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
You need a way to move from where you are now, to where you want to be and if you don’t have clarity or a system to help you get there, you’ll continue to struggle and be frustrated with yourself, with others and your situation.
But what’s the point in staying where you are?
You’ve realised you’re not in a place of value so why not start making that change now?
Many people who are stuck, fail to move anywhere because they are fearful of change.
They create scenarios around “What if”
What if i get treated differently?
What if they take the piss?
What if I’m not good enough?
What if i can’t do it?
What if I fail?
Not only have I moved away from feeling stuck, I understand you are unique and you are the only one who has lived your life and created the beliefs and values you experience.
But people who feel stuck, take comfort in having a system they can follow which is why I created the NEAT system.
I want you to have this system for FREE to give you insights on how you can become unstuck and begin to move forward.
But before you download the document you need to meet three criteria
Have an open mind to learning
Have a reason for wanting to improve
Have the ability to take action with support
There are too many people suffering because there are fearful so please, allow yourself to remove that fear and begin to make positive changes.
The very first thing you have to do is accept you aren’t in a place you want to be AND you want to do something about it.
Struggling and Tolerating
Many athletes struggle but think things will get better, things will change and struggling is part of the job. They tolerate and try to shoulder the burden and anxiety. They try to figure it out themselves or ask family and friends for their advice, which is nice, but unless your family and friends have the skills necessary to help you, the frustrations will linger.
Yet those few people who thrive, know differently.
They know a moment of crisis needs to be dealt with because if it isn’t the path to self-destruction isn’t too far away.
They know they need to do something about it!
You deserve to thrive again
Consider what you’ve been through to get to where you are as a professional athlete
You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months, years, developing your physical and technical abilities to get you to where you are today.
You’ve challenged yourself, pushed yourself and lived a life, very few people on the planet can say they lived.
Perhaps you’ve had great sponsorship
Perhaps you’re very well paid
Perhaps you’ve won awards
Perhaps you’ve even won a World Cup and been number 1 in the world?
But something changed
Something isn’t right and when was the last time you had mental performance training?
I didn’t think so.
There is no club, NGB, college or university that trains you in mental performance coaching
Listen, I’ve spoken to current and former professionals and one thing they all say is they wished they had reached out sooner rather than later, or had someone they could trust, to contact in that moment of crisis.
You always have options. You always have other perspectives to consider, but most of the time, these choices and options are either hidden from you as others try to manipulate you, or you are that stressed out, you can’t see the answer, even it came up behind you and kicked you in the ass!
How Can I Help You?
I can help you by listening to you without judging
I can help you by understanding your situation
I can help you by understanding you and not using jargon that just confuses you
I can help you understand how to move forward quickly in a discreet and confidential manner.
Only you and I need to know what’s said between us because once you’re thriving again, others will benefit from your improved performance including your family, team-mates, coach and others who put their faith in you like the fans.
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.
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
When was the last time you heard the phrase “What if…?”
It’s a phrase I use very selectively and only when I’m coaching and for very good reason.
If you’re a struggling professional football player and you find yourself asking the question “what if?” it’s time to reframe your thinking for your own benefit.
Why do I use this term selectively?
The term suggests there is another alternative to what actually happened.
Almost offering a get out clause from the reality by imagining how different things would have been…
“What if I had made that decision instead of the one I made?”
“What if the manager had just given me a chance?”
“What if I hadn’t been send off for that stupid foul?”
“What if my mind was clear, rather than clouded when I made that decision?”
“What if I had a better agent?”
“What if I had scored that goal?”
Many people get hung up on What If and get stuck in the past and blame themselves for those silly decision made in the past and allow the past to affect their decisions in the moment.
They struggle to move on from the past and that affects their mental state, performance and life off the pitch.
Here’s the thing…
We can’t change the past
The future has yet to happen
Yet so many people choose to live in the past or think too much about what may happen.
So our reality and the thing we can control and influence is what’s happening right now in the moment.
Some people call it being mindful, some call it living in the moment, I say it’s keeping it real.
Reality is our only way to improve quickly when things go wrong. Reality is our only way to adjust and choose to make different choices next time. Reality is our lives as we live right now. It’s how we feel, see and hear.
“Reality is where we live”
Allow me to coach and ask this question…
What if there was a way for a struggling football player to reach out in total confidence, to a neutral person, and find the right solutions in their times of need?
What if there was a way to quickly turn your fortunes around, whether it be to get out of a scoring drought, to be a better defender or even improve your life off the pitch?
Would you access that service?
The good news is this – it does exist. I’ve created it.
I created it because mental health issues are on the rise in professional football and 40% of footballers go broke after five years of retiring!
But I’m also aware because this is a new service, there is apprehension, uncertainty and doubt in people’s minds.
So what if there was a way to remove that apprehension, uncertainty and doubt because as much as you want things to change, you don’t want to be made a fool.
What if you could contact me, find out more and discover how to make those changes quickly?
Over the past few days I was honoured to connect with a couple of young football players as they had been reading my blog posts and found some value in the content.
These eager players gave me their permission to ask them a variety of questions and I want to bring your attention to the answers they gave to three questions.
These three questions cover three major aspects of football,
How to succeed
The intention of this blog post is to help younger players understand the ups and downs of football so they can make adjustments where needed and live a life they deserve.
Question 1 What is your highlight of your career?
Player 1 said – “When I played against Barcelona, Villareal, Celtics, Bristol City lots of more”
Player 2 said – “My highlights was playing in cameroon ligue 1 in 2015/2016 seeing the strong level of players there and also played with the cameroon world cup legends of 1990/1994/1998. Another highlight is winning the mongolian cup and league runner up in 2012.”
The answers to the next question got my attention.
Question 2 Do you know of any struggling professional players?
Player 1 said – “Yeah I’ve seen it and I’ve talk to few of them which also helped my mentality in my young age.”
Player 2 said – “Yes there are many pro players who are struggling and it affects their mental health as well. Football can be a cruel game and many people /fans dont see the other side of it.”
I’m very aware of the mental health issues players have and for a young player to understand this, tells me he’s got a caring nature and an observant attitude.
The final question that I’ll share the answers to was great to read and really gives me an idea of their mindsets when it comes to success.
Question 3 – If you could give advice to younger players, what would it be?
Player 1 said – “No matter if you play football or do anything else that can guide you to your future in good way and that’ll benefit you and your family, make sure you keep working hard, getting support from people around you also from yourself. Never never think to give up, set back and start thinking about solutions that’ll come from yourself, big commitments, high dedication, be positive and patience and confidence enough to keep moving forward as when things are against you and remember to not lose your smile”
Player 2 said – “My advice for youngsters is to keep having a positive mindset and the desire to be better and train harder. In football there is always someone training harder than u so to be better and keep up the food chain, you have to keep fighting. End of the day, its how badly you want it at all costs.”
Thank you to the two players that shared their thoughts and I know they are working hard and striving to improve.
Are you a player with some value to share?
Perhaps you want to improve your situation?
Please drop me a message and let’s see what we can do.