Posts Tagged ‘coach’

Why a Mind Coach is an Athlete’s ‘Best Kept Secret’

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012


Dave Diggle Counter TerrorismThe Other Secret Service: Covert Coach Ops

My name is Dave Diggle and I am a member of the Secret Service!

No not THAT Secret Service – not the Secret Service who protect the US President, but the Secret Service who manage the mental, emotional and cognitive welfare of some of the world’s top athletes – so we are like the other Secret Service.

So if we don’t have to be as secret as them, why are we such a Secret Service?

Well for many years athletes, coaches and managers haven’t wanted it acknowledged that their prize competitors needed someone to tinker inside their heads, nor did they want people thinking the athletes were in any way vulnerable – so our role was unmentioned and largely undisclosed to the world.

In reality coaches of yesteryear didn’t truly understand, recognise or value the significant advantage of having an athlete on their team who was mentally aware. There was far more emphasis placed on the physical attributes of the athlete than their mental preparedness, so quite simply, the demand wasn’t there.

In retrospect this belief was quite bizarre as it was openly accepted that all athletes need their coaches. In fact, they utilised a multitude of specialised coaches to be successful – be it physical trainers or technical instructors were deployed due to their chosen expertise and value to an athlete.

These traditional coaches were accepted as part of the game.

But the management of an athlete’s emotions, behaviours and psychology was a taboo subject even though the philosophy of a physical and mental coach are one in the same: to create the best possible athlete based on their own unique attributes.

Traditional sports psychologists were surreptitiously placed into sporting organisations a few decades ago, their main role initially to pick up the pieces after a blow out. But slowly and tentatively this has evolved to now having a more significant input into their training and competition.

So why do Mind Coaches of all descriptions get such a bad wrap?

It is partly about perception. Sporting organisations didn’t want the wider community thinking their athlete, their pride and joy and (lets not beat around the bush) their income were in need of psychological help. Nor did they want it known that maybe they were vulnerable in some way.

We now understand an athlete’s mind is something that is either their individual strength or their unique weakness.

The social stigma associated to the professionals who work with a person’s innermost workings, their fears and psychology were tainted with the white coat brigade, the image of the couch, the questions around your relationship with parents – and if you wet the bed as a child.

These mental images are what most people think of when you mention a behavioural psychologist or professional mind coach.

This is like saying you never want to see a doctor just in case they do a lobotomy!

Today’s professional mind coaches are as diverse in their skill-set as those in the traditional medical fraternity. Most have a basic understanding of traditional psychology, then there are those who specialise in Sports Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Timeline therapy (TLT), Emotional Management (EM), Cognitive Science and many more strands of neurological therapies.

Each have their own niche strengths and inherent weaknesses and, when correctly applied, can be incredibly powerful.

As a professional Mind Coach I am normally brought into an athlete’s world only when something significant has gone wrong. Much like a paramedic arriving onto a scene after the crash, we normally arrive into their environment after things have gone wrong – not before – and are tasked with rebuilding as quickly as possible.

The frustrating truth is if we had been contracted six or twelve months earlier the likelihood is the catastrophe probably would not have happened.

At the London 2012 Olympic games a number of the world’s top athletes began publicly thanking their mind coaches, acknowledging the influence they have had over the outcome and recognising them as a significant part of their entourage to success.

It was also noted that the Australian swim team – who had under performed in their own estimations – had not taken their neurological team with them. A coincidence? I think not!

In reality many of these world class athletes had crashed some time before the games and had probably exhausted all other avenues before bringing in the Head Doctors.

But who knows, if they had contracted a professional mind coach earlier – before things had to be fixed – maybe their results would have been better or even come much earlier in their careers.

So as an athlete or a coach are you constantly tuning the mental engine, or are you going to keep running it til it runs out of fuel, or has a crash?

It’s worth thinking about – isn’t it!



Sports Commentary: Is The Past Really In The Past?

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Does the past always influence the future based on fact, or is it all psychology?

When economists forecast the rise and fall of financial trends or when political commentators predict the swings in government – and get it right – are they just clever predictions based on past events and cold statistics, or is there more to it? Could they be psychologically influencing our decisions and future choices unwittingly with the words they use?

If we take the same parallel with sport, sporting commentators speculate on the outcome of a game based on past results of the player or team.

Again is this just the sum total of interesting statistics, relevant information and probable mathematics, or does their suggestibility hold a more subconscious influence over the players and impact on the potential outcome of the game.

In the same way people are influenced into believing and blindly following social, economic, health and even fashion trends, covert use of targeted language can also heavily influence our athletes into following performance trends.

This could result in either psychologically winning or losing a competition before they ever step onto the pitch – all based on the expert’s analysis.

Most sporting commentators are past or current players, coaches or influential people within their sporting community and often hold a great deal of respect from within that code.

So clearly their opinions and predictions matter to those who they are commentating on!

If the commentators believe a particular team is certain to lose and they publically verbalise these beliefs, boosting their point of view with statistics, history and plays as proof then the self-belief of the players on the potentially losing team will diminish – thus becoming a self fulfilling prophecy instigated from the commentary box.

Humans are socially and psychologically pack animals, guided by the community, socially driven to assimilate and conditioned to believe and follow our leaders – especially those we emotionally adorn. So it stands to reason when a well respected social influencer tells you you’re destined to lose, the doubt enters your mind and becomes a focus point now giving you the option to lose – as it is expected.

The same outcome is achieved when statistics are highlighted as a probable outcome of the future such as ‘the last time these teams met they lost by 100 points’ or ‘this team have never won at this venue before!’ All these factors and the social expectation weigh heavily on their minds and performance.

So has our thirst for up to the minute knowledge, opinions and statistics and the medias willingness to supply that information begun to influence how an athlete physically and mentally performs? Athletes will tell you ‘No!’ They will say the media plays little part in their preparation or performance – they say this because they are told to say it not necessarily because they believe it.

So as a coach or commentator we have a duty and responsibility to understand that what we say could have an impact on the outcome and psychology of an athlete.

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!