Friday, 24 December 2010

Fair weather sports performers

How many of you are fair weather sports performers who believe they can only perform well if the sun is shining, there is no wind and the temperature is just right? If you are one of these people ask yourself how often such conditions exist. The fair weather sports performer is almost always at a disadvantage as they see rain and wind and cold as being bad. I think it was Billy Connolly who said 'There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing'. If you want to be successful in all weathers, it is important that you learn to see the good in all weathers.

When I was a young rugby player, I used to love playing in the snow. There was something about it that brought out the kid in me and I used to especially love sliding along the ground for several metres to steal a ball that was lying out in the loose. Padraig Harrington thrives on playing in wet, windy conditions. Give him a choice between wet or dry conditions for a tournament and he would pick the former every time, because he feels this gives him a head start on the majority of his competitors.

Instead of getting down about the weather, learn to embrace it (or don't play!)

Andy Barton

Friday, 29 October 2010

Black and White Thinking

One reason that people get stuck with problems can be because they don't give themselves enough options. We have a tendency to see problems as a choice between two options, neither of which give us what we truly want. I call this "Black and White thinking". An example of this would be where people feel they should be modest, self-deprecating, reluctant to take compliments and feel they should beat themselves up when they make a mistake. The only alternative they will see to this would be to be arrogant, brash, full of themselves and egotistical. All the other options just seem to get deleted so people then think "well at least if I am modest people might like me" and they stick with the problem state that they already had.

If you have a problem, find some new options. For instance, you can be confident without being arrogant. You can learn from mistakes without beating yourself up. You can feel good about a compliment without being egotistical.

The more options you have, the more flexibility you have to deal with problems. So move away from "Black and White thinking" and look for all the other colours and shades. You'll be surprised how many choices there really are.

Andy Barton

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How to win The Open

Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Golf Championship last week and also gave a fantastic demonstration of how to win a major championship. Although he had never been close to winning such a big event before, Oosterhuizen's victory was one of the most comprehensive in recent years. So what was the key to such a great performance? One word "consistency".

Throughout the whole tournament Oosterhuizen remained totally consistent. He was consistent in his approach; he was consistent with his routine; he was consistent with his play making and he was consistent with his body language. Most importantly, he was consistent with his emotional state. He stayed in the moment, took one shot at a time and remembered to enjoy himself. In fact he had a constant smile on his face throughout each of the rounds, even when he hit a poor shot (This is very reminiscent of Tom Watson, one of the greatest players of the game who always has a benign smile on his face every time he plays). Smiling plays an important role in maintaining a positive attitude as it releases the neurotransmitter serotonin into the body. This neurotransmitter is very important for regulating our emotions and has the effect of reducing anxiety and making us happy. Exactly how you want to be going down the back nine on the last day of a major.

So, if you want to win a major, remember to smile, stay in the moment and be consistent.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Penalty taking at the World Cup

Now that the World Cup is nearly upon us, the main topic I am asking to comment on from the media is the art of penalty taking. Why, for instance, are England so bad at taking penalties and Germany so good at it?

A lot of commentators will refer to penalties as being a lottery, but it is far less so than many think. Although skill plays an important role in penalty taking, mental approach seems to have a far bigger impact and, in a nutshell, we tend to get what we expect. Germany has developed a cultural belief that they are good at penalties; this then has an impact their attitude when it comes to a penalty shoot out. England, however, has developed a belief that they are no good at penalties and this is also reflected in their attitude when it comes to a shoot out. If you go back to 2006 and the penalty shoot out against Portugal, England should have been delighted to take them to penalties. It was England, after all, who had to finish out the game with only 10 men. However, each one of England's penalty takers looked petrified. They walked from the centre circle looking as if they were on their way to their own execution. At the same time, their team mates were looking down at the ground, shaking their heads. Contrast this with Ronaldo when he went to take his penalty; his head was up, his shoulders thrust backwards as he marched purposefully towards the penalty area. If you watch Fabio Grosso as he walked up to take the penalty that would win the World Cup for Italy, he has a smile on his face. For these two men, taking a penalty is seen as an opportunity not a threat.

Matthew Le Tissier, who had a record of scoring 48 out 49 penalties during his career, believes that his main reason for success was that he loved taking penalties. When you love doing something you tend to focus on what you can do. When you hate doing something, you tend to focus on what you fear may happen. As we tend to get more of what we focus on, it makes sense that a positive penalty taker is far more likely to score.

All the England players need to do, therefore, is learn to love taking penalties. Simple!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Craig Bellamy Foundation

When you think of Craig Bellamy, some of you may consider him in less than glowing terms. What some of you may not know is that he has invested a huge amount of his own time and money (over £1 million) into introducing football to the children of Sierra Leone. He is single-handedly the biggest funder of sport in this country. He has now got over 1600 kids playing football and he is funding the training of coaches, with a view of having more trained coaches in Sierra Leone than any other African country. One of the rules of playing is that the children must attend school and for those involved, school attendance has risen from an average 30% to over 80%. Not only that, children can increase the goal difference of the team by answering correctly questions about such issues as HIV after a match.

This is a fantastic illustration of an individual who thrives on having a sense of purpose. It has made him a more rounded individual (albeit still a vociferous one on the pitch) and getting a perspective that there are more important things than football (apologies to Bill Shankly!), I believe, has made him an even better player.

You can find out more at

Friday, 15 January 2010

Why hypnosis is beneficial to sport

Hypnosis has been widely used in sport since the 1950s. It has been widely documented that the Soviet team took no fewer than eleven hypnotherapists to the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956. Since this time a many of the world's leading sports performers have used hypnosis to improve their mental approach. Tiger Woods has used hypnosis from a very early age and once stated that “hypnosis is inherent in everything I do now”.

In a sense, any sports performer who uses mental rehearsal to prepare for competition has used hypnosis as, to mentally rehearse an event, you have to take on a trance state.

It is highly significant that it has been found that there is a correlation between hypnosis and the ‘zone’ state that sports performers refer to when they are playing to their highest level. When sports performers are in the zone, their predominant brainwaves are Alpha brainwaves which are at a frequency of between 8-12Hz (cycles per second), the same brain state that most people access when they enter a state of light trance. Many sports performers describe the zone as being in a kind of bubble, where everything is easy and effortless, time seems to slow down and it is almost as if some other force has taken over their body. These are all examples of deep trance phenomena associated with hypnosis.

The ability to enter trance is therefore an extremely useful feature of peak performance and athletes need to train their ability to enter trance states to improve their mental ability in the same way that they need to train their muscles to enhance their strength and endurance. The most successful athletes are the ones who can put themselves into the most effective trance to perform.

Andy Barton
The Sporting Mind - Mental Training for Sport