What you say to yourself matters. Henry Ford said:
whether you think you can or whether you think you cannot, you’re right.
In sports there are 3 defining challenging moments you’ll experience – pressure losing and mistakes. It’s inevitable. You’re not going to win every competition so knowing what to do in these 3 key moments will either propel you forward or drag you back.
In this blog let’s consider handling pressure.
Your mind drives your performance and actions. Imagine a finely tuned car, a super car ready to race and show the world what it’s capable of. It’s shiny exterior and powerful engine is ready for action.
But it needs a driver. It needs someone that understands the car like the back of their hand, someone whos in synch with the electronics and workings.
But the driver is nervous.
He’s cracked under pressure before and now with this brilliant car he feels even more pressure. There’s expectations from the team owner, his coach, the sponsors for him to win.
But he wants to give it a go. He says to himself this time will be different. This time he will win.
When we experience pressure one of two things will happen.
You either feel stress and anxiety or you thrive
Some people love pressure. They step up and take responsibility for what’s about to happen and can deal with the success or failure that follows.
Some shy away from pressure leaving the decisions to others.
When I was 15 a long time ago our school basketball team had come from 19 points down to tie the game in the national school final with just a few seconds remaining.
I drove to the basket, jumped and was fouled and hit the floor. 2 free throws to come but as I went to get up off the floor, I couldn’t! My legs were tight and I had no idea what was going on!
Turns out I had cramp. I’d never had cramp before so I was panicked but after my assistant coach helped me I stood up and composed myself. If I missed it would leave the door open for the opponents. If I made them, we’d have the advantage. I went to the free throw line and nailed both go give us a 2 point lead which helped us win the game.
This was my first experience with pressure and I was balanced calm and focused and carried that perspective forward ever since.
Pressure is a perspective of your situation and those that thrive welcome those moments.
Winning is to be celebrated because you did a lot of things right to reach this outcome and you may have experienced some luck along we way (we all enjoy luck at some point in our lives), but it’s the realisation that all the training, smart work, rested nights and eating habits all played a part in achieving a win
Let me ask you this – Are you aware of what you did to win or is is coincidental?
The recipe for success
Some of you will know how a cake is made, but for the uninitiated let me tell you there’s ingredients, a recipe and a method
You take the ingredients, follow the recipe and method and if you do everything right, you end with an amazing cake!
You still with me? Good!
Just as the cake is the outcome, winning is the outcome when you work with the right ingredients and follow the recipe and method but in the recipe for success, your ingredients include how you think, the emotions you feel and what you do
These recipes are used within 7 areas of your being that include:
Stay ahead of the competition
When you’re winning, there is alignment and your recipe is pretty much spot on, and although you have an advantage over your opponents, when you’re winning you still need to tweak a few of the ingredients because there are others trying to steal those wins away from you.
When you’re at the top of your game, others will be doing all they can to bring you down and gain an advantage so it’s important to know what to do to stay ahead.
Winning consistently for a long period of time is difficult and very few people can accomplish great things consistently.
Think traditional sports men and women like Ronaldo, LeBron James, Messi, Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton.
What is it they do that you can learn from?
They are consistently taking care of their minds and bodies
The world of esports is different in the sense there is less physical training needed, but don’t let that fact lead you down a path of false sense of security.
Continue to grow
Your mind and body still need to grow and adjust to avoid burnout, anxiety and poor performance and to attract positivity, resilience and purpose
To continue to win, you must consciously embrace what’s working for you and continue to do it. Be conscious of your sleeping patterns, what you eat, drink and how you stay healthy.
Being part of this academy allows you to explore your thoughts, ideas and concerns in a safe place without the fear of being criticised or judged. The academy invites you to engage and ask questions and share your stories and frustrations so growth can be achieved easily together.
Your mind is much more powerful than you give it credit for and as the academy shares more insights with you, you’ll see the bigger picture forming and with that in mind, let me ask you these questions– What does winning mean to you? What does winning provide for you? What does winning bring to your life?
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?
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.