I’ve known Mike over the years as someone who has always tried to help when he can, I believe that I needed his advice and knowledge to push me in the right direction at a point in my life when I was ready to make a change for the better.
Had you tried using other methods to help you in the past and what were they? 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 learnt 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 alienged my self with.
What reservations, if any did you have around the coaching? Be honest. I don’t have any reservations really, I believe he does a great job of communicating bit also at balancing listening with talking to me. Sometimes I just need an ear to speak to and vent my thoughts out loud.
What 3 factors about the coaching delivery style stood out for you 1) The simplistic nature of the conversation, not using fancy words or over complicated explanations. 2) His calm nature when speaking made me feel at ease even when before the call I was quite stressed. 3) His availability, it’s something that goes under appreciated but with my ever changing schedule around training Vs personal life it was great to be able to be so flexible with timings.
The coaching is aimed at improving performance and wellbeing. How did the coaching affect your performance and wellbeing? My performance was always something that I judged by stats, now I judged it by my mental state. If I’m in a good mental state it doesn’t matter how i play because my experience will be what I want it to be regardless of the stats. My well being is 100% better because each day I’m just being myself and there’s no bugger comfort in a world filled with false high expectations and fakery.
If you were to recommend Mike to other professional athletes, what would you tell them to expect? To find their true self by removing the unnecessary baggage the world around them has added to their backs.
Do you know a professional athlete who would benefit from this coaching?
Who you are today is a culmination of experiences and perspectives and most of the time, how you are is OK. You do OK. But when it comes to professional sports, being OK isn’t good enough. You have to be excellent or at least be striving for excellence but reaching that level takes determination, guts and smart work, but what happens to your focus when something negative happens in your life. Perhaps a death, an injury, a fall out with a family member or even succumbing to pressure and stress.
Many athletes over the years have spoken about their struggles, Frank Bruno, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps, just to name 3 but a quick google search will bring you up a list even longer with no surprise.
So what can you do? What can you do to move away from the struggles quickly and get yourself back on track.
Let me share this story with you
For many many years, a man had taken the same path to work. He saw the same people, saw the same shops and felt the same way. He was familiar with this routine and familiarity gave him a sense of comfort and this comfort gave him happiness. He had no reason to change his route, he had no reason to walk faster, yet one day something changed but he didn’t know what. His thoughts began to niggle at him.
This niggle grew into an itch and after several days, his happiness has turned into anxiety. Instead of smiling at the people he walked past, he was on edge and avoided eye contact and had thoughts of changing something but he didn’t know what or how. He was so familiar with his journey that thinking about changing it, only brought on a fear, so he tolerated and tolerated until one day he decided not to get up.
Sometimes when we feel the need for change, we fear what might happen if we did change, and the sense of familiarity pulls us back from growing and we continue to tolerate, even when you know something needs to change.
But these past events do not define who we can become. Past events do not have to hold you down and stop you from achieving by doing and thinking differently.
You always have a choice to move away from negativity and choose to walk a new path and doing it is as simple as changing the direction in which you walk, who you talk with and recognising when you want change. You have to hold yourself accountable. You have to make new decisions because it’s very unlikely someone else will recongnise you want to change and help you.
So if you feel something needs to change, create that change for yourself!
Thanks for listening and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
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
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
There are two camps when it comes to creating a culture of a professional sports team
Winning at all costs V Wellbeing Of Athletes
Some believe winning at all costs is the way to go and some believe the wellbeing of athletes should come first so let’s explore what happens in each of the cultures.
Winning At All Costs
The only thing that matters is winning!
The only athletes you want are the ones that have that desire and hunger to run through walls to win and those that don’t make the grade will fall away, quickly replaced by someone else who wants a piece of the action.
Any mistakes will be punished. The coach has one way to coach and that’s to push the athletes to their limits.
The coach and athletes will knock the opponents down, seek to gain unfair advantages and do what it takes to ensure the win falls in their favour.
Losing is met with anger and extra training sessions and some form of punishment.
Losing brings an almost depressing state of mind as the reality of failure eats away at the minds of those involved.
Wellbeing Of Athletes
From speaking to people in the sports industry, there is a sense that when you put the wellbeing of athletes first, their desire to win will be diluted and their ability to perform under pressure will crack. Some perceive this approach as wrapping the athlete up in cotton wool as if to protect them from a hash reality and to make sure they are comfortable at all times.
This couldn’t be further away from the truth!
Who uses a wellbeing approach?
There are two current coaches I’m aware of that value the wellbeing of their athletes at the elite level and they have won championships by putting the wellbeing to their athletes at the centre of their culture.
I’ll highlight some of the key phrases from articles that demonstrate their approach
Jurgen Klopp – Manager of Liverpool Football Club (Premier league winners 2020)
The first thing Klopp did on arriving at Melwood, Liverpool’s training facility, in 2015 was to memorise the names of each member of the backroom staff, everyone from the kitman to the chefs to the janitor.
It was clear from the start that the Klopp leadership mantra was based on cultivating relationships, bonds nurtured through humour, compassion, and the eagerness to help.
Be it victory or defeat, promise or pain, there was the leader embracing his troops, absorbing their experiences into his own.
Klopp is a rare leader who leads from the front without basking in the spotlight.
“have strong people around you with a better knowledge in different departments than yourself” is something Klopp has regularly acknowledged, stressing that a manager cannot “act like you know everything.”
More People Understand The Value Of Putting Wellbeing At The Centre Of Player Development
There is a shift in attitudes towards the power and value of creating a wellbeing culture for professional sports team and blogs like this, and other programmes, articles and individuals are pushing wellbeing more towards the spotlight that shines over professional sports and moving away from the ‘Winning At All Costs’ cultures.
Creating this type of culture within your team has shown it can lead to winning just as Klopp and Kerr have proven.
Let me ask you a question
Would you rather be involved with a team where the manager/coach believes they know it all, they tell the players how good they are, how bad they are, no questions asked, highlight their mistakes to prove to them he’s the boss and when you win it was down to them? Players play through Fear!
Be involved with a team that supports each other, where the manager wants the players to be the best they can be and understand their individual needs and questions and ideas can be aired for the purpose of finding a small margin of improvement? Players play with freedom!
“When the person is feeling valued, trusted and respected, the athlete thrives“
Listen, I understand creating this type of culture isn’t easy for some people, but if your team has had a losing season let me ask you this…
Knowing a wellbeing culture works and brings wins, wouldn’t you be curious as to how you can learn more and implement this culture?