As someone who coaches sports men and women, in terms of their mindset, I am always interested to see what impact something can have mentally in the way they play. Whether they are playing an individual sport like snooker or golf, or as part of a team as in rugby or cricket, a shift in mindset can bring about a huge change. 

We're big fans of rugby (amongst other sports) in our house, supporting England of course, so love this time of year with the Six Nations tournament taking place. I was fascinated to hear that Eddie Jones had changed the way in which he referred to his players who were on the bench at the beginning of a game. In a team such players are usually referred to as 'substitutes' which implies that they are not the best in the team but 'a deputy, a proxy, someone to use instead of another' (Chambers English dictionary) as and when the need arises with no particular role to play.

Eddie Jones has done something that on the surface may appear to be very small but in reality has had an enormous impact on the whole of the team. He refers to the players on the bench at the beginning of the game as 'finishers. A finisher is 'a person who completes or perfects'. Why has this had an impact? Well, suddenly these players are very much part of the team, they have a specific role, an important role to play in the game. They now know, as do the starting players, that they will be brought on and relied on to finish what the rest of the team have started. Interestingly it also has an impact on the opposing team, implying that the England team have a strong squad of players some simply waiting to come and 'finish them off' at the end of a match. 

A great example of how changing one word can change the attitude and mindset of not only a player but a whole team. And if one word can have such an impact on how someone feels imagine what could happen if a lot more words were 'substituted'?  

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 - Posted in Sport

What is it about "The Masters at Augusta" - one of the biggest, most prestigious golfing tournaments - that make so many players nervous? A major tournament often sees a golfer's "A" game being left back in the clubhouse. I coach several sports people, including golfers, and it's amazing how many times I hear things like: "I play great when I'm just with my mates or practising

but as soon as I get into a tournament it all goes wrong!" "My swing is off" or "I can't putt for toffee."  

Clearly they haven't suddenly forgotten overnight how to play golf or the technical parts of their game that they've practiced again and again. The difference is the importance that any golfer places on a tournament and that difference takes place in their head. Whether it is their first tournament or The Masters what they think literally affects how they play, it can add to or reduce the level of stress they experience. Mental and emotional stress is then reflected in physical changes in the body causing muscles to tighten and that has an impact - in any sport - it throws their technique off. In the same way that a musician can tune an instrument to play perfectly but the slightest change to the tension of the strings and its out of tune, so in the same way, what a golfer thinks impacts on his golf. When you realise that they are just thoughts and you can choose how you want to think then you are already on your way to discovering how to have a better thought and a better round of golf!

Posted on Apr 09, 2015 - Posted in Sport
Wow, what's going on at Wimbledon this year? So many of the top seeds are out and so many of the underdogs are really excelling and winning. It's making fascinating viewing not just for the tennis but also for the visible change in mindsets.

Have Nadal, Federer, Sharipova and the other top seeds forgotten how to play their best tennis overnight? I think not. they can still remember the technical skills and they are still fit. They obviously haven't suddenly forgotten all that they have been taught and learnt over the years. And for the unseeded players that are suddenly winning, they haven't miraculously learnt how to play better overnight. So what's happening? Alien intervention?!

The only thing that has changed is in what they are thinking: the quality of their thoughts and this in turn affects their mindset that ultimately affects how they play. The interesting thing that is happening is that once a "seed of doubt" or a "seed of belief" starts to germinate it grows and has a magnified effect on all the other players. Anything becomes possible.

When a top rank player goes out of a tournament it plants a "seed of doubt" into other top ranked players: "If that player can loose to someone ranked much lower then it is entirely possible that might happen to me." If unchecked that thought ends up becoming the focus of attention, it literally plays on the mind, changes the mindset and affects how they play. As a result another top ranked player goes out and this simply reinforces the original doubt, amplifying it even more each time. Before you know it you have a domino effect with more top ranked players losing.

Conversely for the unseeded player that wins, the "seed of belief" is germinated that the impossible is possible. For other unseeded players in the tournament it positively amplifies their self-belief about winning. It becomes something they can REALLY believe without any doubt. The quality of their thoughts change which changes their mindset from being less accepting of their ranking into believing that they too can win. The result is that the quality of their play becomes much more instinctive and free of over-thinking what they should be doing. The player is "in the zone" or, as some of my athletes like to call it, competing "brain-free". Consequently they make the shot, which of course simply amplifies the belief in themselves and the possibility of winning even more.

So what makes the difference between winning and losing? Is it the level of technical skill? Fitness? All of those things play their part but if that were the only thing then the top ranked players would still be in the tournament. We can clearly see at Wimbledon this year that it is the quality of a player's thinking that determines whether they win or lose - not the quality of the grass!
Posted on Jun 27, 2013 - Posted in Sport