An expectation is something you expect to achieve, a goal or something to aspire to which in the competitive world of sports, plays a huge part in performance yet in my experience of working with players at high levels there is a common denominator that limits the growth and potential of players.
Unrealistic expectations set by others.
When someone else sets your expectations or the player hears the expectations from others so often they begin to believe them, the only outcome can be failure and it was this situation I found myself hearing from a current client.
This player had played at the highest level, representing his country yet inside he felt he was failing because he wasn’t able to live up to the expectation of others.
The unrealistic expectations he’s heard forever, left him questioning his ability and performance at the end of each game and this had gone on for many years.
He sees himself as a failure in some ways even though he’s doing well in some areas.
We talked and we were able to reframe his thinking and his understanding of expectations and the value of setting his own expectations because when you set your own expectations and achieve them, there is a greater sense of accomplishment and success than when others set you unrealistic expectations.
This reframing of his mindset frees him from the sense of failure of not living up the the unrealistic expectations which does two things:
Allows him to play more freely and with purpose
Heightens his well being
Many players are suffering due to unrealistic expectations placed on them, yet they tolerate them because they think being a professional sports player involves tolerating the hard times because that’s what it takes to win.
Coaches get it wrong when they set players unrealistic expectations, because they are simply setting them up to fail which can lead to some players dropping out of the game, losing motivation and in some instances worse, and who wins in these situations.
If you’re a coach, I urge you to talk to your players about expectations and the value in allowing them to set their own.
If you’re a player then I urge you to learn to set your own expectations and shut out the noise that others place on you.
Thanks for reading and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Improving performance and wellbeing has to be led by you. You have to take the right action and be accountable for your actions as you reflect and adjust and in this blog, I want to share the most powerful aspect of improving performance and wellbeing – your thoughts because it’s your thoughts that drive you to take action/your performance/behaviour
Be aware of your surroundings
Let me take you through a quick fun exercise that helps you understand your thoughts
Take a few seconds to take action on each suggestion:
Look around – what do you see
Listen to the sounds around you what do you hear
Notice your body position and notice the what you’re leaning on, standing on or sitting on
Place your attention to what you can taste
Move your attention to what you can smell
Our five senses help us interpret the world around us but it’s important to understand we can’t process all five at once…Try it.
We are bombarded by about 11 bits of information per second yet we can only process about 50 bits. Think about that for a moment. That’s a lot of information we are missing or choosing to ignore.
Why do we ignore bits of information? Because our minds don’t think they have any purpose at that specific moment in time and it’s the exact reason why you haven’t paid attention to your big toe until now. Spending time thinking about it serves no purpose.
You’ve been successful at connecting with your external methods of communication using your 5 senses so let’s consider your internal communication system
Your internal communication
Again, take a few seconds to take action on each suggestion
Close your eyes and think about your favourite place, a holiday, a sporting event or with friends or family. It’s entirely up to you
What images do you see?
Staying with your favourite place, what sounds can you hear?
Staying in that place, What do you feel? Warmth, cold, Comfort?
Is there a taste that connects you to that place
Is there a smell that connects you to that place?
Your external and communication systems will form the foundation for your future learning and will help you understand why you think what you think and why you do what you do, which when it comes to improving performance and wellbeing are very relevant
Now imagine a giraffe in your favourite place! Simply pop it in there.
Did you notice the change in your facial expressions, your emotions and your ability to create thoughts?
Change your thought – change your outcome
Now you understand your thoughts on a deeper level and how you can change your thoughts, knowing how to improve your performance and wellbeing should become clearer. All you do is change your thoughts. It takes time to learn and just like training physical muscles, it takes time to adjust but with practice, you will find ways to improve quickly
There is no player in the world that doesn’t make mistakes but many people get upset after a mistake, get angry or even turn off the game! Have you experienced one of those?
There are three things you need to learn which will not only improve your performance but grow your confidence as a person when you need it most
Whatever the mistake is, you quickly accept it happened and immediately bring your thoughts back into the moment. Focus on the present and allow any thoughts about what just happened, to leave your mind quickly
Your inner-voice is powerful and it’s this you need to practice. Tell yourself “I’m doing my best” rather than “WTF happened then!” or “I won’t win now!”
These words will bring a calm to your mind and a calm mind is a focused mind
Tell yourself a mistake is simply a way to learn. You learn by repetition, but also by pushing your boundaries and even when you make a mistake during a simple move, you still tell yourself, you can learn from it.
Some really beat themselves up after a mistake that should never happen but remember we all make mistakes and the key is to refocus quickly
This recipe is one you need to learn in order to improve and stay ahead of the competition and remember, the more you practice, the better you get.
You owe it to yourself to keep improving, to grow and develop as a gamer because there a revery few people out there who will guide you in ways you need to be guided. You have a level of accountability to give yourself the best chance you can
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
I used to play basketball at a high level and these days as much as I enjoy playing more for fitness these days, I still take pride in being the best I can be
Shooting the ball was something I was great at and can still shoot well these days and have to let you know the little trick I use to keep me focused and on my game and why it’s important for you to use this trick
Things won’t always go your way. You will make mistakes during your competitions and its very important you teach yourself to get back on track quickly to avoid your mind wandering and losing even more ground on your competitors so you need to consciously do something to jerk your mind back into action
Recognise The Fault
When I miss a shot that’s short, I know it’s because I didn’t have enough power in my shot. When I don’t have enough power in my shot I know I didn’t bend my legs enough. Rather than curse under my breath or look to blame something, I utter the word ‘legs’, out-loud
This verbal cue is a clear signal to my brain to make an adjustment quickly and prepare for next time I shoot
Purposeful self-talk will help you clear your mind and pull you back into the moment where you can continue to compete with a positive adjustment
I was speaking with a FIFA pro earlier and I shared my story with him and after I explained the concept and purpose, he came up with a word and anchored the word to a new positive thought that will give him another tool in his box of tricks when he competes, meaning he’s improved in a subtle way, but nonetheless, improved
What word can you use and what meaning can you attach or anchor to that word so when you make a mistake, you can utter that word quickly and refocus?
I invite you to comment and ask questions as you deserve to improve as a player and stay ahead of the competition
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
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
“Life is a competition not with others, but with ourselves. We should seek each day to live stronger, better, truer lives; each day to master some weakness of yesterday; each day to repair a mistake; each day to surpass ourselves.”
David B. Haight
Knowledge Is Power
They say knowledge is power and they would be right because without knowledge, how do you compare, contrast and reflect on your journey and I’d like to be frank with you.
If you’re not winning, if you’re not number one, then why are you competing?
It’s not a trick question but a question that puts the power in your hands because when you fully understand why you’re competing as a professional athlete, you can really focus on achieving your goals and let go of some unrealistic expectations others may be putting on you.
Not every professional athlete will make it to number one in the world because to reach the pinnacle takes a dedication that requires sacrifice, some luck, some thinking outside the box, the physical and technical prowess and a mindset so determined, nothing gets in the way.
You’re Not Number One!
So let’s assume you aren’t striving to be number one but you are striving for something else; something that drives you enough to continue to invest your time and effort into making a career out of being a professional athlete.
So let’s explore what this question means to you
WHY AM I COMPETING IF NOT TO BE NUMBER ONE?
Motivation comes in different shapes and sizes and I want you to focus on you. Your needs, your desires without comparing yourself to anyone else.
This is your journey, this is your life and this is your choice. It’s perfectly OK not to strive to be number one, but I feel there is an unwritten rule that if you’re an athlete you have to say you are striving to be number one because anything else can be seemed a failure and this expectation can weigh heavily on the shoulders of many, so let’s attempt to remove that burden now.
It’s OK not to want to strive to be number one, but it is ok to be the best you can be.
Let’s look at a few reasons for you to compete:-
Why Do You Compete?
You can’t think of anything worse than having an office job
You’ve spent all your youth playing and competing and that’s all you know
You want to be earning a lot of money
You want the fame
You want the big house
You want to be able to provide financial stability for you and your family
You have a bigger vision of what your role as an athlete can provide to the wider audience and those less fortunate than you
You want to prove someone wrong
You want to prove someone right
You want to be famous
When you compete you feel alive and able to express yourself
You fell into becoming a professional athlete and liked it…
As you can see there are many reasons for you to compete and this list isn’t a comprehensive list by any means but it gives you an idea of why you compete and for what purpose.
The Power Of Knowing Why You Compete
Now you have an idea of why you compete, you can begin to focus your time and dedication towards that goal with gusto and passion really driving your performance forward with purpose and dedication.
That powerful understanding frees you from the expectations others place on you, the media, the fans, some who say they have your best interest at heart and perhaps now is the perfect time to let others know why you are competing, so they and you are on the same page and both are striving towards the same thing.
For example, an agent may want you to go for the deal that pays the most money, yet you may have another opportunity in mind where you can feel settled and respected as a player that may not be the deal that pays the most money. By having a conversation about what drives you forward, you will find a deal that’s right for you.
Being in control of your destiny, to some degree, can be great for your mental health and life off the field of play and knowing why you compete creates a solid foundation on which you can build something unique and special for you.
Why I Compete
In my quest to be the most sought after mental performance coach, I’ve had to make some sacrifices and bold moves and come to some realisations about marketing and promotions that I’m working on and come to realise that becoming the most sought after coach, is a personal achievement to me, without comparing myself to other coaches out there.
There are three things I strive to achieve:-
Do what I enjoy doing
Be financially, spiritually, mentally and emotionally rewarded for what I enjoy doing
I work best in one to one situations because I really get to connect with my clients and understand their perspectives, how they perceive reality and understand the shifts in mindset needed to help them get to where they want to be.
My clients benefit from one to one as it gives them a sense of comfort and acknowledgement that they are at the centre of everything we do and that in itself, frees up the mind in such powerful ways that the new knowledge they are introduced to can be absorbed quickly.
This new knowledge is the power they are seeking.
Are you a professional athlete wanting things to change?
Many like the idea of being a professional sports person, the money, the competition and in some cases the fame and the rewards that come with that, yet there are many that don’t know what it takes to win.
When I say win, I’m not just talking about the end result on the scoreboard, but how to navigate the ups and downs that being a professional sports person can bring.
Over the years, I’ve gathered a lot of information from books, experiences and players and come up with this top ten list that any player can take right now, and begin to implement to see results almost immediately.
Are you ready?
Are you sure you want to start to win?
Ok, great then let’s do this!
Have an open mind to learning – Up to this point, you’ll have a perspective, down from your experiences, but it’s important to remember there are other perspectives out there that have value
Ask questions – I was speaking to one football player a few weeks ago who told me he felt lost and under-appreciated. He talked, I listened, and concluded the manager didn’t appreciate him because he was keeping himself to himself. We came up with a plan to ask a specific question and as soon as he asked that question, he felt the anxiety lift almost immediately. The question he asked was “What can I do to help this team improve?”
Consider a plant based diet – There have been many studies, programs and positivity around athletes having a plant based diet. One thing that stood out for me was the blood samples taken from meat eaters and the plant based diet athletes. The plasma in the meat eaters was cloudy that meant the oxygenated blood struggled to flow and be distributed around the body. The plant-based diet athlete’s plasma was clear and flowed more effectively around the body.
Social media is to be used sparingly and not to voice your anger and frustrations towards others
Look after your mental health and wellbeing – There will be times you will be asked to do things that aren’t in line with your beliefs and values and this can affect your mental health in a negative way. Consider your options before saying yes because too many incidents of doing things that don’t feel right, will lead you down path that can be difficult to come back from. Know there are specialists that can help you overcome these issues, I included, and have tools and strategy that can help you quicker than you imagine. Asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a smart move to make sure you the person and athlete thrive in a very hostile environment
Engage with a trustworthy person to manage your finances – There are a lot of fraudsters out there that want your money. They will promise you a high return in an investment opportunity and if the rate is high, it’s more likely to be a con.
Train smart – The manager and coach will be judging you in training. Aim to be the first one there and the last one to leave. Be humble enough to help set up or clear up after a session. This is what you get paid for , so put the work in and good things will happen
Play with a passion – The TV camera’s and the fans will be watching and hoping you play well. They are indirectly investing their money and time into you and they want to see someone play with passion. Theres nothing worse to see a player playing half arsed in a losing effort. In addition when your career ends, you can look back and be proud of what you accomplished because you did the best you could with what you had.
Rest and recover – Your body needs rest and recovery after a competition, so make sure you do all the right things to make sure you recover well and quickly. The last thing you want is an injury that never heals properly and your career from the moment, is one of pain and anguish because you know you’ll never again be the athlete you were before the injury.
Enjoy it – Your time as an athlete is limited compared with other careers, so enjoy the time as a professional athlete.
If any of these tips resonate with you, please take action and give yourself the best chance of succeeding as a professional.