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My Journey

The Journey To Become The Most Sought After Sports Mental Performance Specialist Part 7

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”

Terry Pratchett

The death of a player

The basketball community is a tight knit one and in 2017, one coach I knew, hinted at the suicide of a junior player.

The death of anyone is a sombre experience but when someone takes their own life, I feel the pain of those connect with that person. I have no idea where this emotion came from because I don’t know anyone that committed suicide so perhaps I see it as a waste of a life when I have learned there are always other choices.

But I have to remind myself, the person that died, in that moment only knew of one choice. They couldn’t see any other way to deal with the situation they found themselves.

I do know people that have been taken to the edge and looked at the chasm beneath but decided to give life another go.

I believe it takes more strength to walk away from the act than to actually follow through with it but what message does that say to the loved ones left behind? I don’t have personal experience about the topic so you may ask how I can have such a strong view and you’d be right to ask.

What I’ve learned is each person lives their own unique life and very rarely will even the closest person, know what’s going on in their mind, which leads me to promote the importance and value of understanding one’s mind, so you can build resilience and strength so when challenges present themselves, you know how to think differently so you can act differently.

The teachings of the mind is something that needs to be taught in school because stress and anxiety in teenagers is rising for various reasons that I won’t go into here but suffice to say, I’ve listened to professionals in education and as someone working with disadvantaged youths, I hear a lot about anxiety.

In February 2019 The rate for suicides between children and young people between 15-19 is now three per 100,000 in England, whereas ten years ago it was one per 100,000. Click here for more information

I know an NLP Master Practitioner up in Scotland that delivers sessions to secondary school pupils and it’s my personal opinion, he should be asked to do a lot more to promote NLP in schools because learning the stools and strategies helps young people understand, their thoughts in a positive way.

With the death of the player, I chose to create a CIC or Community Interest Company and offer clubs the opportunity to get the tools to help coaches empower and raise the confidence in their players/humans so the rate of suicides in basketball teams doesn’t increase but self-worth does increase.

I delivered a pilot scheme with one of the local junior teams, but with little interest in continuing the program and a change in coaching personnel it faded. Disappointed I put it to one side. I had yet to master the skills needed to market and promote services in the way to attract the right attention. I allowed myself to become distracted which led to me shifting my focus to football.

I began to reach out to people in football to find out more about mental health and build some connections, speaking with former professional players, coaches and managers. One former player from Manchester United, agreed with what I was trying to do with the CIC and my other work, as did other former players and some of the stories I heard about the treatment of players left me flabbergasted! I was learning more about the professional football game from those who had experienced it first hand.

The program doesn’t just help raise the issue of mental health, but it creates a safe environment that players are encouraged to share their ideas, concerns and examples of what they can do differently with purpose and without being judged, around any topic from mental health to training to meals.

It uses a model called The Inner Circle model, derived from principles from Harvard Business School, NLP and emotional intelligence and if you know any coach wanting to improve the performance and culture of their team, they need to sign up and access the resources.

The program is player centric and right now any coach can find out more here

It’s at this point I need to recap my work all of which I’ve delivered for no personal monetary gain:-

  • NLP Practitioner acquired
  • Helped a pro basketball player improve quickly
  • Designed and delivered a research program based on an Emotional Intelligence program, Evaluating Truth and Credibility.
  • Successfully helped a former GB basketball player understand the concepts and improve
  • Helped a football (soccer) player in New York improve so much she won an MVP and began teaching her academy kids the principles
  • Worked and achieved a degree in Sports Development
  • Founded a CIC called Youth Sport Solutions (I really need to do something with this and if you are involved in a sports academy or a youth team please get in touch)

Around December 2018, I was contemplating bringing a National league basketball mens team back to Bury. The thought was sparked from a conversation I had with a friend about his idea that didn’t materialise, so I had to make a choice. Do it or don’t do it.

I chose to do it and after finding two other people who wanted to help, the three of us became volunteer directors of a National League basketball team. We won the league in our first year, attracted high calibre players through my strategy.

We were on target to win the league (mathematically, no-one could catch us) and then Covid-19 decided to show it’s face.

In November 2019 I scratched an itch I should have scratched back in 2011 after my NLP Practitioner course, and embarked on my NLP Master Practitioner course, partly to prove to myself I could still study and learn and also to give myself more credibility as I felt I was gaining some momentum in football.

I joined a community that gave me hope, that allowed me to connect with like-minded people and instil hope in others.

In my quest to become the leading Sports Mental Performance Specialist, I had the experience and confidence, I just needed one break…

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THE REAL REASON WHY PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS SUFFER FROM NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH

Lack of honest communication between some managers and players

Dishonest communication between clubs and players

Poor management

Distractions off the field (You know what I’m talking about!)

Social Media attacks

Racism

A feeling of low self-esteem

Not enough praise

Too much criticism

Inability to express thoughts

Fear

Guilt

Lack of integrity…

I could go on but I’ve made my point.

Although this list isn’t exhausted, this is what I’ve found when speaking to former and some current players.

So why do players tolerate this negativity?

Let me tell you

Playing professional football is their livelihood. It’s their identity, in some cases it’s all they know.

So the thought of losing their livelihood, identity and only way of knowing how to live, would be more devastating than tolerating the list above.

Tolerating the above can seem the easier option and sometimes there’s a sense of “I’m a professional football player and these things should be tolerated”

Yet so many players do suffer from negative mental health because the choice to walk away is almost impossible for them so they tolerate up to a point before the cracks begin to show.

And when a player is showing cracks, rather than the club spending money and time into helping them, they put them to one side and look to replace that player as quick as possible.

They are now damaged.

The asset turns into a liability and in the quest to win, they dispense of the liability as quick as possible.

This is the state of football today.

This is what actually happens in some cases.

The thing is I understand why this happens.

Clubs want to win, they want the best players and there’s such a diverse market of players out there, any player can be replaced should they not be performing.

But I have a question.

When a player is struggling, rather than cast him aside and spend millions on a transfer or even selling the player as a liability, losing money and time in that quest to be a winner, what if there was a way to improve that player quickly and at least retain their value?


Einstein once said

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”.

All players have the potential to be genius’s with the right surroundings and support yet I believe many players are fish in a tree, put there, under false pretences.

I’m sure you can think of at least one player that’s played well for one club, yet as soon as they move to another club, they have played crap?

An article by Jamie Spencer that you can find here lists the worse 27 signings in the last few years.

Here are three that really interest me:-

Andy Carroll (Liverpool) – Liverpool had already broken their transfer record on winter deadline day in 2011 to buy £23m Luis Suarez from Ajax, but smashed it to pieces mere hours later to land Newcastle striker Andy Carroll for £35m.

The Geordie target man had only 18 months of regular first-team football under his belt at that time and represented a huge panic buy for the Reds. Carroll scored four Premier League during his only full season and was eventually sold to West Ham in 2013 for a £20m loss.


Angel Di Maria (Man Utd) – Angel Di Maria wasn’t the only one at fault for his dismal season at Manchester United in 2014/15. He was played out of position and often restricted by manager Louis van Gaal, while an attempted break-in at his house irreparably unsettled the Argentine and his family.

United fans thought they were getting a superstar when the £59.7m deal was completed as Di Maria had been named Man of the Match in the Champions League final for Real Madrid only a few months early. But after a strong start, he never looked prepared to put any effort in.


Winston Bogarde (Chelsea) – Winston Bogarde’s four-year spell at Chelsea is infamous because the Dutchman, who had previously won the Champions League with Ajax and played for Barcelona, spent most of his time at the club simply training and collecting lucrative wages, without actually playing.

Claudio Ranieri had been hired shortly after Bogarde’s arrival and didn’t want him. But the defender had signed a contract worth €15m over four years and didn’t believe he could earn as good a salary anywhere else. So he stuck around until 2004 to take every penny he was owed.


Let’s look at some contributing factors to these failures:-

  • Panic buying
  • £20 million loss
  • Played out of position
  • Restricted playing time
  • Previous man of the match in the champions league final but never looked prepared to put effort in
  • Never played a game

These decisions are not only stupid, but a waste of resources, money, time, and human effort.

In the quest to win, the people who make these decisions are blinded from making purposeful decisions and end up making stupid ones!


Winning clearly isn’t about panic buying, playing someone out of position or limiting someone’s minutes.

Winning is about having a clear vision and sticking to it.

So how about this for a radical idea –

Firstly establish your culture

Secondly find players that match your culture and support them through thick and thin to build trust and familiarity which in turn breeds a winning attitude

Thirdly don’t have your hand forced by others you want to please

The simple rule is this

“Treat your players well and good things will happen”

Players are not robots

They are not gambling chips to be used on a whim

Players will be at their best when they feel valued and understood

Players need support in tough times

The manager that understands this will do well

The players that play within this culture will perform well

The club will begin to win

If you are a #premierleague #footballer or a #championship player and you feel like a fish out of water, I need to speak with you.

I can help

If you are a manager with a player that isn’t performing as expected, I need to speak with you.

I can help

Now at this point, I’m sure you are creating excuses in your thoughts not to get in touch and if you are having those thoughts, let me ask you one simple question

If the solution to your problems exists, but you can’t accept the solution because you’re stuck in your ways, would you be willing to spend ten minutes listening to a new perspective that will help you believe the solution is right for you?