Archive for the 'Sports Books' Category

Mental Toughness

I recently read an article in the Virgin Australia Inflight Magazine that quoted Brisbane-based performance psychologist Dr Phil Jauncey as saying that

“Mental toughness isn’t the ability
to get your mind right before an event,
it’s being able to execute when your mind is saying you can’t.”

Mental Toughness, No Pain No Gain, Threshold Pressure, ChokingThis is of primary importance to anyone who is competitive in sports and/or in a performance environment (musician, public speaker, etc.)

If you want to learn more about mental toughness, click the hyperlink or the image above to access a list of books I’ve read and reviewed on the subject.

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Explicit Vs Implicit Systems

Tennis Coach Sydney, Tennis Coaching, Girls Tennis CoachIf you’ve ever wondered how really great athletes perform their magic, it’s because they have acquired a wide range of skills and abilities that are now part of their IMPLICIT Mental System. Matthew Syed explains in it outstanding detail with amazing clarity in his bestselling book “Bounce“.

Rather than try to summarise Syed’s explanation, I thought I would share with you a real case study from Sydney Tennis Coach, Alison Scott.

Hi Marc,

Today I was teaching a 12 yr old girl the forehand. She had come to get some lessons after having a break from playing for a couple of years and wanted to get back into it again. She was a medium beginner – where she had 2 years of lessons before she stopped playing.

15 minutes into the tennis lesson I noticed a pattern where she would miss hit balls that she had to run out wide to hit.

I was aware she looked awkward and not feeling natural moving out to her right. I stopped and asked her to come to the net.

I asked her what she was focusing on when she was running wide for the forehand. She thought about it and then said she was focusing on her feet/footwork.

I suggested that we work on tracking the ball visually and working on her timing. I explained in more detail the exercise and we continued.

After another 15 minutes she was hitting the ball cleanly and was more balanced.  She came to the net smiling and said it felt so easy and she felt more control with the ball. I explained a couple of things, one was getting her to understand that movement is as natural as walking down the street or around the house. You don’t think about it [because it's in your IMPLICIT Mental System]. By putting her attention on the ball as the main focus made everything else fall into place naturally.

When she put her attention back on the ball and followed it from the bounce up to her racket she was able to apply her intelligence to that taks and consequently it improved. [This is the EXPLICIT Mental System at work, learning and applying new knowledge, skills and abilities with concentration and deliberate effort.]

I often see tennis players who are distracted away from the cause of the problem by looking at the effect instead. This often becomes bigger and harder to fix the more attention they put on it. [Matthew Syed explains this as the primary source of choking.]

It’s important to realise where you’re getting distracted or diverted and then get back on track quickly. Having a good tennis coach is a must to help you overcome the obstacles that prevent you from becoming a much better tennis player – usually with a lot less effort, stress and anxiety.


Kind regards,

Alison Scott
Modern Tennis Australia Pty Ltd

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Lessons from a champion

Mindset Of A Champion, Jahangir Khan, Squash Book, Rahmat Khan, Squash CoachingI recently visited a bookstore in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast (Australia), which has a great collection of used books, and found the ultimate squash classic by World Champion Jahangir Khan aptly named Winning Squash.

Once you’ve mastered the basic strokes and court movement principles, as an elite squash player, you need to get into “A Champion Mindset” as often as you can.

What I picked up from Winning Squash was Jahangir’s reliance on his cousin Rahmat Khan’s coaching skills and abilities. As a top squash player, reaching world #12 and a Khan, he understood and appreciated what it takes to be a champion.

Without a mentor, coach, friend and advisor, there is no doubt in my mind (or Jahangir’s) that his achievements would have been much less prolific than they were.

The key for any aspiring athlete is to get multiple points of view and then choose ONE that works. Listen, obey and respect that ONE voice. That ONE direction. That one FORCE.

Otherwise what happens is you get splintered into multiple, divergent directions and lose momentum and confidence. Confidence makes a big difference in a quick-response sport like squash. With mere fractions of a second to choose a shot (or return), the brain needs to feel it’s capable of pushing the envelope to select the best shot to make, instantly calculating the risk/reward ratios involved.

The second and almost as important revelation was Jahangir’s training regimen and mental focus. I expected this from the all-time-best squash player, but what I found interesting was how much of it was ‘trusting the coaching process’.

Even back then (the book was published in 1985), Jahangir noticed that young players had difficulty succumbing to authority (elders, teachers and coaches). I can attest to that with adults of all ages. There is something inherently arrogant with athletes who think “they know it all” even though they continue to languish in the “B” leagues.

Being coachable is a trait all champions possess. They recognise the need to have an outside perspective that focuses on them from a much more objective viewpoint with a set of skills designed and developed to extract the best from them.

You can’t be ON the court AND watch the game at the same time. Each has a role and responsibility to the process of creating and sustaining excellence. Today’s elite athlete has to invest in the best technology and training which now includes psychological training well beyond the traditional visualisation and pre-match preparation techniques.

Winning Squash is a classic – it captured the essence of the Champion Of All Champions – Jahangir Khan – at his apex of achievement.

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Lauren Burns – Fighting Spirit

Lauren Burns’ Fighting Spirit is a great autobiographical recount of a champion’s challenges and as the book’s title extolls, her fighting spirit.

Even though I am not a martial artist, the play-by-play analysis was beyond my interest, the self-analysis and honesty revealed was quite remarkable and refreshing to read as she let us into a champion’s mindset – especially when she failed or came up short.

She is a true champion with laser-focused concentration on the ultimate goal – the Olympic Gold Medal.

Thus is a must-read for anyone who wants to know the inner workings of the Mindset Of A Champion.

I highly recommend it.

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Lessons from a champion

Mindset Of A Champion, Jahangir Khan, Squash Book, Rahmat Khan, Squash CoachingI recently visited a bookstore in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast (Australia), which has a great collection of used books, and found the ultimate squash classic by World Champion Jahangir Khan aptly named Winning Squash.

Once you’ve mastered the basic strokes and court movement principles, as an elite squash player, you need to get into “A Champion Mindset” as often as you can.

What I picked up from Winning Squash was Jahangir’s reliance on his cousin Rahmat Khan’s coaching skills and abilities. As a top squash player, reaching world #12 and a Khan, he understood and appreciated what it takes to be a champion.

Without a mentor, coach, friend and advisor, there is no doubt in my mind (or Jahangir’s) that his achievements would have been much less prolific than they were.

The key for any aspiring athlete is to get multiple points of view and then choose ONE that works. Listen, obey and respect that ONE voice. That ONE direction. That one FORCE.

Otherwise what happens is you get splintered into multiple, divergent directions and lose momentum and confidence. Confidence makes a big difference in a quick-response sport like squash. With mere fractions of a second to choose a shot (or return), the brain needs to feel it’s capable of pushing the envelope to select the best shot to make, instantly calculating the risk/reward ratios involved.

The second and almost as important revelation was Jahangir’s training regimen and mental focus. I expected this from the all-time-best squash player, but what I found interesting was how much of it was ‘trusting the coaching process’.

Even back then (the book was published in 1985), Jahangir noticed that young players had difficulty succumbing to authority (elders, teachers and coaches). I can attest to that with adults of all ages. There is something inherently arrogant with athletes who think “they know it all” even though they continue to languish in the “B” leagues.

Being coachable is a trait all champions possess. They recognise the need to have an outside perspective that focuses on them from a much more objective viewpoint with a set of skills designed and developed to extract the best from them.

You can’t be ON the court AND watch the game at the same time. Each has a role and responsibility to the process of creating and sustaining excellence. Today’s elite athlete has to invest in the best technology and training which now includes psychological training well beyond the traditional visualisation and pre-match preparation techniques.

Winning Squash is a classic – it captured the essence of the Champion Of All Champions – Jahangir Khan – at his apex of achievement.

For more outstanding books on the Champion’s Mindset and sport psychology books, click on the hyperlinks.

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Mindset Of A Champion Lessons

I recently competed at the 2010 Pan Pacific Masters Games, in the men’s squash tournament, in the 45-49 age category, I played well with significant challenges and obstacles as I noted in a previous blog post.

While I was in beautiful Queensland, I took the day before and after the competition to relax and enjoy what the Gold Coast has to offer. One of my favorite pastimes is reading. Over the weekend, I read 3 books (I am after all a speed reader!). Two of them were on sport psychology and the third on business and strategy.

One of the strategies I use to get access to hard-to-get information, tips and strategies is to go into second hand bookstores and look for non-bestseller titles that could be a priceless source of inspiration, motivation or information.

While browsing through a second-hand bookstore in Broadbeach, I stumbled across “Venus and Serena: My seven years as the Williams sisters hitting coach” by David Rineberg.

Written in a very personal style synonymous with non-professional writers, his detailed account of their training regimen was both illuminating and revealing.

The amount of preparation that went into their ‘formation’ as future professional tennis players was as unique as it was strategic. I highly recommend it if you are an elite or otherwise competitive racket sport athlete.

There are countless lessons, tips and techniques to glean from it.

The top 3 that come to mind include:

  1. Train so you develop the skills and abilities of the athlete you want to become, within the time frame you’ve set for yourself. In my syntax, determine your decision-making horizon and retrospectively chunk back to where you are today.
  2. Be patient with you progress without becoming complacent. Everything takes time and as long a progress is being made, be content with it in so long as it is within your designated time frame.
  3. To out-perform your peers and rise in the rankings, you have to do something different. If you train and do what everyone else does, you’ll only track along with THEIR progress. Training MORE won’t do it. Only DIFFERENT will.

Self-analysis, diagnosis and prognosis are a must – unless you know what you’re doing, you can’t identify what to change, fix or improve let alone how to go about that improvement. In my business coaching and mentoring that I do with my entrepreneurial clients, I serve that role.

In sport, you need to have a coach or at the very least a feedback mechanism such as video footage to dissect what you’re doing, or not doing. Objectivity of course is key!

A second book, this one a bestseller is John McEnroe’s autobiography “Serious”. Growing up with McEnroe, Connors, Lendl and Borg as the tennis elite, it was enlightening to hear his view on his ‘tantrums’ and outbursts… It’s a very valuable perspective on a lonely journey to the top and back down. Every racket sport athlete should read it, along with Pete Sampras’ “Mind Of A Champion”.

The reason I blog about these books is because as an elite athlete, your progress is not solely dependent on your physical ability, skills and aptitudes. It’s also heavily dependent on your psychological and emotional maturity and development in lockstep with your physical accomplishments. The better you get, the tougher you need to become.

Easier said than done.

One of the ways to get tougher is to understand what others have been through and how they overcame their insecurities, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It’s a personal journey that transcends sport. The games, seasons, championships and rankings are just a score-keeping mechanism to let you know how you’re going!

There are not enough really good books out there to help you become the best athlete you can be – but I can tell you one thing, I came across a really, really good one at the Pan Pacific Games that I will introduce you to in my next blog post – you’ll have to wait for my “official review” and analysis!

Psst! I met with the author personally and guess what? He’s a multiple champion athlete and based in Rocky (That means he’s an Aussie).

For more great mental toughness books I recommend, click the hyperlink.

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