Posts Tagged ‘mindset’

Why Recruiters Often Overlook A Potential Champion

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

 

A large number of athletes in a variety of sports have been recruited into their positions. They are the individuals who can run the fastest, serve the hardest, kick the most accurately and jump the highest.

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014These individuals move like champions and look like superstars. They have that natural ability that the vast majority of us just don’t have. But a lot of scouts and recruiters are doing themselves a grave disservice in focusing only on the athletes who display an innate or natural ability to perform well in their sport, and here’s why:

Mindset

The success of a champion really comes down to the quality of mindset that an individual has. Many of the greatest athletes of all time were those that didn’t look or act the part, but they had the mindset and the heart of a champ. Take Muhammad Ali, for example. Though arguably the best boxer of all time, he didn’t have the build of a natural boxer or the lightening quick fists needed to knock out Sonny Liston, but we all know how that story ended. Basketball superstar Steve Nash, being only 6 feet tall, is easily half a foot or more shorter than the vast majority of his teammates and competition, and yet he is one of the greatest NBA players of all time.

How can this be? How can these athletes who have the physical nature of their chosen sport stacked up against them not only be able to play with the superstars, but become one themselves? They’re mentally tough.

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is a somewhat broad term, though it includes a number of facets such as:

Acceptance of Deficiencies

Athletes who are mentally tough know that they aren’t necessarily the best of the best or, if they are, that there will always be another superstar coming along down the line. These athletes know where their shortcomings are and they focus on goal setting so that they are continually improving upon these shortcomings rather than beating themselves up over them.

Positivity

These are positive individuals who understand the merit in keeping themselves motivated. They understand that effort will get them the results they need rather than trust solely in their innate or natural abilities.

Growth-Mentality

All in all, champions have what is referred to as “growth mentality”. They’re open, they want to learn, and they want to improve in any way necessary to increase their performance and to remain competitive in their sport.

 

Mental Output in the Game of Tennis: Advantage or Disadvantage – Your Call

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

 

As a self proclaimed tennis tragic, I found myself in an emotional quandary this weekend as my all-time favourite tennis player Roger Federer was going for yet another record as the longest standing World Number One and seven times Wimbledon Winner at Wimbledon 2012…

 

… but he was playing Britain’s Andy Murray, our first real hope since Fred Perry of seriously contesting men’s world tennis and his first grand-slam title.

The weight of expectation from the British sporting nation were squarely on Andy’s shoulders. In this Olympic year, when our Olympic team and city is shining brighter than ever, the English Cricket Team is firing on all cylinders and the England Football Team – well, are not! (but that’s another article) – my loyal head was with Federer but my British heart was 100% behind Murray.

As I stepped away from this internal battle raging within me and looked at the two players as no more than individual athletes, and more specifically from a Sports Mind Coach perspective, and what I would do to improve someones chances of winning given the opportunity, I realised just how immensely different these two players really are at this stage of their careers.

The Federer we have come to know and admire epitomises the cool, calm and collected athlete, the one who has a plan, has a cast iron strategy and no matter what gets thrown at him – he accurately and systematically applies the blueprint. The Swiss timepiece, as he is known, very rarely lets his emotions out to play and they almost never dictate his game. I am not sure he even sweats under pressure.

Murray, on the other-hand, is a more emotional athlete. He is outwardly passionate and prone to the odd blow-up, tantrum, dummy-spit and teary moment – reminding us of past champions who too were prone to an uncontrolled emotional lashing or two!

Andy Murray is extremely talented and is known as being both one of the hardest working athletes on the professional tennis circuit, and also a little difficult to be around if things are  not going his way.

With Andy Murray you can see every play. His every hit and every miss is written all over his face, on and off the court. During his game he telegraphs his emotions in big neon lights through his physiology to his opponent, broadcasting how he is feeling, when he is up and firing and when he is down and they are best poised to strike. For Andy Murray it is all or nothing – 100% raw, random, uncontrolled and unpredictable emotions

If the old adage ‘You can have mental output without physical action but you cannot have physical action without mental output’ is true, then this statistically close game was always going to be won or lost between the players ears not on their physical skills.

Passion can be a good thing, it shows you care and willing to go to greater lengths to achieve, to do whatever it takes, and nothing is out of the question when talking about winning!

So passion is important. But so is stability, strategy and replicability if you want to be a champion. Assessing and understanding what needs to be done and then having the clarity of mind to just do it – this takes a certain kind of mental skill-set.

TennisOur emotional monster needs to be fed. And as we are what we eat, both physically and metaphorically, what we feed this monster depends on the style of our approach.

What emotions do you feed your monster?

Confidence, clarity and focus

Or anxiety, fear and anger?

When I watch Andy Murray I can see a frustrated champion lurking deep down inside, itching to get out. Like a destructive ADD child, incredibly gifted and talented, hardworking and tenacious, but one who is shackled by his own self-created demons. These demons are, for now anyway, dictating how he plays his tennis. These may be the same demons that arguably haunted Roger Federer when he was much younger, more fiery and unpredictable.

Over the years at the Smart Mind Institute, I have seen these unchecked emotional monsters cause untold damage to an athlete’s career.

Damage such as:

  • an increase in physical tension and emotional stress resulting in an increase of muscular and tendon injuries
  • to recurring injuries
  • lowering of their bodies immune system and an increased susceptibility to illness
  • to emotional self harming
  • performance and skill blockages
  • physically vomiting and diarrhea
  • a loss of performance focus resulting in competition chocking

 

To his credit, Andy Murray has managed to tame many of these demons in recent years which has seen him race up the rankings and to the position of the tour bridesmaid, appearing at a number of grand-slams but not yet bagging the top prize.

Over the more recent years Roger Federer too has not been impervious to the demons within, whilst Nadal and Djokovic have had Federer sitting in 3rd spot for the last year or so, you could say his clinically predictable and emotionless approach had left him blindsided and led him to take his eye off the ball.

Even though some would disagree with me, Federer is human after all (I think!) and initially his slip from number one impacted his confidence and he lost sight of what had made him so formidable. But thorough self analysis may have re-calibrated his perspective and direction.

Watching Murray at this years Wimbledon, I got the impression the pieces of his puzzle are coming together, his game is at an all time high, his on court performance and approach to the sport is definitely a world above previous years and the number of brides-maid gigs are increasing.

I believe the missing link for Murray is his lack of effective emotional management. The unpredictability of his performance, his not knowing who will be waking up to play – the whirlwind emotional ADD child or the precise, focused athlete.

If Murray can tame the dark side and unleash his skills for good not evil then a Grand Slam victory is surely on the cards for him. But whilst he reacts and doesn’t respond, the elusive number one will remain just that – elusive!

Our emotions are a skillset, not an excuse.

The difference between an athlete and a champion is NOT just knowing what to do – it’s being willing to do it – no matter what others think or say!