This is my opinion drawn fromy years experience of playing, coaching and helping athletes and there are some commonalities and obvious things like working smart, earing the right food, training with purpose
But an elite sports mind doesn’t have to belong to an athlete that’s an elite performer
Of course the elite level is the best of the best but you don’t suddenly become the best
There are steps you need to take and you have to start somewhere
So where do you start? What do you have to know to help you create that Elite Sports mind?
There are many variables and factors that drive someone towards or away from building this mindset so let me share with you the three key variables that I believe helps anyone create that Elite Sports mind
Have a need or desire to improve
Have an open mind to learning new strategy and perspectives
Have the ability to put your new learnings into action
Growth occurs when you’re ready to grow
Growth occurs when you’re ready to challenge your current beliefs and values
Growth occurs when you come out of your comfort zone by thinking and acting differently
Who you are today is a culmination of experiences and perspectives and most of the time, how you are is OK. You do OK. But when it comes to professional sports, being OK isn’t good enough. You have to be excellent or at least be striving for excellence but reaching that level takes determination, guts and smart work, but what happens to your focus when something negative happens in your life. Perhaps a death, an injury, a fall out with a family member or even succumbing to pressure and stress.
Many athletes over the years have spoken about their struggles, Frank Bruno, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps, just to name 3 but a quick google search will bring you up a list even longer with no surprise.
So what can you do? What can you do to move away from the struggles quickly and get yourself back on track.
Let me share this story with you
For many many years, a man had taken the same path to work. He saw the same people, saw the same shops and felt the same way. He was familiar with this routine and familiarity gave him a sense of comfort and this comfort gave him happiness. He had no reason to change his route, he had no reason to walk faster, yet one day something changed but he didn’t know what. His thoughts began to niggle at him.
This niggle grew into an itch and after several days, his happiness has turned into anxiety. Instead of smiling at the people he walked past, he was on edge and avoided eye contact and had thoughts of changing something but he didn’t know what or how. He was so familiar with his journey that thinking about changing it, only brought on a fear, so he tolerated and tolerated until one day he decided not to get up.
Sometimes when we feel the need for change, we fear what might happen if we did change, and the sense of familiarity pulls us back from growing and we continue to tolerate, even when you know something needs to change.
But these past events do not define who we can become. Past events do not have to hold you down and stop you from achieving by doing and thinking differently.
You always have a choice to move away from negativity and choose to walk a new path and doing it is as simple as changing the direction in which you walk, who you talk with and recognising when you want change. You have to hold yourself accountable. You have to make new decisions because it’s very unlikely someone else will recongnise you want to change and help you.
So if you feel something needs to change, create that change for yourself!
Thanks for listening and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
The effects of bullying can linger for a long time, depending on the strength of the emotion attached to the words or behaviours associated with the bullying and even through elite athletes can be perceived to be resilient, they are also human and experience emotions just as regular people do, yet the impact can be felt on a much deeper level due to the situation of being a professional athlete.
There are some perceptions that believe the elite athlete must be able to overcome bullying behaviours, and ‘man up’ because to be the best you must demonstrate a hard shell and an almost invincible like exterior, and not to show weakness. Isn’t that right?
Of course it isn’t!
Maybe the bullies don’t know they are demonstrating bullying behaviours or maybe they are trying to instil resilience in their teammates. Who knows, but one thing is for sure, there should be no place in professional sports for bullying and if a bullying culture does exist, maybe it’s time to create change?
How do you create change?
Firstly when someone is feeling bullied, it’s imperative they have an outlet to air their thoughts but who do they turn to?
They can’t turn to their manager, because as one former premier league footballer told me, it was the manager that was the bully! This player, who will remain unnamed, told me the coach used the phrase ‘grow some balls!’ This incident happened a good few years ago and I’d like to think in the time between then and now, there’s been some new coaching techniques being taught to up and coming managers that focus on learning about emotional intelligence and how to recognise when to use it. But what is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively,empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed in sports, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.
The aim of professional sports, to me, is simple – from the athlete perspective, be the best you can be, or from a coach/manager perspective, create an environment in which you and your team can be the best they can be.
By learning about emotional intelligence, being the best you can be, will come a lot faster and easier than compared with someone who uses their raw personality and technical ability to coach or play yet this important factor of coaching and playing is rarely touched upon in coaching programmes.
I understand there’s a gap in the coaching market which is why I offer confidential, discreet coaching for those professional athletes wanting to be their best but are unable to open up to anyone else.
I understand elite athletes are human and experience feelings and emotions but there is often a conflict between the emotions and what’s expected of them, which can leave some athletes confused and anxious and unable to shake the fear.
I make my services available to athletes so they can thrive.
You deserve to thrive!
Thanks for reading and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
You’re in a room full of people all wearing hats. You look around and listen to the conversations and notice 5 people have green hats on, 5 people have blue hats on and 2 have red hats on. How many people are in the room?
While you’re working that out let me remind you you’re also listening to the conversations in the room with great interest.
Listening is a skill that few have mastered but many lack the understanding or purpose of listening so let me suggest why listening is a skill you need to master and you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be.
Let’s imagine for a moment you’ve got something you just have to share with someone. Something inside your head is urging you to share this emotionally charged news so you call your friend and begin to talk enthusiastically, sharing as much as you can.
When you’ve exhaled all the news you stop and wait for a response, hoping for some kind of recognition or acceptance.
In sports it’s very common for coaches or managers to talk at the players and expect them to carry out those instructions. The coach talks, the player listens.
Yet some of the better coaches approach communication from a different perspective often giving the players the opportunity to talk, and for the coach to listen. Why is this a good strategy?
When a coach is only giving instructions they are missing part of the bigger picture. Through listening to the players, the missing piece is found and solutions to improving performance can be found quickly.
And by the way, the answer to the question of how many people are in the room is 13. 5 plus 5 plus 2 plus 1 (you)
Thanks for listening and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Looking to the future gives us something to focus on and work towards.
Imagine a ship with no destination, the crew and captain may be completing tasks and surviving but to what end, for what purpose are they simply sailing around with no destination?
Do you remember learning to fasten your shoe laces? Probably not, as it’s a skill learned when you were around the ages of 6 or 7 and now you complete that skill without thinking twice, but there was a time when you found the motivation to learn that skill.
But for what purpose?
Although you can understand the point of learning to fasten your shoe laces, ask yourself this question – For what purpose do I want to improve?
Your answer may surprise you or a least spark some interesting internal dialogue around why you do what you do.
We all have our motivation for wanting to improve and when you really connect with your purpose, you will jump into improving with an almighty splash and begin to feel and see results quickly, but if you’re unsure as to why you want to improve, improving won’t come easily to you.
In The recent docuseries the Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls, NBA team of the 90’s, Michael Jordan, arguably the best player that ever lived, told a story about how a young player had got the better of him in a game, scoring 37 points. It was said that after the game the player, LeBradford Smith uttered something to Jordan like “good game’, Jordan took this small comment as fuel to motivate him for the next game and said he would score his opponents full game total of 37 by half time next time they met. Jordan went to score 36 and proved a point.
But here’s where his motivation goes to another level. The comment Smith made, was never made! Jordan allegedly made up the story, meaning it wasn’t the verbal comment made by Smith that lit his fire, which in itself would be a good mindset, but it was simply his inner voice, creating a scenario that fuelled the fire.
Can you imagine! The desire to win and improve so badly was simply created by imagining another player said something disrespectful to him! Now that’s on another level but it is possible to create motivation from anything and it doesn’t have to come from an external source.
In this instance, Jordan’s vision was to beat the same team that beat them the night before and get revenge on a young player.
He simply needed to tell himself the right words.
When creating your ideal vision, think short term, as in next few days, medium term, next few weeks and long terms, next few months/years and keep it realistic.
You can’t tell yourself you’ll be the best in the world if your diet is poor, you are constantly tired and you aren’t even close to being great.
But it’s important to get into good habits so you can achieve your short term, medium term and long term vision.
It’s habits that will help drive you forward.
So now, with that new perspective, ask yourself, for what purpose do I want to improve?
Many years ago when I was competing for the England U19 basketball team, I made a horrendous mistake that cost us a game.
The game was close and in the closing minutes they pressed us, forcing pressure on us in the back court. At the time I wasn’t a great ball handler, I was more a scorer and an elite defender.
I remember two players coming at me, forcing me to dribble backwards and in my panic I made a pass.
A poor pass!
The ball was intercepted and they went and scored.
The coach left me on for another play and the same thing happened!
I think we ended up losing by 4 and I remember blaming myself. I was 17 at the time and told myself that would never happen again.
Growing and improving
Putting myself under pressure in training gave me the ability to learn to handle the pressure and act differently. My peripheral vision increased, my ball handling skills had improved dramatically and I looked to put myself in those situations and learned to thrive in those so called pressure situations.
I went on to compete in the second tier of British basketball and was voted an All-Star, one of the 20 best players in the division.
Who helped me?
Coaches don’t always know what to do! They don’t always know what you’re thinking or feeling and often have their own agenda and try to fit you into their agenda. But every now and again a coach will share an insight that sparks something inside.
I improved because I found a spark and wanted to improve. My desire to improve was greater than my desire to stay the same or even let pressure swallow me up whole and spit me out. I created a drive to be the best I could be. I just needed a coach to believe in my talent and let me do my thing on the court
The ego is a barrier to improving
When a player or coach believes it’s their way or the highway, failure is just around the corner but a person willing to put their ego to one side and have an open mind to learning, great things can happen.
My England coach told me, if I was ever to improve I would have to learn how to improve my dribbling and I knew exactly what he was referring to. I didn’t need telling twice
Allow the mistake to drive you
We all make mistakes but some people take self-sabotaging actions after a mistake is made. They grab fatty, salty food, go for the high caffeine energy drinks and blame themselves trying to find the ‘why’ and lose sleep.
This leads to burnout and a drop in mental and physical health and ultimately losing the love for the game. Don’t let that happen to you!
Your mind is amazing when you give it a chance and understand you can control it so let me share this simple trick.
After a mistake, refocus your thoughts on what you can immediately do differently. Stay focused on the present. Keep your thoughts on the present and do what you do best. You can’t change the past so there is no real benefit of focusing your attention on it at this time.
If this blog has intrigued you or has raised a question in your mind, please comment and I will get back to you
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?
The Last Dance is the docuseries currently showing on Netflix which gives new insights into the final NBA season of the Chicago Bulls Championship winning team.
The team that some dubbed The Beatles” was one of the most, if not, the most dominant team in sports history at the time, and watching the behind the scenes footage is spellbinding!
Titled The Last Dance, coined, because everyone knew this was the last time this current group of players would be together due to management decisions, which you get to learn more about in the programmes.
But it was the conversations and sound bites around Michael Jordan’s mindset that had me transfixed and the way in which he motives himself to play better is extraordinary, but possible to learn and I wanted to share this idea so you, the athlete can give it a go and see how it affects your performance.
During lockdown, you can at least, practice training your mind to think along these lines.
Jordan was known for his competitive nature and two stories stand out for me.
A player for Washington, LeBradford Smith had a great game scoring 37 points against Jordan while Jordan had an off game.
The story goes that Smith said something to MJ (no spoilers) that motivated him for the next game between the two teams the next night. Watch episode 8 to find out what happened.
In another story, a friend of Jordan, a coach from an opposing team, didn’t acknowledge Jordan in a restaurant, an act Jordan took offence to. Jordan had a word with himself and then went out to demolish the team his friend coached.
There are different ways in which you can motivate yourself and the uniqueness of Jordan was to instil an emotion so strong, he would do whatever it takes to perform at a higher level than the opponent.
He needed a reason to go out and kick their butt!
So he would create a reason using anything from newspaper articles to a look or comment to light his fire.
So let’s get down to the psychology of this mindset.
I am not MJ’s mind so I don’t know exactly what he thinks, but I can apply theory to help you create the same mindset.
Your thoughts are made up of movies or pictures, words and sounds and from these thoughts, you create an emotion.
So let’s reverse engineer this and start with an emotion asking ourselves, what emotion do you need to create to improve your play against your opponent?
Hatred, revenge, a sense to prove them wrong. A sense to prove to yourself you can beat them?
In MJ’s cause, he talks about revenge being used as a motivator and it’s this motivation that allows him to keep challenging himself to improve and stay on top of his game and be better than his competitors.
The other question is can you bring yourself to think negatively about an opponent?
Of course you can and you can do it no matter level you play at!
You can do it now. Think of an opponent that’s got the better of you in the past, and attach a sense of revenge to that thought.
Now you think about their weaknesses. What can you exploit? What can you take advantage of?
You now start to create a new vision, a new thought which you continue to think about that allows your mind to adjust and when you get the opportunity, you play with that emotion attached to the game.
Improving your performance is much more than improving your physical and technical ability and this exercise gives you an idea of how quickly you can improve your performance just by changing your thoughts.
Mike is a Master Mental Performance Specialist helping athletes all around the world to improve their performance quickly. Subscribe below to be notified of new blogs.