Archive for the 'Sports Psychology' Category

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There is no such thing as talent

Many business people want “success” to be more ‘cerebral and complex’… When it’s not.

Just keep thinking about how you achieved at a sport and developed mastery – without clarity and concentration of focus, it’s IMPOSSIBLE.

Everyone wants to think champions are “born” and that talent is a god-given gift. It’s not. It’s pure hard work and execution of the basics. “Pure talent” like Michelangelo and Da Vinci are so rare that over the CENTURIES there are only a handful of such examples.

All the other “great masters” spent the same 10,000+ hours learning their craft – MOST of them dying destitute BECAUSE they acquired mastery too late…

On one hand it’s sobering and on the other it means greatness is within us all – IF WE WANT IT.

I see this manifest itself all the time, on the squash court and in business.

People want to win in squash and get more leads, projects, contracts in business, but most are not willing to do what it takes to achieve “game excellence”.

Everyone can have an “excellent game” when everything flows and the stars in the universe line up, but “game excellence” is the ability to do it consistently, over and over again.

Game excellence is acquired with deliberate practice.

If only more people would just give up on the self-perpetuating myth and realise the reality… You need to INVEST in yourself to get the PAYOFF.

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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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Choking In Sport

Choking is one of those taboo words athletes shun at any cost.

There are a lot of theories and suppositions about the source or cause of choking.

I recently came across this video used by a US squash coach to explain to his team that choking is NOT in your genes – UNLESS you’re a goat.

What I liked about this is that it’s a visual cue you can use to prevent choking whenever you’re feeling stressed or under pressure – just remember… YOU’RE NOT A GOAT!

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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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Intensity: How Much is Enough? Too Much?

In peak training phases, Michael Phelps will swim at least 80,000 meters a week, nearly 50 miles. That includes two practices a day, sometimes three when he was training at altitude.

All elite athletes face the dilemma: How much is enough versus too much?

Most athletes however it’s a case of too little and too infrequently.

Too often, there is a reluctance to going full-on with training when it’s the fastest and usually the safest way to create breakthroughs.

Intensity, Focus, Drive, Determination, Sports Psychology, Champion Mindset, Mindset Of A Champion

The challenge is knowing WHAT to do to push yourself beyond your current limits into a new realm of possibility. Unless you “up” the intensity, you’re simply not going to get those all-important quantum leaps you want.

Depending on your sport and level of proficiency, intensity can means doubling your on-court time, doubling or tripling your running or swimming distance, increasing your gym visits, yoga or aerobics classes to 2/day instead of 3/week…

You are the best judge of what ‘intensity’ means to you – one thing is for sure, you need to go beyond your comfort zone – ideally to total exhaustion (without injury or pain) or as close to it as you can.

What you’ll quickly realise is that you’re capable of much more than you’re currently doing.

What set Michael Phelps apart from all other swimmers is that he aimed to become the best swimmer HE could become.

Michael Phelps and his coach NEVER set any limits. His autobiographical book’s title reveals his and his coach’s mindset “No Limits“.

My message to you today is simple and straightforward – what limits have you placed on your training or playing?

What time limits?

What frequency limits?

What intensity limits?

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Get to it somehow and hammer it somewhere

Every once in a while someone comes up with a saying that encapsulates what you need to be doing – succinctly and elegantly.

Today’s blog post is short and sweet – for racket sport athletes as Chester Barnes, a table tennis champion said “get to it somehow and hammer it somewhere!

Champion Mindset, Mindset Of A Champion, Sports Psychology

There are two parts to this – Doing whatever it takes to get to the ball and then doing something with it.

Easier said than done!

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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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Momentum And Inertia

Momentum, Mindset Of A Champion, Creating Momentum, SuccessI recently blogged about the Chasm Of Competence™ that prevents many otherwise competitive athletes from unleashing their Exponential Potential™.

One of the reasons is that social (or club players) don’t overcome their current inertia. Inertia is defined as the predisposition for a body to remain in the state that it’s in. In sports psychology, it means doing the same things, over and over and over again. Reinforcing bad habits and preventing new skills and abilities to emerge on their own.

To overcome inertia, you need to create momentum. Momentum is best explained with the metaphor of the merry-go-round. The first pull of the merry-go-round is the hardest, then you can stand there and tap it to keep it spinning. Just like a BAD habit, a GOOD habit, once it becomes engrained, becomes your new default and effortless.

The hard part is creating that initial momentum, the catalyst or spark to start to make things happen.

The easiest way is to interrupt your existing patterns. For example if you’re a squash player, you could… Continue reading ‘Momentum And Inertia’

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Mental Toughness

Just in case you missed it, there is a new page on this blog with a list of mental toughness books that I recommend. They are primarily focused on racket sports, but I add to the list on an on-going basis.

I will also be creating a new list of sports psychology books that go more into the general aspects of elite peak performance in sport.

Mental toughness is not just for sports athletes – it translates to all aspects of life.

A few pointers before you embark on mental toughness training…

  1. You need to know the context you’re dealing with (the more specific, the better)
  2. You need self-awareness (or a coach to know you)
  3. You need to be willing to change and test if progress is being made
  4. You need to be honest with yourself because all the dialogue is internal (or have a coach who won’t let you off the hook)
  5. You need to have a plan (1 Percent Improvements)
  6. You need to be strong because it won’t happen immediately, but once it does – WATCH OUT!
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