A great mornng.......Yorkshire and Humber Talent Breakfast - Mindset

22nd Mar 2012

The 4th scUK Yorkshire and Humber Coaching Talent Breakfast was delivered by Andy McCann (Sports Psychologist and currently involved with the Welsh Rugby Union Squad) on Thu 22 Mar at the KC Stadium in Hull and focused on ‘Mindset’.  

The following piece is a blunt review of the 2hr session and views (whilst based on the presentation and discussion) are that of Pete Taylor, Coaching Development Manager, North Yorkshire Sport.

He we go:

So let’s get started, 3 volunteers please – a picture of a tiger.  What do you see?  A tiger.  Why was the picture seen – to identify the perception of people and the vast differences that occur.  


Mindset, Emotional Intelligence, Mental Toughness.

Next up another picture – a cat surrounded by a pack of dogs!  Why – say what you see – what does it tell you?  Lots of different opinions.  Is the Cat isolated and confident or vulnerable and intimidated?  One comment from the floor – either the cat is blind or very arrogant!     All this picture does is start to look at the 3 agenda items for the morning. 

Some quality books to possibly read – Pure Sport (2008), Inside Sports Psychology (2011), The Extra One Per Cent (2010)

What was the most watched programme globally in the late 80s?   Baywatch – so what?  People were becoming obsessed with the body and a fitness boom was imminent.    Into the 90s running and aerobics were starting to be overtaken by Yoga and Nutrition and even…..mindset.

Now, in sport it is accepted that the mind plays a massive part in preparing the body for exercise.  

Preparedness v Readiness.  We are (or should be) preparing our athletes both mentally and physically – both go hand in hand and are critical that they both peak at the same time – ie game day.

As a coach should you know the mood, mindset, of their athletes prior to competing – obviously.  

What is emotional intelligence?  How do you manage your emotions?  How do you mentally prepare you players for a game – what environment to you create in the changing room prior to a game.   How about putting the players into an area of the changing room with other players that need stimulation etc, leave the players that like peace and quiet in the other corner. 

How do you get players (and yourself) to switch on and off.  We think about getting players into the zone, do we think enough about how to bring players back down after a game?    Think about a shower – we turn it on, have a shower and then turn it off. 

How many pieces of information can we process at one time – average is 2!  As coaches do we overload our players with info –if we do they will not take it in.    Some good practical examples were explored by the audience.  

What about the whole subject of parents and your relationship with them.  Let’s leave that for another day!

Emotional Intelligence describes an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups. 

What happens when an athlete moves from a development/performance environment into a ‘full time’ (win at all costs) contracted role – is that player ready for this massive change? Yes if the basics are there:

Build on the basics – Belonging, Aspiration, Safety, Identify, Challenge, and Success

To put this even more simply – the athlete must be on a journey that has the same culture throughout. 

Question from the floor – do we need to focus on the will to win?   The will to win has to be instilled though culture and we must understand the background to legends such as Sir Chris Hoy – his journey has enabled him to develop such a strong ‘will to win’

Let’s look at the words we use to communicate - ie ‘challenge’ not ‘problem’  ‘opportunity’ not ‘weakness’.   As a coach we need to focus on being hugely proactive and enforce positivity and certainly not worry or focus on the areas that maybe don’t look so good.  

Discussion time – looking at various quotes from world famous coaches/athletes. 

Do we have a multi-generation workforce that have different cultures?  Of course we do – it is how we work together that determines success.

Situations require trust of your skill – taking a penalty, hitting a golf ball – we need to be in the moment and have self-belief.   The preparation will determine the success and more importantly if the mindset allows calmness the result will be positive. 

Mental toughness = how do we perform when exposed to stress, pressure and challenge…….irrespective of the prevailing situation.  

Challenge – seeing opportunities not threats, Commitment – tenacity, Control – self-worth (life and emotional), Confidence – in themselves and others, Together these produce an overall measure of Mental Toughness.

Types of Mental Toughness:

In the moment toughness - GB 4x100m relay team

Turnaround toughness - Rory Mcilroy

Decision making toughness - Rob Howley

Endurance toughness - Michael Phelps

Aspirational toughness - Casius Clay

Some great discussion around the above players/athletes/coaches

The ideal profile of high effortless attention, low reaction to pressure, and high letting go of mistakes is strongly associated with consistent mind-body control and peak performance.

Quotes from the floor:

‘Acknowledge what you need to develop and do something about it’, ‘watch other coaches’, ‘don’t talk too much to your athletes during practice’, ‘Best bit of advice – don’t try and over coach’, ‘look at what lies beneath the surface not what sits above’, ‘Treat each person as an individual’ 

And finally – build your coaching around the players not around yourself.     

A good turnout and an enthused audience. Massive thanks to Andy MaCann for a really interesting session. 

The next Yorkshire and Humber Talent Breakfast will take place in May in the York/Harrogate area.   Watch out for further details.


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