Your mind decides whether you succeed or fail, yet many athletes don’t understand this, and it’s my job to help educate and support you to not only understand your mind, but how to think differently for improved results.
Why Am I A Specialist?
I’m a specialist in my field – mental performance coach for athletes around the world and please allow me to elaborate and share my experience with you
Voted by coaches as the best player in England on the England U19 basketball team aged 17
Voted by coaches as one of the top 20 players (All-Star selection) in the second tier of British basketball (At only 5′ 7″ I had to take a different approach to the game to succeed)
NLP Master Practitioner
Through a research project involving filming 200 players and analysing 1000 clips, I co-wrote an academic paper and developed the world’s first emotional intelligence program for football (soccer) and basketball players.
Training and development consultant for a National company
Assistant Professional coach for The Manchester Giants
Helped athletes in football, golf and basketball to improve performance quickly
Mental Health advocate
Degree in Sports Development
Voluntary Director of a National League Basketball Team
Does All That Really Matter?
In all my time of working, not one of my clients asked me to prove my experience or to see my qualifications.
Many people really don’t care what I’ve achieved, because all they care about is what I can do for them, so you can put aside my experiences and qualifications and know, you are at the centre of my support.
I don’t use jargon because I want to understand you and I want you to understand me. When we understand each other, great things will happen.
Move Forward Quickly
It’s your mind and your thoughts, that I’m interested in. The more I know, the more I can help and the more open and honest you are with me, the quicker we can move you from crisis to thriving.
There are two factors that are influencing you right now and keeping you from moving forward
Your perception of your reality
Your expectations of self and others
Your perception of your reality isn’t aligned with your expectations and it’s this misalignment that leads you to a crisis point.
But don’t worry. You will soon understand how to move on from the crisis point and begin to thrive and improve your opportunities.
When someone is experiencing crisis, one of two things can happen.
They won’t take action and the feelings of anxiety, fear, guilt etc will grow and manifest, leading the person down a dark path as they hope things will get better.
They will take action and see the light, not at the end of the tunnel, but closer. Those feelings of anxiety and fear will quickly dissipate, replaced with a new inner-strength and courage and talking of courage. Reaching out for help is courageous, not a sign of weakness, as many others will try to make you believe.
Believe it or not success doesn’t happen by accident and in the same breath, failure doesn’t happen by accident either!
There are things that have to happen either accidentally or on purpose.
Failure and success means something different to you but if you are experiencing any of the following, now is the time to hire me.
Confusion as to your role in the team
Frustrations from feeling left out
Life events not working out for you
Always feeling pressure
You want things to improve and you’ve tried everything else
You want to be the best you can be
Loss of trust
Clash with team mates
Not feeling valued…
The program I deliver is unique and gets results. Here are what some players said about the program…
“Just read it Mike. I love it, there is all the stuff ive been wanting to learn about.”
“All because of you helped me to increase my strength as both mentally and physically to carryon trying out things”
“Hi Mike, thank you so much for all the help🙏🏾🙏🏾”
“I have done some mental training, but i think Mike can help you with different kinds of methods”
“Definitely since I first spoke with you, I haven’t had any negative thoughts or anxiety completely which is fantastic!”
Knowing what deliberate actions to take to move away from failure and towards success will help you.
If you know a #footballer in the #premierleague or #championship that wants more to improve performance quickly in this competitive football world to enhance their chances of a long and successful career ask them to get in touch.
Let’s first acknowledge that mental health issues are growing in professional football. We have to acknowledge this, because that’s the reality.
The Duke of Cambridge has an initiative, the FA have an initiative, just to name two and there are countless other sporting bodies trying to tackle the issue.
I’ve spoken to many football players in depth about their own issues and issues others have faced and there is a common theme as to why players are struggling more.
Let’s get straight into what I’ve heard from players…
A player is less likely to open up to their club, or someone associated with the club through fear of being ridiculed, exposed or tainted.
A player is less likely to open up to the FA because of the alleged incident with Mike Phenix (This came from a player that knew what happened)
Some Managers exploit players and manipulate their situation. Trust is lost in a moment!
Some players take the word of some people, but these people only have £ signs in their eyes and use the players as pawns
“I FOUND OUT THEY HAD TOLD THE TEAM NOT TO PLAY ME SO MY VALUE WOULD DECREASE!”
With all this bullshit going on, is it a surprise players are struggling?
So why do the initiatives largely fail?
The initiatives tick a box. They promote talking about the issues, yet when it comes to addressing the reasons, the real reasons are largely avoided.
Perhaps these organisations don’t know how to listen in the right way, perhaps they don’t want to rock the boat or perhaps, launching an initiative encouraging players to talk is enough for them?
Remember, I’ve spoken with players that have opened up their thoughts to me.
They have told me stories that would make a great story line for a Hollywood film!
The solution is simple, in my eyes at least.
Firstly understand each player is unique.
There is no one size fits all approach
Any player that’s struggling needs to encouraged to talk without the fear of being judged, criticised or made to feel useless. They need to be allowed to just….talk
The listener must be trained to actively listen, to listen without presuppositions and expectations. The listener must UNDERSTAND the tone of the voice, the unique way the player puts the sentence together and the specific words and phrases the player uses to verbalise their issues.
The listener must know how to help the player reframe their thinking; to look at the situation from a new perspective and allow the player to uncover their own solutions for when a player uncovers their own solution, the path to leaving issues behind suddenly feels easier.
The listener must ask questions that may seem strange, yet at the same time, creates a new thought process for the player.
The listener must be fully engaged without distraction, both internally and externally.
The listener must be discreet, demonstrate confidentiality and not be shared with any media outlet or social media outlet.
There must be an exchange of value for when there is an exchange of value, there is a sense of responsibility. Just as you pay a sports physio to sort out your body, you must pay a coach, to sort out your mental health.
This exchange promotes a sense of ownership and a duty to make change for the better.
There must be an acceptance of their current reality for when this is accepted, you have the truth and only when you have the truth can you begin to explore real solutions
You have to identify your vision with clarity. There has to be an end goal, a purpose of leaving negative mental health behind.
Then you explore solutions. You pick, prod and probe all possible options including the option that many feel are out of bounds, because they are only out for themselves. One such option would be to walk away from the game.
And finally you implement action.
This is how a mental health initiative should work if you want to get real results.
If this resonates with you, then please comment, like and share with someone you feel may help.
I’m leading this initiative and I need your help. If you really want to make a difference in football and create something unique for the players and those up and coming players, I want to hear from you.
There is so much more to this in my bigger plans and I want to share with people who can help create change and disrupt the norm
Mental health is something we all experience, either positive, negative or a balance but it’s when a person is stuck in a negative mental health state, that their mental health suffers and can lead to anxiety, depression or worse.
Life is never a straight line. Never is it easy or difficult, but we live in a life in constant flux and experience many emotions as we react to the environment around us.
WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN A NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH STATE, THAT’S WHEN THE PROBLEMS START
I suffered from depression a few years ago. I was stuck in a cycle of self-destruction as I lost my job and struggled to find motivation to do something about it. I began to wake up late, stay up late and find anything to remove the boredom. I had no focus and hoped something would happen.
But guess what, nothing did happen.
I was losing fitness, I was losing my self-worth and I was spending money I didn’t have.
The doctor offered me anti-depressants but I had heard how they numb the brain so immediately, I turned down that option. I valued my clarity and thinking.
I understand what it’s like to feel depressed, but I also know how to find a solution that changes the mindset.
Any player can change their mindset and can experience the highs and the lows, from winning the league, to losing on the last day of the season and getting relegated.
One player I spoke to has a family member in the premier league and after a transfer, he sat in his bedroom all day with the curtains closed and only left his room to train and play.
A player will begin to suffer from negative mental health when they can’t find the answer or solution to a problem that’s occurred.
THE SOLUTION EXISTS, YOU JUST NEED TO KNOW WHICH DIRECTION TO LOOK IN
The mind is a tricky little thing and can trick players into focusing on a wave of negative emotions and thoughts like blame, embarrassment, guilt, fear, anger, and anger.
The other issue they face is two-fold. Can I talk to someone and are they willing to listen?
There are some great campaigns out encouraging players to talk and I applaud these campaigns.
However, encouraging someone to talk, will go nowhere if there isn’t anyone they trust enough to open up to; and then there is the concern of will they actually listen without judgement or will they tell the boss, take the p!ss or tell you to ‘man-up’?
When concerns are held in the mind, they begin to manifest and morph into thoughts and feelings that can drag even the most skilled player to a place of darkness.
Check these worrying stats!
60% of footballers go bankrupt within five years of leaving the game
In 2016, 165 members of the PFA were referred for counselling
in 2017, more than three times the amount of players reaching out were recorded by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) than in 2015 and 2016. The number of former players requiring support has also doubled.
So what’s the solution?
Talking and advising players what to do and how to cope with the world of professional football is great on one level.
But there is another level that needs addressing
When a person understands their self-worth and mental health, doesn’t have to revolve around football, a new perspective is discovered that can strengthen the individuals’ resilience and ability to move quickly from negative mental health, to finding a balanced or positive state of mind.
A balanced or positive state of mind, allows the individual to thrive in an otherwise hostile and very critical environment.
Football players can perceive opening up as a weakness, something that only others do, yet opening is can be perceived as a courageous and intelligent act.
I urge players to find someone who is willing to listen without judgement or criticism and open up. I guarantee when this happens, the problems they thought they had, won’t be as problematic as they think.
One of my first questions with a client is ‘what’s really holding you back?’ We have to cut through the bullshit and get to the nitty-gritty of what the real issue is so we can begin to find solutions quickly.
Back in February 2020, comparing himself to brilliance was one of the situations one of my clients experienced as a member of a pro FIFA team with the number 4 player in the world as a teammate. He felt he wasn’t good enough. He felt under-prepared and under pressure. He felt he was letting the team down.
After a few coaching sessions exploring limiting beliefs and internal communication (self-talk) we removed the sense of comparison and replaced it with ownership of his own ability for when you learn to focus on developing self to be the best you can be as opposed to trying to catch up to those better than you, great things will happen.
Does this sound familiar? Do you compare yourself to your better team-mates?
Stop it now! They had a different journey and life experiences than you and to compare yourself to them is like comparing the capabilities of a PS4 with a PS1, it’s just not fair. Learn and appreciate and accept your own journey without comparing yourself to others and great things will happen for you and your team.
New perspectives lead to improved results
You can choose to follow the crowd or walk your own path. How easy is it to follow the crowd? Just ask a sheep. This is what they do best! Following the crowd creates a sense of belonging, acceptance and common ground in which to connect with your fellow humans so why should anyone dare to walk in the other direction?
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant (RIP), Messi. Do you think they followed the crowd?
To improve ahead of the natural curve you must do things differently, not necessarily more, but differently.
My client learned to do things differently, which led to multiple top 100 results weekly and monthly meaning he became one of the top 100 players in the world whereas prior to working with me, he never made the top 100.
UPDATE ALERT – “I played the pro for Hamburg at 27-1 who beat me a few days back. I beat him 2-0. I controlled the tempo and the whole game. I’m in the top 20 in the world for the month!”
Don’t be a sheep, be bold and grow in a different direction than the crowd.
Growth and sustained performance
Small increments of improvement add up to huge rewards and benefits and It’s only in the end result you can truly appreciate the smart work you’ve done has paid off.
This message from my client showed me the growth of his performance in just a short space of time, ahead of the natural curve. “The weekend league I finished 29-1. A handful of games finished 1-0 to me, which I now realise, is still a WIN! 1-0 or 10-0 same result! Don’t celebrate till the final whistle. My stream hit an all time high! I usually hit maximum 20 views if I’m lucky, I got tup to 7.6k at one point!! Sorry for this late message but check this 30-0 A first 30 win weekend! The amount I’ve improved this last month is crazy, your help is honestly incredible”
Coaching gives me moments like this that I cherish and value because improving takes guts. It takes a bold move to come out of your comfort zone and learn how to do things differently. But not everything will go your way and what happens when the unexpected happens? What can you do when events out of your control hit you hard? Find out next time to discover how my client dealt with Covid.
The Covid-19 Factor
Just as my client was getting ready to kick ass in competitions, a virus put everything on hold for FIFA, meaning the momentum we were building could have been lost. Some would throw in the towel; see it as a way of relaxing and use Covid as an excuse as to why their performance has dropped. What choice did my client take? Did he throw the towel in and make excuses? Here’s what he told me
“The best in the world isn’t grinding as much, it’s almost as though he’s happy with his position at the top, but it won’t last forever and that’s why I’m not sitting back while it’s off season and accepting the competitive season is on hold, since we’ve been working together I’ve developed an obsession with being the absolute best and I’m not going to stop. I feel like we’ve made incredible progress but there’s obviously always improvements to be made. So happy about this Mike. Mind-set is everything! You motivate me, knowing every Monday I receive a message from you with an update and I enjoy knowing there’s a little pressure from you. Even Covid, such a negative effect on the world but I believe I’ve used it as a positive to better myself”
Boom! The mind-set of a champion in the making right there!
There’s light at the end of this tunnel and with the momentum on his side; his mind-set has been honed and adjusted and ready for the new season.
He knows he’s been working smart and doing everything in his power to make an immediate impact.
Have others been doing the same? It doesn’t matter. Have others been slacking off? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is my client has been preparing in a way that has allowed him to unlock his potential in ways he wouldn’t have known.
With a new mind-set comes a new perspective of the world and not only in Esports but in life. The tools we explore go much deeper than sports and this quote from him demonstrates why
“The game (FIFA 21) has just dropped for 10 hours early access so I’ve been just grinding it non stop. I’m learning constantly to better myself on and off the pitch. I’m excited for the year ahead!”
The first week of competition and this happened!
“It came to the first weekend league, the first test & im instantly in the top 100 finishing 29 wins & 1 loss, making me verified first week! I’m happy with this but the 1 loss on penalties is in the back of my mind because I know I’m even better and capable of even more!“
His thoughts on the coaching journey
This player is eager, he’s hungry to grow but not all players have this mindset and for me, as a coach I have to know if potential clients have the right mind set and ask three simple questions
Do you have a need or desire to improve
Have you an open mind to learning new techniques and strategy
With my support are you prepared to take new action for improved results
“Mike, it’s amazing it’s such a great journey what we’ve been through! Good times and bad times! I’m a lot more patient, stuff isn’t going to happen overnight and the little details are so so affective! I’m using so much as motivation in everything“
Are you a gamer, A performance director or CEO wanting to know how to improve performance?
China’s most famous e-sports player, Jian Zihao, has officially retired from gaming aged 23, citing ill-health reported the BBC in June 2020 (See the full article here)
He had been a professional gamer since 2012, playing League of Legends under the name of “Uzi”.
“As a result of staying up late for years, a fatty diet and being under insurmountable stress, last year I found out that I was type-2 diabetic.”
He went on to say that he had changed his work schedule, exercised and “taken medicine”, but that his situation had not changed.
“My mental state is not as good as it was before,” he said.
This is very telling of his lifestyle and the pitfalls of being a pro gamer.
In my 8 months of being involved in Esports as a coach, I’ve come to realise gaming as a profession is relatively new, yet esports is growing at a considerable rate. The (former) CEO of Fnatic, Sam Matthews one of the leading Esports organisations with its headquarters in the UK, has this to say about growth.
“While the esports model has always had the keys to success with a continued rise in prominence with a larger global audience, the pandemic accelerated the awareness of the phenomenon. The pandemic highlighted the importance of digital streaming platforms and traditional broadcasters followed suit, reproducing the successful esports model. With broadcasters on board, we anticipate seeing the line of distinction between traditional sports, entertainment and esports continue to blur.” (Read the full article in Forbes here)
With growth at such a fast pace, the pressures and expectations to succeed suddenly become a lot more real and here’s the dilemma. Young adults who dominate the demographic of gamers need to be resilient and understand there is more to winning than practicing up to 14 hours a day.
They have to consider downtime, diet, physical activity, spending time with family and friends and creating a schedule that allows the person to thrive and find a balance
“When the person thrives, the professional gamer thrives“
Uzi, the example above, didn’t know or understand the value and importance of finding that balance and personally I believe he can make a comeback with a few mental adjustments and changes to his lifestyle.
The question is does he want to get involved again?
THE POTENTIAL CHALLENGES
If you follow traditional sports like football (soccer) basketball and cricket for example, you can google many examples of players struggling under the pressure, suffering from anxiety and falling out of the game they once loved.
Do we want the same to happen to the young esports players? Let me remind you of the words of Sam Matthews “weanticipate seeing the line of distinction between traditional sports, entertainment and esports continue to blur.” Already we know the lines are already blurred from a mental wellbeing perspective.
For 7 years as a mental performance coach, I’ve coached footballers and basketball players and spoken to many former players about their issues and anxieties including how they were treated by their managers, their agents and others who wanted to exploit the players only for their own financial gain and I’d like to think a governing body to support the wellbeing of esports athletes is at least being considered. If not, I’m ready to lead on creating that project.
THE BRILLIANCE OF ESPORTS
If I were to join a team or even start a team, I’d place the wellbeing of the player at the centre of the organisation because I know if the players aren’t thriving the organisation will fail. Yes I’m aware there will be others waiting in the wings, but is that the message I’d want to send? If you can’t handle the pressure we will simply replace you? Definitely not!
Technology, content, apparel, hardware, software, events etc all play a huge part in the promotion and delivery of esports which is brilliant but sometimes, lost beneath all this excitement, social media presence, bright lights and amazing content is the fact that the players and indeed content creators need to understand how to navigate this world without experiencing burnout, anxiety or pressures because when they do, the love and passion for what they do will fade and losing a passion through burnout can be devastating. Just ask Uzi
If you’ve found this blog interesting, misinformed or intriguing, please let me know and comment. I’m open to feedback, questions and celebrations.
I work with disadvantaged young people between the ages of 16 and 18 and having watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, I felt the need to put my thoughts into this blog as a way to offer suggestions on how to solve the dilemma but first for those who haven’t seen it, let me give you a brief overview.
Social media like Instagram and Facebook that were once a fun way to engage with family and friends, are now being used, according to the contributors to the programme, to manipulate people and help advertisers make money. They use scientifically and psychologically proven algorithms to grab your attention and guide you to make decisions and form beliefs for their benefit.
Some young people and some adults are addicted to social media, with the effects being raised anxiety and lack of sleep, and one person taking a stand against the way social media manipulates people, is Tristan Harris and appears in the documentary. According to his website http://www.tristenharris.com, his is called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist developing a framework for how technology should “ethically” steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens. He is now co-founder & president of the Center for Humane Technology, whose mission is to reverse ‘human downgrading’ and re-align technology with humanity. Additionally, he is co-host of the Center for Humane Technology’s Your Undivided Attention podcast with co-founder Aza Raskin.
I like the term “reverse ‘human downgrading’ and realign with humanity’ and believe he is referring to reversing our addiction to social media and somehow re-align social media to present itself in a way that supports the growth and development of humans in a positive way, rather than in a manipulative manner that is leading to dissonance between cultures, politics and other groups of people.
I have a five year old and he’s blissfully unaware of the dangers of social media and I’m conscious to protect him and educate him in other ways like reading books, playing games and helping him grow into a rounded individual…so far so good apart from when he loses at games!
Solving the social dilemma starts with solving the self and by that I mean, understanding each of us can choose what we read and what we listen to and how we behave, yet many of us go into autopilot mode, scrolling through social media, absorbing the content and forming new ideas and beliefs about the world around us and our social media circle.
The solution isn’t in trying to convince the social media platforms to change the content or algorithms but in learning to consciously choose what to read, listen to and how to act.
We can’t control what others think and do but we can control what we think and do and that knowledge is powerful when you learn how to use it to your advantage, especially when it comes to taking control back against social media manipulation.
People under-estimate the power of their mind because the power of the mind in the sense of controlling what you think and how you act, isn’t taught in schools or colleges unless you’re studying psychology or a similar subject, but instead we are trained to do as we are told and are conditioned to do so while at school and college.
We are told where to go, what to study, what happens when we fail and we learn success is linked to achieving a grade. Success should not be linked to a grade but how we manage relationships, how we overcome adversity, how we learn self-respect, and learning how we can choose to think and act to events that present themselves, either good or bad.
For example, if I told you somewhere within this blog, there is a link would take you to a site that showed you a cute cat, would you click it or not?
But before you go looking, let me tell you, before I mentioned the cat, you had no idea or thought about a cute cat so by merely placing that idea before you, you changed your thoughts and are now considering to take action.
This is how social media manipulates you. They put an idea or concept in front of you that before, you had no intention of considering, but now they have you intrigued and that intrigue can be enough to make you click that link and absorb the information and once you start down that rabbit hole, some find it difficult to come back out.
But what if I were to tell you, you do have a choice. You aren’t obligated to continue that journey. You can choose to consciously tell yourself to stop.
If we are to beat the social dilemma, we have to take control of our thoughts and actions and be conscious in the moment. It takes practice but it can be done.
A few days ago, All Star player for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George opened up about his struggles with mental health
The NBA playoffs are currently taking place in Orlando inside “The Bubble’ creating a sense of isolation away from family and friends and that sense of normality we have all learned to appreciate just a little bit more
In the extract below from an article published in SB Nation.com on August 26th, we get to understand more about his situation.
Paul George has spent the last week being the biggest punchline in the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers forward was struggling immensely through the first four games of his team’s series with the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the first player since 1960 to shoot under 25 percent from the field in three straight playoff games.
The jokes started to fly at George’s expense. The internet didn’t forget that he nicknamed himself “Playoff P” a few years back. The criticism was clearly getting to George. He posted corny memes to his Instagram account and disabled the comments. He said his knack wasn’t to score the ball. While the criticism over his play felt partially deserved as the series became tied at 2-2 on Luka Doncic’s immaculate buzzer-beater, some of it was starting to get ugly and personal.
The Clippers needed George to be the best version of himself in Game 5 on Tuesday night, and George delivered. He finished the night with 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field as Los Angeles skated to an impressive 154-111 victory. This was the player the Clippers were waiting for
After the game, George opened up on his struggles and how life in the bubble was impacting him. “The bubble got the best of me,” George said. “I was in a dark place.”
George continued to elaborate on how he was feeling post-game, talking about how the constant feedback loop was affecting his mental health while he couldn’t escape to the outside world in the bubble.
“I under estimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here …. I checked out.”
It wasn’t until he spoke with a professional, that he was able to move away from the darkness
George mentioned conversations he had with the team’s psychiatrist that played a role in his “energy” and “spirit” changing.
What this means for other pro athletes
When you read or hear about a professional athlete open up about their struggles, another professional athlete can draw inspiration and confidence knowing that opening up and talking is an option to consider and because the outcome was productive and positive, the athlete can see the positive effects of opening up
Other athletes opening up
Paul George wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last athlete to face mental health issues. Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan are two other NBA players that have experienced issues and there are countless footballers (soccer players) that have also struggled with mental health)
If you know of an athlete or you are an athlete struggling to deal with the pressures and experiences professional sports bestow upon you, the message is clear – SPEAK TO A PROFESSIONAL.
Not only do you remove those negative feelings and emotions, but your performance increases almost immediately.
Professional football or Soccer if you’re a player from the USA, is much more than kicking a ball into a goal and you’ll know as a player reading this, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The reasons I’ll be mentioning are born from conversations I’ve had with former professional football players, articles I’ve read, experience and knowledge from the training and investment I’ve made in my self-development and some of the client experiences clients have shared with me, without mentioning any names.
Let’s consider 7 reasons why you should consider an independent coach
7. Uncertainty about your future
Uncertainty in any situation can leave you feeling lost and this scenario is one that a client of mine found himself in and was doubting whether he should continue to play the beautiful game or not. His self-belief was at a low and didn’t know what to do or what to say.
We formed a strategy that allowed him to address what the uncertainty looked and felt like then created a plan to remove the uncertainty. Once it was dealt with, he moved forward with confidence and purpose. His self-belief was back again!
6. You’re in a slump
You reached the professional level after dedication, commitment and hard work but something has changed and you find yourself in a slump and you’re being judged and criticised which isn’t fair because you have no idea why you’re in a slump. Here’s the thing; you haven’t suddenly lost your technical or physical ability, so what’s the problem?
When you communicate with others, you interpret body language and words in a way that makes sense to you at that moment in time and somewhere just before the slump, you’ve misinterpreted some words, tone of voice or body language that led you to think differently. When you think differently you behave differently so when you’re in a slump it’s because your thinking has changed, meaning your performance drops but this all happens subconsciously.
Some people will go out of their way to try to get in your head while others, may have good intentions but really don’t help at all. It’s important you understand, to get out of your slump you have the ability to change your thinking, to improve your performance.
Let’s say you’re a striker and haven’t hit the target for a while. The media will be on your back, your manager will be getting anxious, you’ll be getting anxious, tactics will change and you’ll practice shooting more than ever in training. All this can help but you must work with your thoughts before any of the above can have the impact needed to break out of the slump.
One professional sports person was in a slump. He didn’t know why but together we uncovered the source. He had misinterpreted a comment from his coach. In his head, he assumed the coach said something that contradicted his ability, which confused him, but because he respected his coach, he believed the instruction to be true and so changed his thinking. But because his new thinking was in conflict with his ability his emotions were all over the place so his performance took a dip.
This demonstrates how easily and quickly you can take a comment and interpret it in a way that’s detrimental to your performance. Let’s not let that happen to you.
5. Your livelihood depends on your performance
Your ability to play football at a high level has attracted rewards such as a great salary and perhaps sponsorship deals. You have money! With money you can buy houses, cars, go on holidays, invest or do whatever you like with the money YOU’VE EARNED by kicking a ball about.
Imagine for a moment the ability to play football was taken away from you. Imagine you were no longer needed. What would you do? How would you make a living? Are you even thinking of what you’re going to do after football because the truth is, your time as a paid football player will come to an end and you must be prepared for when that day comes or you’ll end up scrimping and begging others for money just to pay the bills.
If your performance doesn’t improve, what’s the worse that can happen?
Now you’ve had a thought about your livelihood, it’s also important you know, you can be replaced in the blink of an eye. You rarely know what deals are being talked about, how your manager perceives you as a piece in the jigsaw or which players they are looking at to replace you.
The relationship between player and manager is a strange one, considering the player and manager want to win yet communication is limited at best, with the odd exception (Klopp) but you can take control of that relationship by asking specific questions.
As a professional player, you have the ability to adapt and improve quickly, when you have a desire or need to improve, but how do you know what you need to adapt or improve? You can ask your manager a simple yet powerful question that will get you the answers
“What can I do differently to help the team?”
This is a powerful question for the following reasons
It let’s your manager know you care about the team and therefore him
It lets your manager know you have a commitment to helping the team improve and you’re not just looking out for yourself which can be perceived as selfish
Through asking this question, you’ll quickly build a new level of respect and trust with your manager, meaning he will look at you more favourably
You have a new purpose to strive towards meaning you’ll be energised and motivated in new ways
Your value will increase with an improved performance
3. You get the truth
Sometimes the truth hurts, but would you rather have a moment of hurt or continue to live a lie?
Some people around you will speak highly of you, telling you how great you are in an attempt to not hurt your feelings, yet when you aren’t performing and you hear these positive comments, a false sense of security is created, meaning you’re prone and susceptible to being let down badly.
Only you know the truth but when the truth is masked by false comments, you can become lackadaisical and without a dose of truth, your performance will be in question and when performance is in question, so is your value and use for the team.
Independent coaching has no other agenda than to help you know it’s OK to accept your reality and remove the masks and false beliefs.
Some say it’s smart to hide the truth from you. I say it takes courage to accept your truth.
2. You can speak freely without being judged
Many clubs have sports psychologists, player liaison officers and other support staff which is good on some levels, but there’s one big problem this environment creates.
One former premier league player I spoke to told me a horrific story of one player opening up to the psychologist in confidence. It was only when the manager mentioned the confidential topic in a meeting, did the player realise his trust had been broken. The other players lost their confidence in their manager and the team went into free fall. Can you imagine the pain, the frustrations and uncertainty within that club and within the players?
When you open up and share their deepest thoughts, there has to be confidentiality between you and the coach. An independent coach doesn’t have to report back to the manager or anyone else. A great independent coach, knows that trust and integrity are two of the most powerful acts a person can show another. This instils growth and improved performance.
1. When the person thrives, the player thrives
You are first and foremost a human and as a human your performance is driven by your thoughts.
Let me share a formula that you’ve probably never seen or heard yet is one you need to understand.
A thought leads to an emotion that ultimately affects your behaviour or performance. Remember earlier when you learned a slump is the effect of misinterpreting communication. You created a new thought, that led to an emotion, possibly confusion at the time, that led to a new behaviour, the slump.
For you to thrive, understanding this formula gives you a deep understanding of why you do what you do, why you say what you say and how you navigate the world of professional football and when professional football is great, you’ll be aligned in all aspects of your life.
But when there’s struggles, uncertainties and anxiety, you must learn to change things quickly before the worse happens.
A great independent coach will listen to you, understand you, create new thoughts with you and help you through challenging times while you reap the rewards on and off the field.
If you’re thriving, then I congratulate you! You’ve got it figured out and I’m sure you feel balanced and able to navigate the world you live in with extreme confidence.
But if there’s at least one part of your life that you’re not happy with and want to improve, then talking with an independent coach could be the right move for you.
Mike Nichols is an independent Master Coach specialising in discreet one-to-one coaching and is the owner of Elite Sports Minds 23, a high level, confidential coaching service for professional athletes
Being an athlete requires some level of dedication but dedication doesn’t necessarily equate to improving.
I see many athletes, going through the motions and ‘competing’ yet they don’t improve and I always ask the question why do they play, and over the years there’s some commonalities I’ve learned that stop a person from improving.
Here are my top 7 tips to improving your sports performance
Have a need or desire to improve – I’ve learned some athletes are content being where they are and their current performance level and that’s fine. Each to their own so to speak but these people don’t have a need or desire to improve. They have a desire or need to stay the same and until that desire or need to improve, becomes greater than the desire or need to improve, good luck to them!
Have an open mind to learning new concepts and perspectives – If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, said Henry Ford, the automotive tycoon. When you go through the same training routines at the same level of effort, having the same attitude towards training and playing, you will always get the same outcomes. Improving involves pushing yourself to come out of your comfort boundaries which means learning how to think and act differently.
Take action – It’s one thing to learn new concepts and strategy and a whole new ball game when you actually take action. I see some athletes learning new strategy then when the moment comes, they fail to take action. There are a few reasons why this happens
Perspective; don’t fear the change, embrace the opportunity – When you learn a new concept or perspective, one reason that stops a person from taking action is fear. Some people don’t like change because it takes them away from what they know and what’s comfortable, yet no-one ever improved by staying comfortable in their own bubble. Change should be seen as an opportunity and with this opportunity comes excitement
Know the power of self-talk – As we just realised, the perspective of approaching a new situation can elicit fear or excitement which ties in with the power of self-talk. What you say begins a series of thought processes and your synapses begin to fire which release emotions. When you talk about fear and negativity, your body and mind will begin to act in a way to protect itself, to keep it safe, but when you talk about opportunity and excitement, your mind and body will begin to act in a way that helps you grow and improve. But beware, if improving your self-talk is new to you, your old thinking habits may try to hijack you and drag you backwards. Stay strong and practice positive self-talk
Know your coach probably doesn’t have the solutions to your need to improve – This harsh reality is common for many competitors and although there are some coaches that understand what it takes to improve, many are too focused on strategy, techniques and plays, leaving players frustrated. As a player you have a right to understand what the coach wants from you and it’s reasonable to ask your coach questions. Some coaches believe they are the be all and end all of communication, placing themselves onto a pedestal, creating an environment where the coach tells the player what to do and the player complies with their instructions. This style of coaching is becoming obsolete as a new breed of coach understands the value of listening to players and understanding their perspective. The question you can ask any coach to help you improve is “what can I do to help the team?” The answer will prompt a new thought from the coach and the answer he gives you will give you clarity on your next moves
Don’t follow the crowd for the sake of it – To improve means doing things differently and if that means doing things that the crowd don’t do, then go and do it. As a younger basketball player I took on many of the tips I’m sharing with you now and at only 5′ 7″ in a game full of much taller, stronger players, I had to do things differently but it was this different approach that led me to be voted the MVP of the England U19 basketball team at a tournament in Etten Leur, Holland. Learn to be bold and set your own standards
As you learn and grow, you will make mistakes but know a mistake is just an act that didn’t give you the expected outcome at that moment in time. Go again and make the necessary adjustments.
Are you ready to improve but want some support?
Here at Elite Sports Minds 23 we have created the NEAT System – a proven system that gets results. To find out more click here
there was a man who wanted to do something new. He wanted to feel different as he realised he needed something to keep him motivated and after some consideration, he decided to get into cycling.
He was a well off man; plenty of money in the bank and when he researched bikes, he realised there was so many options, but his focus was on getting the most expensive bike his money could buy so he visited the shop that had five star reviews, found a bike, paid for it and took it home.
Early that evening, the sun was shining, the air was still and he’d finished the last episode of The Last Dance for the second time. It was the perfect time to jump on the bike and head out.
Nervous at first, he set off slowly, but as he headed into the hills, his confidence grew and with his new found confidence, he began to go more off road (his hybrid bike was deliberately designed for both the road and off-road)
Then out of nowhere a large sharp rock appeared out of nowhere! He lifted his front tyre to avoid it, but he wasn’t quick enough. He heard a loud pop, his rear tyre began to slide side to side as he slammed on his brakes. Luckily the soft grass softened his landing, but it was clear he had a problem.
Without a puncture repair kit his options were limited. What was he going to do?
The moral of the story is this – Sometimes, it’s not the best that will get you through to where you desire to be, but your preperation and ability to overcome a challenge.
Where are you in your journey?
Are you just starting it, involved and enjoying it or have you had a puncture and now you realise you’re under-prepared?
Here at Elite Sports Minds 23 we have deliberately and purposefully created a model that any aspiring athlete can implement right now to give them the best chance for success.
The key to succeeding involves many factors and principles and you should take note that it’s your thoughts that drive you forward.
There is a recipe for success, just as there’s a recipe for baking a cake.
The principles are similar in the sense you have a list of ingredients and a method to follow and when you use the correct ingredients in the right amounts and follow the method, you’ll end up with a great cake.
Here are list of ingredients that help you move towards success…
Have a desire or need to want to improve
Have an open mind to learning new concepts and perspectives
Have an ability to take action
These are the base ingredients you need to have before you are ready to start to use the other ingredients because without a solid base or foundation, everything else you do will come crashing down.
So before you move on, can you honestly say you agree and are able to build the base ingredients into your life?
The next 7 ingredients are the ones that add flavour and substance to your career.
Let’s explore each one to help you understand how to use each ingredient
Your reality is where you exist. Your reality is your perception of where and who you are. Those that are failing often live in the past or think too far ahead meaning they are stuck on past glories or perceive them to be better than they actually are.
When you accept your reality, you accept your faults, your strengths, your weaknesses but most of all, you accept where you are with confidence knowing you can now make truthful moves forward
When you create your vision, you give yourself clarity and a realistic goal to strive towards. The goal has to be consistent without wavering but knowing when you reach that goal, you can choose to create a new vision or goal and continue to move forward.
This is a biggy! This is the ingredient you need to master because communication is how we are judged.
We demonstrate internal and external communication, verbal and non-verbal and it’s how we communicate that determines our outcomes.
One aspect of communication that many people overlook is the power of a simple word or gesture at the right time. Sometimes the most powerful and influential communication techniques involve saying nothing.
There are two perspectives when it comes to expectations – your expectations and the expectations others put on you. When it comes to success you must set your expectations in a way that motivates you, rather than limit your potential and the expectations others put on you must be considered by you and you have a choice whether to take on that expectation by understanding your strengths and ability to adapt.
Unrealistic expectations put on self or by others can be found in another recipe called “The recipe For Failure”
When you live a life that are in line with your values, life can feel great but when you live a life outside your values, life can suck!
For example, my three values are accountability, balance and calm, meaning when I’m accountable, balanced and calm, I’m enjoying life but when i’m unable to be accountable, imbalanced and anxious, life for me becomes a struggle.
To figure out what your key three values are, create a list of ten then whittle them down to three and feel the difference when you get clarity.
When you hear the expression, be true to yourself, it’s your values you need to connect with that allow you to be true to yourself.
As you navigate life, you begin to form beliefs about how the world works and how you fit in and communicate with the world and people around you.
When it comes to sports, it’s usually your coaches and team mates that mould your beliefs.
But there’s something you need to know.
A belief is formed from a situation that happened some time ago. To work towards your success, you must challenge your beliefs to see if they’re still relevant to your new situations.
If you feel there’s something holding you back, it’s usually because you have a limiting or mistaken belief that’s influencing your behaviours.
Is it right to hold onto a belief you formed years ago, even if your new situation demands a new belief?
We are social creatures by nature and forming relationships is part of our DNA and help us integrate into communities.
But successful relationships need work and communication forms a big part of whether relationships fail or succeed.
Imagine you’re not playing and not enjoying your sport. You feel confused and unsure and this leaves you wanting something to change but you don’t know how, but at the same time the other person, the manager, has no idea how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking.
They get a feeling there’s something not quite right because your performance has dipped but rather than approach the issue, both of you accept this is how the relationship is. You both accept your position in the relationship and do nothing to improve it.
To succeed, relationships have to have a certain level of honesty, integrity and respect built on a common goal or vision.
What You Can Do Right Now
If there is a sense of something not being right or there seems to be a struggle for you, I’d suggest you consider each one of these ingredients and figure out which part of your life needs attention.
If you’re succeeding, you’ll know there is an alignment with all the ingredients and you’ll be enjoying your sporting career and life.
If you want to know more about this recipe or how you can build the recipe into your club or team, get in touch and let’s communicate.
There are two camps when it comes to creating a culture of a professional sports team
Winning at all costs V Wellbeing Of Athletes
Some believe winning at all costs is the way to go and some believe the wellbeing of athletes should come first so let’s explore what happens in each of the cultures.
Winning At All Costs
The only thing that matters is winning!
The only athletes you want are the ones that have that desire and hunger to run through walls to win and those that don’t make the grade will fall away, quickly replaced by someone else who wants a piece of the action.
Any mistakes will be punished. The coach has one way to coach and that’s to push the athletes to their limits.
The coach and athletes will knock the opponents down, seek to gain unfair advantages and do what it takes to ensure the win falls in their favour.
Losing is met with anger and extra training sessions and some form of punishment.
Losing brings an almost depressing state of mind as the reality of failure eats away at the minds of those involved.
Wellbeing Of Athletes
From speaking to people in the sports industry, there is a sense that when you put the wellbeing of athletes first, their desire to win will be diluted and their ability to perform under pressure will crack. Some perceive this approach as wrapping the athlete up in cotton wool as if to protect them from a hash reality and to make sure they are comfortable at all times.
This couldn’t be further away from the truth!
Who uses a wellbeing approach?
There are two current coaches I’m aware of that value the wellbeing of their athletes at the elite level and they have won championships by putting the wellbeing to their athletes at the centre of their culture.
I’ll highlight some of the key phrases from articles that demonstrate their approach
Jurgen Klopp – Manager of Liverpool Football Club (Premier league winners 2020)
The first thing Klopp did on arriving at Melwood, Liverpool’s training facility, in 2015 was to memorise the names of each member of the backroom staff, everyone from the kitman to the chefs to the janitor.
It was clear from the start that the Klopp leadership mantra was based on cultivating relationships, bonds nurtured through humour, compassion, and the eagerness to help.
Be it victory or defeat, promise or pain, there was the leader embracing his troops, absorbing their experiences into his own.
Klopp is a rare leader who leads from the front without basking in the spotlight.
“have strong people around you with a better knowledge in different departments than yourself” is something Klopp has regularly acknowledged, stressing that a manager cannot “act like you know everything.”
More People Understand The Value Of Putting Wellbeing At The Centre Of Player Development
There is a shift in attitudes towards the power and value of creating a wellbeing culture for professional sports team and blogs like this, and other programmes, articles and individuals are pushing wellbeing more towards the spotlight that shines over professional sports and moving away from the ‘Winning At All Costs’ cultures.
Creating this type of culture within your team has shown it can lead to winning just as Klopp and Kerr have proven.
Let me ask you a question
Would you rather be involved with a team where the manager/coach believes they know it all, they tell the players how good they are, how bad they are, no questions asked, highlight their mistakes to prove to them he’s the boss and when you win it was down to them? Players play through Fear!
Be involved with a team that supports each other, where the manager wants the players to be the best they can be and understand their individual needs and questions and ideas can be aired for the purpose of finding a small margin of improvement? Players play with freedom!
“When the person is feeling valued, trusted and respected, the athlete thrives“
Listen, I understand creating this type of culture isn’t easy for some people, but if your team has had a losing season let me ask you this…
Knowing a wellbeing culture works and brings wins, wouldn’t you be curious as to how you can learn more and implement this culture?
If it was, everyone would be playing at a much higher level, everyone would be thriving in life and leaders would be inspiring their teams and productivity would be high. But not everyone makes change easily. People create barriers, excuses and reasons, limiting the ability to change.
The first question that springs to mind is ‘why’ and it’s the answers that tell the story. But before we get into that we need to dig a little deeper.
Before we ask the obvious question ‘why’, we must delve into your psyche and find out if you have a desire or need to change because without that desire, change won’t happen.
The mere thought of change can instil a sense of fear and uncertainty. The fear of the unknown is greater than the desire to change and until the desire to change becomes greater than the fear of the unknown, you’re going to continue with your life as it is.
So the question becomes
“How do I overcome that fear?”
Beliefs And Values
Throughout your life, you’ve experienced many things and through these experiences you’ve created beliefs and values and it’s these beliefs and values you hold today.
For example how you treat others, how you train, what you eat but most importantly how you make decisions.
There are some people that know how to create change quickly and get what they want. They just know what it takes and they thrive. Perhaps you can think of one of those people now?
These people have something in common and it’s this I want to teach you, so you can create that change you desire.
Remember earlier when we asked why everyone isn’t creating change to improve.
Those beliefs and values you created are holding them back. When a belief or value holds you back we have a name for them. These are called limiting or mistaken beliefs.
Your Comfort Zone
Creating change also involves being uncomfortable. You are where you are because your values and beliefs give you comfort. They form part of who you are and being you is comforting. To get different results you have to learn to be “comfortable being uncomfortable“, to step out of your comfort zone so to speak.
Many people perceive coming out of their comfort zone as this huge, scary monster, where emotions will run wild and the world come crashing down leaving a huge chasm of emptiness and pain.
In reality, coming out of your comfort zone is simply thinking differently, experiencing different emotions and acting differently and only lasts a few moments.
Would you be willing to experience a few moments of discomfort to remove yourself from the discomfort you’ve been experiencing for some time?
The Pro Basketball Player’s Story
I remember a professional basketball player writing in his weekly column in a newspaper and in this particular column he wrote about his frustrations in his form. He was known as a scorer and had played for England but he couldn’t get out of his slump and was averaging about 5 points a game. He was stuck and didn’t know what to do.
We connected and spoke for about 45 minutes and all the time we spoke I was listening to his words, asking specific questions with the aim to discover what his limiting or mistaken belief was that was holding him back.
We uncovered the problem and once we did that we began to reframe his thoughts to create a new belief.
On a side note, the relationship between player and coach should be one of respect and trust and mutual understanding because to win and be successful, you need respect, trust and mutual understanding.
Although these three ingredients existed, a simple miscommunication created a mistaken belief and from this belief the player began to behave in a way that supported this belief because he respected, trusted and understood what his coach wanted.
This coach wasn’t trained to explore the ‘why’ and in general many coach programs don’t have these strategies in place which, in my opinion isn’t right. As a coach in any sport, and one of your players is struggling, surely you’d want to know why and how to help, so they can begin to perform well and the team will get more wins? Or is it easier and quicker to bring in an expert?
If there are any coach educators reading this, I’d be happy to discuss ways to integrate these concepts into your program.
We broke down his mistaken belief and reframe his thoughts, creating a new belief, leading him to explode for 20 points, hitting 100% from the field. He kindly wrote in his column and I invite you to read for yourself here the impact it had on his game and to this day, working and helping an England player remove his mistaken belief allowing him to play like he knew he could play, is one of my proudest moments.
The Four Steps To Take
He was able to overcome his fear through understanding and accepting 3 principles.
He had a desire to change
He had an open mind to learning new concepts and perspectives
He was willing to put them into action
He was willing to be uncomfortable for a few moments and create different emotions that allowed him to create change in his performance
He was able to think, feel and act differently.
“It’s the thought of change that will drive you forward or hold you back. Taking action is the simple part”
You can remove the fear of change by giving yourself permission to learn and accept these three principles and be uncomfortable for just a few moments.
let’s recap and list the 4 steps you need to take to create change
Have a need or desire to change (Use the exercise below)
Have an open mind to learning new concepts and perspectives
Accept you’ll come out of your comfort zone but understand that discomfort only lasts a few moments compared with the length of time you’ve been experiencing discomfort or frustration
Put these new concepts and principles into action
Have you had enough of your current situation and want change?
If you feel there’s still doubts but you realise you’re ready to make change, and would like to find out if what I offer can help, get in touch and let’s make things happen.
Do you know someone that’s struggling? Please share this as it could help.