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My Journey

The Journey To Become The Most Sought After Sports Mental Performance Specialist Part 4

lots of faces expressing different emotions

“The key to success is failure”

Michael Jordan

What criminals and basketball players have in common – Not what you expect!

After the success with the basketball player and actress, I wanted more but my mentor was letting me down and wasn’t providing the mentorship I expected from such a person; I was losing faith in his ability as a mentor and I’ll always remember a conversation I had with another of his mentees, but this isn’t the place to reveal that conversation.

Instead, I focused on expanding my mind and growing my skill set.

I had graduated from University and was working part time (damn government cutting jobs!) and thought it was the perfect time to build my character and skill set and perhaps another career lay ahead of me in the field of Emotional Intelligence.

The Emotional Intelligence Academy in Manchester was intriguing to me and I went across to an information day to find out what it was all about. I met the Director, Cliff, a great bloke with piercing eyes and after hearing about the ETaC (Evaluating Truth and Credibility) course that trained people in the crime industry identify truths and expose lies by analysing facial expressions, verbal cues and body language, I decided I wanted to learn more.

The science was born from the concepts of Doctor Paul Ekman who later helped consult on a popular TV program on SKY called Lie To me starring one of my favourite actors Tim Roth.

I found it fascinating and seriously considered a new career in this field but I was subconsciously attracted to putting these principles into sport and a thought entered my head as I could see how these concepts crossed over into sports and I now understood why I was such a good player when I was younger.

I had to explore this further because basketball needed solutions…or so I thought. More about this later.

Upon completion of the course and having spent a few days with some brilliant people around the world, I suggested to Cliff I wanted to transfer these theories into sport.

He looked at me with interest and agreed but we had to come up with some proof and data.

We came up with a plan which was to film players in a one on one situation and focus the camera on the attacker. By taking this approach, we could identify ‘tells’ and ‘leaks’ which when analysed and learned could give a defender relevant and purposeful information to help them gain an advantage.

But we needed a minimum number of participants and clips to study and use as evidence and Cliff came up with the number of 200 players and 1000 clips and when I first heard this I was, taken back!

Erm. What now!

I did a quick mental calculation in my head that involved recalling how many coaches and players I knew, my reputation in basketball and concluded I could pull it off.

I messaged my contacts and had a great response from players and coaches from professional to National league and amateur and all agreed for me to pick a time slot of around 15 minutes to come down to their training sessions and set up and film.

I had a mobile phone that I did the recording on but soon discovered this wasn’t enough and so Jordan, the son of Cliff who worked at the Academy, lent me a top camera which was a blessing!

Over three months, I travelled around the North West of England filming, reacquainting myself with players and coaches and really enjoying the process.

I remember one day after I’d canned some footage, taking it to the Academy and watching it back on the huge TV screen they use to really focus on the facial expressions. Having such a huge screen really does help identifying ‘tells’!

I had 1000 clips (well, 998 as two clips became corrupted) to analyse and break down so I started the arduous task of watching, pausing, rewinding each clip and making notes of what I observed without judging and after five weeks of intense focus, I had some results and backing up my theory as to why I was such a good player – I read body language and facial expressions really well.

Jordan helped co-write an academic paper (Click here to access it) and now I had to build a training program so I could help others.

I offered it to The National Governing Body of Basketball and even had a meeting with the head of coaching but it went nowhere! I felt exasperated! After all the effort I’d put in and knowing the level of British basketball wasn’t great and something needed to be done, why dismiss this new and powerful training program?

As part of the pilot scheme, I worked with former GB player Devan Bailey who saw and felt the improvements straight away!

I questioned why, and felt British basketball had let me down on two occasions now but I was learning a valuable lesson.

Even if a solution is staring you right in the face, unless you believe there is a problem, you won’t accept or reach out for help.

Mike Nichols

Sometimes life has a way of telling you to stop doing what you’re doing and to do something else.

It was 2014. I married and was working full time in Halifax/Leeds as a trainer, delivering training for the unemployed, integrating NLP and emotional intelligence concepts into my programs of delivery and was falling into a life of routine with the exception of working with a golfer wanting help with his putting. He continued to grow and win and is now pro and has been for about a year. He kindly said he’d recommend me to other athletes who are struggling.

I spent some time completing a Mindfulness course, A tutoring course and a teaching course so up-skill myself as I felt I needed to keep my mind occupied but something was missing. I had all these new skills and wasn’t doing anything with them. I was frustrated and mad at myself.

But then I had an idea!

I was inspired!

Football is like basketball in many ways, a team sport, defence and offence, close proximity to your opponents. Plus football has the money to invest. Perhaps…just perhaps football would be my saviour!

Find out next time how a call to the USA gave me hope!

By Mike Nichols

Insights and Masterful mental performance coaching for the football (soccer) and basketball player

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