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mindset

Alternative to using a sports psychologist

What’s an alternative to using a sports psychologist?

“I expected a better personal performance but nothing this drastic!  This is the first time in my 10-plus-year career, I’ve scored 20 points and not missed a single shot”

Let me give you the back-story to this quote.

In 2013, A professional basketball player wrote a weekly column in a newspaper and one week he wrote about his struggles and his inability to create the change he wanted.

He was known as a scorer, had represented England but had lost his scoring touch and had no idea why.

Being a basketball guy with a new set of skills to try, I reached out to him offering my time to listen to him and to see if we could create a change.

We arranged a time to talk on the phone.  He spoke openly and honestly, and as I listened, I pulled out my new bag of tricks at relevant moments, asking specific questions, which allowed him to consider new perspectives to try on and I remember him pausing for a moment after I suggested something particular about miscommunication and in hindsight, this was his breakthrough moment.

Our call lasted around 45 minutes and I for one, had no idea what would happen at his next game which was the night after.

I didn’t make contact with him after the game but remember having a conversation with him and he telling me he would love to write about his experience and give me a mention in his article, which you can read here.

In his own words, he told of his drastic turnaround and unbelievable performance.  I was really happy for him and pleased the money I’d invested in my personal development had helped someone overcome their struggles.

What method did I use to help him? Was it therapy, counselling? Was this an alternative to sports psychology?

Other alternatives to sports psychologists

Therapy – Therapy is working with the client who seeks relief from psychological or physical symptoms and deals with the client’s mental health. Coaching deals with the client’s mental growth

Training – The trainer by definition is the expert, and the training course is likely to be targeted on specific skills for immediate results

Consultancy – A consultant provides expertise and solves business problems, or develops a business as a whole. A consultant deals with the overall organisation or specific parts of it and not individuals within it

Teaching – Teaching passes knowledge from teacher to student. The teacher knows something the student does not. The opposite is true in coaching. The client is the expert and the client has the answers, not the coach

Mentoring – Mentoring is when a senior colleague, seen as more knowledgeable and worldly wise gives advice and provides a role model. A mentor is a sponsor with great professional experience in their client’s field of work

Counselling – Counselling is working with a client who feels uncomfortable, or dissatisfied with their life. They are seeking guidance and advice

What method had I used? 

In the 1970’s two men at the University of California, Santa Cruz, John Grinder, a linguist, and Richard Bandler, an information scientist and mathematician developed Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Bandler modelled the methods used by Virgina Satir (1916-1988), American author, social worker, and internationally esteemed family therapist; co-founder of the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California.

Bandler also modelled the work of Fritz Perls, (1893–1970), who developed a form of psychotherapy that he known as gestalt therapy. Influenced by Perls’ work, Bandler formed study groups and gave workshops, that were cantered around gestalt therapy.

Bandler and Grinder teamed up, to study the principles that governed the language structure of gestalt therapy. They wanted to define the techniques and skills used by successful therapist.

What was the difference that made the difference?

Bandler and Grinder did whatever worked and removed didn’t work. They studied the work, writings and recordings of Perls and Satir, to extract the essence that made these two therapists exceptional.  (Source)

The NLP strategies I used with the basketball allowed him to understand his reality and what he needed to do differently then take action, all of which he did brilliantly. 

The added value of emotional intelligence

Around the same time with a new open mind to learning and a thirst to learn more, I enrolled on an emotional Intelligence course called Evaluating Truth and Credibility, delivered by The Emotional Intelligence Academy

The course was aimed at helping you understand and identify misalignments in communication between body language and verbal content with the aim to spot when someone is lying or trying to cover up the truth.  I found it fascinating and as the course went on, my mind sought out possibilities to use these concepts in sports, specifically basketball, after all basketball players attempt to trick the opponents and use fakes to gain an advantage.

Having completed the course and now with a heightened, weird sense of wanting to stare at people, I and the director of the Academy, had a conversation about moving my idea forward.  He suggested establishing a test condition with players playing 1 on 1 and gathering film to analyse and break down.  We needed evidence and scientific data to support the theory that players can improve quickly when they learn how to read body language and facial expressions.

The research

For the next 3 months I travelled around the North West of England filming players from professional to amateur, banking 1000 clips of 200 players.  Now the easy part was done, I had to watch these clips over and over and spot commonalities, removing what was useless and using what was useful in an attempt to extract data and then create some kind of program.

Thankfully one of the Director’s son’s Jordan, gave me a helping hand every now and again with the use of the studio and the huge screen they used when analysing facial expressions, making spotting the tells, a lot easier than staring at a 15″ screen.

Now I had a program, what could I do with it? 

Not long afterwards, I had an opportunity to work with another former England player.  I coached him to integrate the new tools into his defensive game which allowed him to improve right there, on the basketball camp he and I were coaching on.

So now with NLP and emotional intelligence training under my belt, I set myself the challenge of creating a new practice to help people overcome struggles and improve performance.

The positives and negatives

Using the best bits of both practices and removing what was useless, I went on to help a female soccer player/psychologist in New York win her first ever MVP in 25 years which again spurred me on to connect with more athletes.

My journey took an unexpected route because I was finding there were many former and current athletes struggling with issues that affected their performance and wellbeing.  Unable to reach out for help, they tolerated their situation and some lost out on some great opportunities such as the football player who was on the verge of signing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), but missed out because he didn’t have the opportunity to reach out and explore how and why his mind was talking him out of taking that opportunity.

The more people I spoke with, the more I learned.  The more I learned, the more I adapted what I now call the Neuro Emotional Awareness Training (NEAT) program.

Using the same principles but different delivery methods to suit the client, here are some of the success stories over the years:

Powerful words from clients

“MY WELLBEING IS 100% BETTER. I’ve tried sports psychologists, I’ve read over 15 self-improvement books, I’m constantly trying to understand my mind and the minds of those who are successful, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned from working with Mike is that my biggest asset is myself and I can tap into that without any special tactics or interventions when I let go of the habits and social constructs I’ve aligned myself with“ Pro basketball player


“I’ve never experienced coaching like this before? Mostly in books I’ve read they give you techniques like visualisation, positive self-talk and body language etc which I find useful, but in this program I actually get to know who I am and what I stand for: I’ve started to realise what are the things that distract me, and the people who negatively influence me. I’ve actually learned to be aware of my thoughts“ Football (soccer) player – Finland


“Definitely since I first spoke to you I haven’t felt any negative thoughts or anxiety completely at all which is fantastic!”  Football player – UK


“I expected a better personal performance but nothing this drastic! This is the first time in my 10-plus-year career I’ve scored 20 points and not missed a single shot.”  Pro Basketball Player – UK


“I am continuing to apply the technique without much thought needed. “I won my first ever MVP!”  Soccer player – USA


“Yes, can definitely recommend with golfers or other sportsmen, it can help anybody improve in their sport”  Pro golfer – UK


“The amount I’ve improved the last month is CRAZY! Your help is honestly incredible”  esports FIFA Pro – UK


The value in talking

Their words keep me driving forward and wanting to help others who are struggling but to those athletes struggling I say this:

Of those who have struggled in the past, the majority have said they wished they had spoken up sooner and sought help sooner, which could have helped them avoid avoid therapy or counselling

It can be difficult to reach out to your coach, agent, or team psychologist because there is the association with the club and that association can be enough to put someone off from asking for help because you might be fearful of being exposed as weak or fear being judged or criticised for asking for help, which in turn jeopardises your career and livelihood.

As you can see, we are much different than sports psychologists

Our alternative to a sports psychologist

As an individual, one alternative to using a sports psychologist is accessing the NEAT system from the comfort of your own home, in your own time WITHOUT the fear of being judged or criticised and without the fear of your words or experiences getting back to anyone because our primary goal is to help you for your sake.  We will only share your experiences if you give us permission, if you think your experiences can teach others.

Get in touch if:

  • You’re struggling and feel like quitting
  • You feel alone
  • You feel you can’t live up to expectations
  • You don’t trust some of your friends
  • You’ve struggled with confidence in your head

When you get in touch and I listen to your thoughts, I can offer you:

  • The space to be confident
  • Confidential and discreet 1-2-1 coaching
  • Non-judgemental service without criticising
  • Accessible and flexible contact methods
  • Proof that the coaching works from past successes

Should you decide to hire our company to help you, know that:

  • Together we will remove your struggles and rediscover your love for the game
  • Together we will form a partnership of trust
  • Together we will learn what your expectations are
  • Together we will help your mind find balance and calm
  • Together we will improve your status

How we can help sporting organisations

As a professional sporting organisation, we understand success on and off the field of play is essential to your brand, your fans and investors and when a player’s performance drops, losses can come quickly, putting everyone under pressure and as a former high level player and professional coach, I know more than most, what that pressure feels like. 

As a sporting organisation, by hiring us, you instantly remove the distraction of managing the mental performance of the player, and let us do the hard work for you, so you can focus on what you do best. 

Will coaching be used as a replacement for sports psychologists?

Sports psychology and coaching are two very different methods of engagement, each with their merits and strategies. Exploring coaching options when sports psychology is drawing a blank would be the smart option and vice versa. You have to find a way that works for you based on past results and experiences.

What can you do now?

Explore your options, and there is no better way to explore your option than speaking with a professional.

Visit us at elitesportsminds23 or drop us a message

Categories
My Journey

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

“The key to success is failure”

Michael Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erm. What now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Nichols

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

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

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

But then I had an idea!

I was inspired!

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

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