Usain Bolt having only one shoe on!

I am not too sure if they took my thoughts on board or not, it will be interesting to see!

When you look around at your own training environment, are you taking full advantage of what it has to offer, or is the vital ‘mental game’ missing.

I suggest conducting a walk-through of your facility with fresh eyes, even if you walk through it every day. Look at it with a different perspective. Does your centre:

–       cater to your athlete’s physical and mental needs

–       stimulate practical problem solving

–       condition left and right hemispheres independently and collectively

–       utilise peripheral learning, and

–       create an environment that motivates

The rapid expansion in our understanding of the brain and its capabilities through neural science has uncovered some of its amazing complexities and the more we understand the more we can utilise its natural powers. One such way is through our visual stimulants, those subconscious and peripheral learnings that sneak into our unconscious minds constantly. We know we only acknowledge a small amount of what our eyes can see yet our minds take so much more in.

Here are a couple of the ‘missing’ pieces from my tour:

In the reception there was no behavioural stimulation, no motivational triggers like posters of past champions, current champions, relevant video or stimulating audio. The clinical environment did nothing to lower anxiety or create a sense of calmness or belonging.

The Strength and Conditioning gym had no mental development exercises at all, no hemisphere stimulation games, coordination skill development, spacial awareness or cognitive patterning exercises or even strategic problem solving. When mixing physical and cognitive stimulation a greater degree of development can be obtained in both physical and mental areas.

Our right eye feeds into our left hemisphere of our brain and our left eye feeds into our right hemisphere of our brain so by placing stimulating imagery along the left hand side of a wall (just above eye level) will feed directly into our right spatially aware and ‘global’ side of the brain, whilst placing motivational phrases, or systematic strategies along the right hand side will feed directly into our left, more language and pattern oriented, hemisphere. These will be absorbed and categorised without us having to consciously process them.

This subtle layering has proven to covertly improve the cognitive stimulation and learning process. This strategy could be employed in the lecture theater, the team meeting room, the reception and even the canteen.

The rehabilitation centre was amazing, however little was geared towards the major role neural science plays in rehabilitation both physically and emotionally. I recently worked with a chiropractor who is taking this connection to a whole new level. Our mind controls our actions and so by stimulating the right neural receptors we in turn stimulate the correct body part.

One other area where I feel a great deal of emotional and communicative management benefit occurs is during peer interaction. Creating an open communication environment where team captains, managers and coaches are all on an equal standing with athletes, including juniors, allows different perspectives to add depth to the process. It also engages more productive and targeted communication.

Due to tradition this last aspect is often frowned upon by older players and avoided by organisations as they can feel threatened by the younger players. When handled correctly however it can add multiple dimensions to their influence and produce more targeted outcomes.

So take a look at what you have created and ask yourself, ‘Have I built-in the mental game here?’

How to Design Your Own Neural Pattern: Follow Your Own Path

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Discover how to find the confidence and self trust to follow your path step by step, knowing where to go, what to expect and how to achieve it.

 

Athletes are often told by their coaches they need to set goals and then set out to achieve those goals.

However many athletes are never educated in HOW to effectively set and or achieve goals or what the difference is between a goal and an objective.

As a professional Mind Coach I get all our athletes and coaches to set an OBJECTIVE, a big ticket outcome, and then plot and plan the Goals to achieve that Objective.

So the difference between an OBJECTIVE and a GOAL is an objective is the destination, the final outcome where as a goal is the path of stepping stones along the way. The design of this direction promotes sustained motivation.

Today we are going to look at something called NEURAL PATTERNING and an innovation we have created to really get this skill ingrained in the body is Blindfolded Rock Climbing.

The concept behind this exercise is to firstly teach the athlete how to gain clarity on their objective and then design and create their path in a systematic and specific way.

Learn how to achieve the confidence and self trust to follow your path step by step, knowing where to go, what to expect and how to achieve it.

 

Stage One: Create The Objective

Establish what you are striving for: International representation, an Olympic gold, a World Record or something more intimate such as a personal achievement.

Whatever the objective is, it needs to be clear, concise and precise with an understanding of what will be the final step, the recognition of job done.

Then the path to the objective is designed. Selecting goals that support and enhance the journey, and part of this process includes allowing the athlete to set their own goals to the objective and the reward system that goes with it.

Stage Two: Own The Objective

Once we have our established objective and our specifically designed set of goals as the pathway we need to embed this strategy into the neural pathway of the athlete, rendering it as the optimal behavioural option.

Having a pre-designed clear and structured path allows an athlete and coach to maintain focus and if the athlete does veer off the path, the specific point of reference will instantly show, allowing them to correct and bring it back on track (by utilising effective visualisation, both with associated and disassociated techniques).

If we take ownership of something, then we are more likely to stick to it, have an emotional connection to it and be motivated by it. The athlete designed this unique path so they are not bound by the strategies of others. By selecting the path that best suits them they hold themselves accountable to the outcome.

Stage Three: Follow The Path

A very effective exercise to teach the athlete the benefits of selecting, embedding and following a path is our “Blindfolded Rock Climbing” process. This is the last stage in building effective performance neural patterning.

The idea behind this is to feel comfortable in trusting our internal judgement – Once we remove our ability to see, adjust and react we must trust our internal picture.

Our eyesight overrides and over-writes our memory – instantly becoming our primary process – reacting to an ever changing environment. But what it CAN do is react without planning and we could easily find ourselves without options or on a path where we are following another athletes strategy.

Blindfolded RockclimbingSo by creating our path, succeeding at the path and rewarding ourselves … and all whilst doing it blindfolded – we enforce our self belief and confidence in trusting our own judgement.

I am often asked to work with athletes who are experiencing confidence issues around their performance – when they are reminded of success by completing this Neural patterning process their confidence and self worth is instantly lifted. Once they have this point of reference they have a history of success, they see and feel their ability is once again reinforced.

By understanding how to design your own effective neural patterning process, you can design very specific strategies, tailored to give you the best chance at reaching your objective and performing at your optimum.

3D Coach: The Most Effective Sporting Results Can Be Found In Another Dimension

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

It’s only human to have good days and off days. And to most of us an off day isn’t such a big deal in the whole scheme of things. But to a professional athlete these off days could spell trouble.

3D CoachIf bad days become more and more frequent and the machine of expectation that surrounds a professional athlete has them completely derailed, it follows that their performance is likely to resemble a train wreck.

And this could mean the difference between being re-signed for the next season or dropped from a team and potentially losing millions of dollars in payment and endorsements. So once their attitude and synergy has turned festy and poisonous – these professionals look for something different.

Traditionally when athletes completely miss their mark and their performance begins to glide southwards their first instinctive response is to do more of the same – and that is physical training!

As a former athlete I myself have been put through the ‘traditional’ avenues coaches and athletes favour in an attempt to either avoid or turn a bad situation around – and it is within this tradition of reactivity that lies the systemic problem.

More gym work, more kicking practice, more hours of the same training… more… more… more… more…

The issue may be a technical anomaly or a physical inefficiency or even a lack of performance history and focus, but the head-down bum-up more, more, more approach typically perpetuates the emotional baggage and tainting of process that comes with these performances: the sense of desperation; the sense of expectation; the sense of anxiety; and ultimately the sense of failure.

On the surface I can see the thought process behind this traditional approach. Let’s face it, athletes are physical performers therefore focusing on the increase in physical response it ‘should’ in theory give them results.

3D CoachBut does it?

Stop for a moment and analyse this philosophy: if an athlete or group of athletes have just under-performed and experienced a poor result, irrespective of the cause, where is their mental and emotional objectivity likely to be focused?

Are they focusing on improving, correcting and moving forward? Or has the painful performance cemented in the mistakes made and the outcomes they delivered?

Like many dedicated humans their focus externally will be on correction, because that is what they consciously tell themselves, but in reality their mental and internal focus will be completely on the mistakes made and how NOT to repeat them.

If the mental focus is on NOT to repeat the mistakes, where are they likely to emotionally and cognitively end up? …  Repeating the same mistakes… and thus perpetuating the cycle of poor results, uncontrollable emotions, and more poor results.

It was reported that the Australian Rugby Union team went from one of their poorest performances at the Rugby World Cup 2011 straight into a training session the next day, trying to put right where they had gone wrong.

So if rushing from the competition venue to a training session is not the answer – then what is?

FOCUSED OBJECTIVITY

The two main reasons many athletes and coaches rush to do something active (and in their model of the world ‘actively’ deconstruct their performance) with more physical repetitions is because:

1. Athletes associate action with physical action not necessarily mental action and feel more in control if they are physically ‘doing something.’ So this is feeding their emotions rather than their technical issues.

2. Historically, it is what athletes have done. It has been traditionally handed down from coach to athlete. When things go wrong get back on the horse and just do it again. The legacy continues.

The solution lies in the ability to analyse.

Rather than embedding emotionally anchored physical repetition and doing something just because you have done it before, a more effective approach is to step back and analyse. Just analyse what worked, what didn’t work and how it can be mechanically corrected.

This level of objectivity allows an athlete to distance themselves from perpetuating the same result; to learn from the mistakes and to analytically correct the issues before they become embedded into their programme.

The 3D Coach™

The innovation of the 3D coach™ allows the athlete to analyse their performance in the following way:

First Dimension:
Look at their performance from their own perspective with all the emotions attached (associated to the event);

Second Dimension:
Look at their performance as another would see it mechanically, systematically and chronologically (dissociated to the event)

Third Dimension:
Once the athlete can see the performance for what it really was then they can see their performance from the perspective of how it would impact the long term outcome both corrected and uncorrected.

This process can deconstruct and reconstruct the event without the blurring of the facts with heavy emotion and allows the athlete to tweak and tinker with the skills without the fears associated with the past performance.

This all sounds very simple, and it is, but unfortunately under utilised. So the next time you or one of your athletes have an off performance, resist the urge to dive back in the gym and instead understand just where the improvements need to be!

Competition and Luck: It’s A Mug’s Game

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

In the Spring of 2010 I worked with an Ironman as his professional Mind Coach. He was preparing for the 2010 Coolangatta Gold, an event run every summer on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

 

The Coolangatta Gold is one of the most iconic and physically challenging multi-discipline events on the world’s sporting calendar and is the longest race of its kind spanning 46 kilometres.

This test of human endurance comprises an ocean swim, surf-ski, board paddle and soft sand run… and all in the heat of an Australian summer… as a field of the world’s top athletes compete for the coveted title of ultimate Ironman.

We spent the off-season mentally preparing for the race with specific technical visualisation, targeted focus exercises, hypnosis, internal recognition to external application and a very detailed and structured race-day plan.

By the beginning of the season he had become a well-oiled machine.

Part of the race-day motivation plan comprised:

  • Mental compartmentalisation & performance accountability; and
  • A rewards process

These are designed to maintain sustained motivation and manage emotional stability.

Both these skill-sets encourage the athlete to break the performance down into specific ‘achievable’ and ‘acknowledgeable’ units.

As an athlete, when focus is on each specific unit, you can:

  1. Complete the unit;
  2. Learn from it;
  3. Reward it; and then
  4. Move on!

The power in this process is it removes emotional attachment, mental fatigue or overwhelm, a vital aspect of the endurance mental game.

I had not worked within the Ironman ‘world’ before this but I had many times worked in endurance-based sports, so understood the unique mental and physical challenges they present.

Race day arrived, I knew my athlete wasn’t a favourite to win and he was very aware he wasn’t as physically strong as the race heavyweights. However we knew the race would need to be run in his head, so we were ready!

As I stood on the beach and watched the field of 50 competitors complete their final warm up, they were indeed a spectacle of ultimate human machines. I watched these sporting elites conducting their own rituals., waxing boards, consuming energy gels, packing water into the ski and running the race in their minds and noticed:  physically, they were the fittest athletes I had ever seen… they represented the top 1% of athletes on the planet, an intimidating bunch by any standards.

I also became aware of a sudden, dark, nervous buzz. The confident strutting became edgy shuffles, the mind games instantly stopped. This invisible, negative buzz filling the beach was now spilling over into the crew tents and crowd.

What I had not seen when observing this change was the surf had grown. I had seen these modern-day warriors battle much larger waves, stronger currents and harsher beach conditions during training – so why on race day had it become an issue big enough to make them so wary? And, why did they now start talking up the surf and talking down their ability?

The more I watched and listened, the common theme appeared to be ‘luck’ – or the curse of ‘bad luck’ to be precise.

I heard the coach of one of the favourites to win telling the TV crew ‘if the big waves don’t get him he may still have a chance.’ I was shocked, I couldn’t understand why a wave would select one athlete out of 50 and go after him!

Luck: It's a Mug's GameHad I walked into the twilight zone… a place where the elements have objectives, held grudges?

Had this athlete upset the Water Gods at some point and this was his retribution?

Or was this all self manifested in their minds?

I asked the coach why he thought a whole years worth of preparation had come down to ‘luck’. He told me they couldn’t predict the surf and it was luck if they did or didn’t collect a wave that brought them back into shore or one that would stop them initially getting out.

But, I responded, doesn’t every athlete out there have the same opportunity to collect or not that same wave? Ultimately they manoeuvre themselves into the right position to collect the wave, and if they don’t it would be poor planning or poor execution– not luck!

I could see the blood drain from his face as his whole exit strategy had been exposed. The exit strategy of ‘Well, if I under-perform or under-execute the plan, I have an external force to lay the blame on.’

And the more I listened the more this cultural dependency on ‘luck’ as an excuse was evident. There was no denying these were fit guys, but mentally they had left themselves an out option. And it would appear it was part of the sport’s culture, rather than an individual athlete.

You see, psychologically having an exit strategy such as ‘luck’ lowers someone’s resistance to the physical and mental forces, and minimises their behavioural ability to keep on pushing through the tough times.

Given the option to bail out when the going gets tough becomes a very viable option when you have the ‘Bad Luck’ card to play.

Luck: It's a Mug's GameAfter working within various sporting disciplines, I had observed the exit strategy in many different forms on many different occasions. But never had I observed this phenomenon weaved within the culture of a whole sporting discipline, as this one.

In my opinion, luck isn’t a viable excuse for anything. If we allow ‘luck’ to have a hand in our performance then we hand over a large amount of control to an external force – one that only exists in our minds.

It is the athlete’s way of keeping one hand on the door handle, ready if the going gets too tough to mentally run and have an excuse to do so.

When I conduct Open Mind Nights, they are an opportunity for coaches, athletes and parents to come together and move forward as one efficient unit – I openly promote the removal of the word ‘luck’ from their vocabulary and actively hand back control of the performance to the athlete.

Despite the large seas, the race was run and my athlete got a top five finish which was a phenomenal result and one that was made possible by the mental strategies he had and utilised.