Posts Tagged ‘achievement’

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.

Creating Highly Memorable Memories

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Frequent  |  Emotional  |  Unique


We learnt in the previous post how easy it is to visualise yourself an effective memory – the two skills outlined in this post will massively help to increase recall.

And there is another skill available to increase this even further – Creating Memorable Memories.

Repetition - ReplicationMemorable memories are exactly that – memories we remember! We store a vast array of options in our minds, our neurological points of reference, blueprints to choose from, patterns we have used before and observations. So when we are faced with a decision to make, our brains search the archives for the most suitable option.

What makes one option more suitable than another? Well nothing really, nothing analytical anyway. We choose one above all others because it stands out as more frequently used, more emotionally charged and unique.

When asked for an instant solution, our brains don’t look for the most effective long term solution, it looks for the most memorable or flagged option.

So how do we ensure our new visualised option is the brains first choice?

Put simply: we tick boxes, neural boxes!

First, we make sure it ticks the most frequently used box, by completing the visualisation frequently and in large number of identical repetitions.

Then, we ensure it ticks the emotionally charged box by completing the visualisation AND rewarding ourselves with it’s completion deep within the visualisation.So every time you visualise, also visualise the rewards that come with its success, including your own satisfaction, the adulation of those around you and the rewards of being number one! This pumps the body full of serotonin and dopamine – the natural pleasure chemicals.

Thirdly, tick the box of uniqueness. By making the visualisation unique it not only ‘flags’ it neurologically as a preferred option it also allows instant recognition. So in the case of our future black-belt in the previous post, we asked him to visualise each of the 9 patterns in a different colour.

If he applied a purple colour to a specific pattern in his mind he would also colour his hair purple, the mats purple and his uniform purple – making this pattern stand out as the preferred option over all the other patterns. The word or thought purple also created the neural trigger. No longer did he have to remember the pattern step by step, he just fired off the purple trigger and each move flowed into the next move. This also allows him to begin anywhere within that pattern and not rely on one move depending upon the next.

These three keys to this form of visualisation can be applied to any set of moves, skills or repetition process.

And so here we are… only a couple of years have passed since my son was having trouble with three consecutive moves in a row, and now he is going for his black belt completing a large number of sequential moves and skills. So I am not only a very proud father, I am also very pleased we could provide him with the tools to improve his sport, his education and ultimately his life.

Visualising Yourself an Effective Memory

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

The closer we get the practise environment to the performance environment, the better the cognitive connection.


VisualisationThis month my 12 year old is going for his Black Belt grading, in the full-contact sport of Taekwondo. He is pragmatically learning the set sequence of moves (patterns), weapon sequences, self-defense, sparing and board breaking techniques as part of the requirements.

There are 9 pattern sequences containing 9 – 38 individual moves and all need to be completed with controlled intention, faultlessly.

This whole process is something he is finding quite grueling, especially for someone who up until a few years ago couldn’t remember three things in a row without becoming frustrated and disheartened! His difficulty in recalling sequential instructions was the reason, after much research, we selected Taekwondo to help him. He could complete one or sometimes two tasks, then have difficulty recalling the third – irrespective of the topic (for example: get dressed, then have breakfast, then clean your teeth).

In the larger picture, this was affecting his education and confidence. So finding a way for him to learn these skills and engage in a sport he enjoys (and will therefore stick to) was key in helping him train his ability to build order and sequence into his life.

Although learning effective sequencing is a necessary skill most of us take for granted, we had to learn it for ourselves at some time and doesn’t come easily for some. So learning these 9-38 move patterns has been no easy task for my son! It is a learned process for all of us and like any other skill needs to be learned, practiced, perfected and then maintained in order to be sustained.

If the above challenge sounds familiar to you, the great news is there are a couple of key tricks of the trade (the mind trade that is!) we can apply to speed up the process in increasing your efficiency and recall rate.

We have discussed a couple of forms of visualisation in previous posts such as Point to Point Visualisation and Re-Patterning Visualisation – all highly systematised, easily compartmentalised, and cross-platform applicable.

This form of visualisation is no different and it calls on some of the core skill-sets you have already learned.

With all visualisation the closer we get the practise environment to the performance environment, the better the cognitive connection and therefore recall will be. So in my son’s situation, the first step was to have him visualise the patterns in his Taekwondo uniform, on a similar flooring and under the same sensory conditions (noise, smell, feel etc).

Our emotions are major contributors to our ability to remember something. Think back to your childhood, the memories that are at the forefront of your memory are those that hold the most emotional weight!

So with this in mind, we also took away his vision (temporarily of course) with a blindfold, as our eyesight overrides our memory. This is an important aspect of embedding visualisation and effective memory creation, allowing our brain to build its own connection and recall the pattern uninhibited by external influences. This gives some personal ownership and therefore some emotional weight to the skill (or pattern).

Just these two skills alone will massively help increase recall.

“Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind
through repetition of thought.”
~ Napoleon Hill

An Athlete’s Internal Game in High Performance Training

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

To Have and to Hold: Having the tools and using the tools are two very different things

Elite Professional sports people are some of the most dedicated people on the planet.

These talented athletes place their bodies on the line, their minds into the institutionalised mill and leave the other parts of their lives on hold whilst pursuing their passions to live a life they have – until that point – only dreamed of.

These professionals live, breathe, eat, drink, sleep and commit 100% of themselves to their sport – and many coaches who have the privilege of working with people at this level also find it a very exciting life.

Outsiders could be forgiven for thinking it is a cushy existence but most sports have both a physically demanding lifestyle and a high level of social commitment (and the odd dietary bizarreness put upon them from time to time). These athletes are told where to be, when to be there and what to say and do whilst under their sporting organisation’s banner!

Often with the best intentions in mind, managers, clubs and sponsors collaborate, construct and mould a team into a highly saleable product – and the effect sometimes leaves the contract-bound athlete feeling they have little say in their careers.

This is almost a production line mentality, a process that has been fine-tuned to produce the most marketable product – and these clubs are extremely efficient at it.

That being said things don’t always go to plan. Athletes are human, their performance is sometimes not stellar, they may hit a perpetual snagging point or their motivation perhaps dwindles off the radar.

For an individual athlete going through this, an unexpected loss of direction side-swiping their focus could soon find that the wheels start falling off their dream wagon. And often with so much money on the sponsorship line, this is normally where they reach a choice point in their career:

Do they consider pulling the pin on their sport?  – or do they start personally investing in themselves to lift their game.

It’s been my experience when working in these situations we only get one shot at turning the downward spiral around to reinvigorate their sporting careers and rejuvenate their confidence. Efficiency is critical at this moment.

How quickly can an athlete in this situation turn it all around and get back on track to achieving? Well, that all depends upon the personal investment they are willing to make in themselves.

In order to be the best you have to believe you are the best and this CAN sometimes lead to some confusion as to who and what to listen to.

If they choose to fragment the process they can expect fragmented results and this can only extend the journey back.

With other people’s agendas off the table, it all comes down to how much an athlete is willing to back their faith in their mental toughness and physical ability.

One of the things I’ve found with regard to an athlete’s internal game is that at the heart of it they like to have control over their careers, their performance and their results – they are intrinsically self motivated and far more internally referenced than your average person.

So in a world where their life is constructed, mapped, structured and out of their control – their mental focus is one area where they feel they are able to totally control and own.

It is also the one area where they really need to pay attention and apply the science! To what degree they apply the tools is directly proportionate to the results they get!

Having the tools and applying the tools really are two very different things, we can only get out what we are willing to put in and by applying the right tools we can achieve great things.