Archive for May, 2012

The Athlete Mindset: Reactionary Versus Responsive Behaviour

Friday, May 18th, 2012

If you are chasing after another athlete you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move. It is better to lead yourself than follow another.

Athletes base much of their outcome strategy on being able to intuitively produce the right action at the right time.

This forms part of their belief systems, instinctive direction and ultimately the sustained success of their performance.

When working with professional athletes, it is important that their internal drive and external performance needs are personally tailored to them.

However this very specific objective sometimes leads to some confusion for athletes and coaches around being either reactionary or being responsive!

These two actions may sound very similar in nature – but they have two very different drivers and consequences.

If we look at the specific behaviour of the ‘reactionary’ athlete, they are reacting to any and all situations:

  • a perceived external force on them, such as their environment;
  • the venue conditions;
  • the pressure; and probably more importantly
  • the other competitors actions

These athletes let their performances be directed, dictated and controlled by interpretation of their current situation – assessing – reacting – reassessing.

This mindset places the athlete in a constant observational role, not an action role. These athlete are then in damage control mode or constantly playing catch up as they wait for something to happen or someone to act before they can assess and react.

They have essentially surrendered their control over their performance to an external force limiting their options to counter actions.

When a Mind Coach builds an athlete’s optimal performance strategy, it is tailored specifically to that athlete and their skill-set and objective. It is not based on another athletes agenda or objective.

So by being a reactionary athlete and deviating from the designed path in order to react to another’s actions, an athlete is detracting from their own optimal performance strategy and objective.

I often tell athletes, ‘If you are chasing after another athlete then you will always be behind them – waiting for them to make the next move – it is better to lead yourself than follow another.’

The reactionary approach essentially ties the athlete into following their competitors path not their own.

If we now look at the specific behaviour of the ‘responsive’ athlete, these athletes have both their physical and psychological performances primed and ready to strike in a specific way, thus making them responsive to their own needs. This also allows them to make informed performance decisions based on their ability and their objective.

These athletes posses behavioural flexibility and can manoeuvre their performance within their optimal strategy based on their outcomes and situational needs. This gives the athlete the freedom and control to perform towards their objective and not be looking, judging and reacting to what others are or are not doing and using that as their gauge.

This single-minded focus gives our athletes clarity, objectivity, control and an optimally designed path to follow. This lowers performance anxiety and any second-guessing to what is coming next and also allows athletes to select the path that is right for them.

So the next time someone advises you they want you to have better reactions – tell them you would rather be responsive and compete on your own terms not those of your competitors!

There will always be environmental conditions or personal conditions outside the athletes control, so it is important an athlete remains open minded, cognisant of their ability and primed – responsive and ready to tap into their resources when called on.

Mental Coaching Handbook: Magic Wand Not Included

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


I am often asked what it is I do for a living (sometimes even by those closest to me…). My answer is always the same – I take an athlete and I make a champion!

Although this response does little to clear up the confusion my family has about what I do for a job, achieving this outcome specifically is done through working both with and on an athlete.

Working with an athlete comprises working on their mental structuring, emotional stability and natural cognitive patterning to produce a sustainable, replicable and smarter performing champion.

However –

There is no Magic Wand included

No one hit wonder…

No silver bullet…

No one technique where we mystically hypnotise, covertly re-pattern and take away the self doubt in an afternoon that will see them through to the rest of their lives…

Absolutely no picket fences and fluffy dogs!

We do utilise all those techniques – and more – and this takes dedication, time and commitment!

The same way an athlete knows they have to continually hone their performance skills, practice their training techniques and systematically nurture their physical body – the mental process is the same. In fact, if unattended, it can be less forgiving than the physical programme!

If an athlete neglects their mental and emotional development, it can have devastating consequences and have an immediate impact on both their performance and confidence!

Individual perspective and behaviour have been forged over their entire lives and it is these unique views on reality about what they can and cannot achieve that dictates the effectiveness of their behavior, and therefore, level of their success!

The mechanics of our reality is quite simple:

  1. We experience an event, physical or imagined
  2. We assess that event and create our own personal interpretation
  3. We create an internal representation, an understanding
  4. We apply a personal meaning to that and similar events
  5. It becomes a distinguishing emotion

This essentially categorises that event as ‘something’ and assigns a perceived value.

Our individual perspective on the world is built upon these personal experiences from the copious amounts of data we come into contact with, then translated and used as puzzle pieces.

The good, the bad and the ugly in our lives, are decided upon by us, whether we consciously mean to or not.

For an athlete to truly produce their preferred performance, we must first understand and master the mind’s Information Filtration Systems, deciphering the picture it has painted, what emotional tagging system is adopted and what information is allowed in and what information is kept out – and why!

As we now understand, the pivotal influence over our performance is our mind. So athletes and coaches who wait until the train has crashed before they engage in effective mental training are going to be left behind.

There is no instant fix – when coaches see athletes almost magically transform under another coaches tutelage – this coach is fully engaged in mental training. It is the most effective way of producing a bigger, brighter and more productive attitude and belief in their athlete.

There is no doubt that physical talent is paramount and will probably get you so far towards your dreams, goals and aspirations but it is your mental agility and mental toughness that will make you a champion!


Image Credit: Flickr pillwoodlouse