Archive for July, 2011

Athletes Returning From Injury… and other Monsters In The Closet

Saturday, July 30th, 2011


Working with athletes returning from injury over the years has taught me a few things…

These athletes, at the end of their tether and contemplating throwing in the towel over their fears when returning from injury, been told by others to toughen up or get a grip. But when you are the one on the inside looking out this fear is real; holds a huge amount of emotional weight; and can dominate every waking hour.

If we believe in the notion that we don’t do anything in life unless it holds some value for us – then why do we let our imagination push our buttons and punish us with crippling and apparent uncontrollable fear when there is no logical need for it?

Take an athlete recovering from an injury: if there is no technical or mechanical reason to fear the sport or even the move again, why do so many athletes buckle with fear when getting back into the game?

Statistically speaking, we know these highly successful athletes are crippled by something that will probably never happen to them!

So why do they do it to themselves? Why do these athletes allow what they intellectually know as bogus appear so real.

And how do we, as Mind Coaches, manage this behavioural anomaly pragmatically?

Our true fear mechanism is all part of our vital and finely tuned fight or flight process. This innate, subconscious reaction emanates from our limbic system in our brain and protects us in extreme or life threatening situations.

So for this reason, we don’t want to tamper with this fight or flight process too often. However, if we think of it more like a brain surgeon, we can sort through the many different sections and stimulants of the brain and switch on or off a desired or undesired response.

Your first awareness of an irrational fear probably manifested itself in the same way it did for most of us: the monster in the closet and the ghosts under the bed! Over the years, we now know there is no such thing as monsters in the closet and ghosts hiding under your bed!!

But, as a kid it wouldn’t have mattered how many times you were shown the empty closet or rationalised that there is nothing under your bed other than old socks, broken toys and plenty of dust – you would have still had that irrational fear in the back of your mind convincing you that it is all too real and to believe otherwise was either naive or a mistake.

Your imagination would have been the major contributor to support and feed the monster – the emotional monster that is, not the actual monster.

So a coach telling an athlete to get on with it or suck it up would have the same amount of success as telling the child the closet is empty.

We often think, construct and imagine the worst case scenario when faced with decisions in life. This helps us to manage the full spectrum of scenarios IF they do in fact eventuate. However we know that once we have thought something it is impossible to UN-think it! So it suddenly becomes a legitimate option in our brains, something that could occur, that maybe has, until now, been completely off the radar.

So now that this worst case senario is very much ON the radar, how do we stop our over-active imagination eating away at our performance, our effectiveness and even our sanity?


1.  The Root Cause

Establish what was the catalyst to the fear. Was it a past incident, a past observation or something concocted in our over active minds. There would have been a start point, a stage where the irrationality started. Even the concocted option would have it’s roots in something tangible.

2.  Smother that cause in logic
Take the emotion out of the cause and replace it with logic. Desensitise it’s effects and break it down into so many components that for all those ducks to be in a row again would be so unlikely it would almost be impossible.


Establish why it initially occurred in detail, so as to build structure around it, preventing it happening for a second time.

Just the pragmatic process of establishing a plan will instantly reduce the emotional weight of the imagined option, but to completely sideswipe this unproductive emotional thought – we replace it. We replace it with something desirable and with just as much emotional weight. This can be achieved through active strategy structuring and with targeted hypnosis.

If you think about how we ‘beat’ the monster in the closet or the ghost under the bed – it was either by growing up and thinking logically there is no such thing nor could there be, or we employed our own bigger, meaner monster to overpower the weak closet monster!

Whichever option works for you – employ it!!

Masterminds: It’s a Group Thing – The Importance of Sharing to Learn

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

There was a Cyclist, Sprinter, Swimmer and Footballer all sitting in a coffee shop – when the swimmer turned to the others and said, “So, what do we all have in common…?”


…No, this isn’t the build up to a bad Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman joke, rather a scene at a recent group brainstorming session we held.

It's a group thingThis is where a group of professional athletes and coaches come together to share where they are at with their mental training, and what has and hasn’t worked for them over the last 30 days.

This process, although sometimes logistically difficult is amazingly beneficial – and you may be surprised to see just how well these different sports play together!

In a previous post, we have discussed the use of journaling in the assessment and application phases of training and how it can analytically give you a clearer indication of just how well you are traveling and show you where the next move needs to be.

However, have you ever stopped and thought ‘I wonder just how well this works for everyone else?’, or ‘Do they get the same outcome as I do?’, or ‘Would another athlete have these strong emotional reactions over the same thing?’

Being able to bounce thoughts off sporting peers, and share ideas or experiences from different sports, is a key aspect to building social proof and supporting our own personal belief system.

An area coaches may neglect to include in their development strategy is the psychological and emotional need for ongoing social proof in the individual or team. As much as these athletes and coaches would like to have you think they are maverick in their approach, they can be far more tentative and traditional in reality.

Whilst the application may be as different as each sport, or as individual as a single person, the ability to build social proof through contributing to these brainstorming sessions is a key factor in sustainably imbedding neural and physical skill systems.

Another benefit is the belief you are actively contributing to your own development and career. This helps nurture personal ownership of the process and develops sustainable forward motivation.

So as a coach, what do you do to ‘sell’ your clients on the big picture in your approach to their neural and emotional performance – and are they buying in, or just turning up?

The unknown is an unnerving place for anyone to be. No one likes loosing control of their performance, nor do they like processes being done to them. So it makes no sense to keep them in the dark nor does it work.

Rather, they want to feel they have a handle on their sporting trajectory, are involved in integrating these neural improvements and are an intricate part of the whole.

Are All Coaches Created Equal? How to Find the Right Coach for You

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

In today’s world of professional coaching – has the industry crossed the line into some sort of more socially and market-driven McMind Coaching, or is it possible to still indulge in some mental fine dining?

With coaching now playing such a major role in people’s emotional and professional lives, coaches are springing up all over the place quickly filling void in demand and giving clients an extensive choice in both targeted and more generic coaching programmes.

So it raises a question around value: are all coaches made equal? Are some coaches more effective than others at getting you to where you want to be? Do some coaches really earn those hefty fees based on results or is it all smoke and mirrors?

Being a former athlete, having a coach is no new thing to me. In fact, in my experience, it is the only way to sustainably succeed at anything. I have had many different coaches throughout my life for each milestone I was aiming for. Each coach had a very specific sphere of influence at the time, so the selection process is important to me to ensure I got the right person for the job – it’s all about efficiency you see.

I have seen some pretty phenomenal coaches who have what can only be described as the magic touch and truly do transform lives consistently.  Similarly I have seen some shockers too who can only be described as the second hand car salesmen of the mental game.

Now, sitting on the other side as a professional coach myself I am very aware of just how important this service really is, how it can support and guide an individual to emotional contentment; an organisation to hum like a finely tuned engine; and a corporate giant to truly understand it’s purpose… of course I am bias.

So how do you separate the talent from the weekend warriors, the professionals from the amateurs and the long-stayers from the opportunists.  Lets face it – it is your mental wellbeing after all.

There are a couple of key things to think about before embarking on a coaching programme with anyone irrespective of what they say they can do for you.

Before searching for a coach, first identify what it is you want coaching on. Is it business, life, career, phobias, relationships, sport, health, habits, motivation – if you can think of it there is a coach out there who targets it!

Once you have identified which area of your life you require coaching, the next step is to identify the type of coach who will get the best result for you! Are you just in need of an ear, someone to listen to you whilst you work through your own issues with reason and deduction or do you need to be challenged, tasked and held accountable by someone who has your bigger picture in mind?

Do you want a coach that comes to you, you go to them in a clinic-type environment, a coffee chat coach, a phone or skype coach?

All forms of coaching have positives and negatives associated to their approaches and all vary in relation to their intensity too.

For example if you are the kind of person who finds they avoid situations then maybe a phone/skype coach wouldn’t be your first option as it can be very easy to hang up or not pick up in the first place! So select a coach that will fit within your lifestyle and behaviours.

Questions should be asked of the potential coach too. Some coaches are more ‘process’ based, some are more conversational and work well in certain situations over others. The good ones can switch between both.

Selecting a coach that both understands you and your needs and has the skill-set that will give you the best chance of obtaining your outcome should be your priority.

Over the years I have seen many different approaches by coaching companies to stand out and attract clients – and as they say horses for courses – some have been flash and elaborate and others have been understated and intimate. The bottom line is it needs to work for you as you need to feel comfortable enough to open up and share yourself with the coach.

Research your coach as you would research a brain surgeon! Ask people for their experiences and recommendations, read about them, get to know them, call them up and ask them questions – if they are professional then they will happily give you the information you seek – and if it doesn’t feel right keep looking and asking.

So don’t be afraid to ask your potential coach some seriously probing questions about their approach, strategies and successes – because if they are one of the good coaches then they will be asking you some pretty serious questions too.

A coach selects a client as much as a client selects a coach!

Taking Care of an Athlete’s Emotional Welfare: Living Inside Another Person’s Head

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The Mental Game of a Sports Mind Coach is not that Different from the Athletes they Coach.

As a sports mind coach, much of the ability to create sustainable change in athletes comes from the ability to completely associate specifically to them and their performance issues on a deep level – and then take a precise pragmatic approach to solving those issues with them.

This means spending much of the workday deep within the minds of others, observing their idiosyncrasies, emotional roller-coasters, behavioural dichotomies, good and bad days, perceptions of self-worth and their individual sporting needs.

This can be emotionally challenging as a coach, especially when you have more than one client on the go which could mean double, triple or even 10 fold the idiosyncrasies, emotional roller-coasters, highs and lows! Keeping track of all the individual athletes needs, progress and programmes is paramount to ensuring them the best sustainable performance outcome.

So how can so many high octane careers be managed and still deliver each and every time? Well, it’s in part about perspective and systems!

It is as much about managing your mental wellbeing as a coach as much as it is managing the athletes. Let’s face it, if a coach was to get lost in the mental abyss and didn’t practice what they preached, they lose the ability to lead and guide these athletes. It would be like trying to catch a whole bunch of rabbits in an open field, blindfolded – completely hit and miss.

Empathy and understanding play a major role as does 100% precision focus on them whether working with them or building their programme. This means having the ability to not only switch ON to them and their needs but also to switch OFF from them too. This is vital to instantly change focus and do so without leaving traces of the last client or a build up to the next!

So the same ‘switch’ process I teach athletes, I utilise myself – a set process that switches me on before I engage with the client and one that powers me down after. This is the same process the athletes go through so they can perform 100% in full concentration and focus during the training session and more importantly on game day.

So how is this achieved?

The first stage is to establish a boundary – a physical and or mental line between where is work and where is not. For me it is outside wherever I am working with the client (this is a flexible boundary I maneuver as the physical venue changes frequently). So I establish the boundary line and once I cross that boundary line it’s game on, 100% them and their programme and nothing else.

Clark Kent or SupermanThe second stage is a ‘trigger’, a replicable action I set that signifies the mental transition from a mild mannered Clark Kent to Superman!

This trigger process is the same process as building an anchor to fire off a specific set of internal chemicals to initiate a set response or performance (anchoring). It needs to be unique and replicable, so with the crossing of the boundary and the firing of the trigger I become immersed in them and their world completely.

At the end of the session I reverse the process, I again cross out of the boundary and fire the second trigger to turn me back into Clark Kent or Dave Diggle! Leaving behind the emotional baggage and debris from the session. This preserves my emotional state and mental health.

This process allows a coach to be completely effective when needed to be and protects mental and physical welfare, creating sustainability and targeted focus.

This same process protects athletes from mental and emotional fatigue allowing them to be 100% committed to their sport and their careers yet allows them to power down and live a normal life outside without the hype and pressure creating a happier, healthier athlete with a sustainable career.