Every outstanding performer has a performance coach whether their sport is extremely physical, tactical, a team sport, or individual. No elite performer is successful in the current world without tapping utilising the immense advantages that coaching techniques give. Psychological Coaching is the primary manner in which sports men and women achieve their successes.
The concept of the 'inner game' has grown in acceptance over the past few decades but is still something which if frequently downplayed in many sporting arenas, and is certainly something skirted around by the media and specialist publications alike. Why this is a quandary. Specialist magazines contain pages of advice on physical preparation, diet and nutrition, equipment, techniques, but there is a complete lack of any real understanding of the psychological aspects of improving performance.
What is more of concern, perhaps is that the NLP and Coaching Community is so apologetic about what it can offer individuals wanting to improve their performance. NLP is based on the study of excellence in human performance and how to replicate this in others. IT was based on the study of outstanding therapists but rapidly went on to focus not on mending broken people but to look at excellence in outstanding individuals. Martin Seligmann (Chair of the American Psychological Association no less!) has stated that we should be now move from focussing on broken people and how they are broken to focus on developing a psychology of excellence and learn how to apply what successful fully function individuals in the same circumstances to do achieve totally opposite outcomes.
It is true that many of the leading actors on the NLP stage have worked with elite performers in all types of mindfulness in sport and achieved outstanding results but the orthodoxy of limiting beliefs and controllability have undermined performance gains which have been found or modelled.
Sporting performance the world over has improved in every respect in every sport. Even with the drive against the use of performance enhancing drugs we have seen a year on year increase in human performance levels. Some of this is down to physiology and selection as more young performers are focussed into areas where they can naturally excel. More and more of performance at an elite level is achieved through technical and psychological coaching approaches. With the drive to lift national levels of performance, with immense amounts of money paying off with countries such as the UK achieving unprecedented levels of success compared to its population. There are distinct advantages to psychological coaching which are paying off. However, this success is only on the back of huge efforts with massive beurocracies. Where do individuals wanting to improve their own performance as they approach elite level turn to to access this type of support? Well the answer is a combination of physical coaching, technique coaching, but also in accessing the benefits which a Psychological Performance coach can offer using coaching techniques from the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Each of us has a preferred manner of representing our experience to ourselves. Conventional thinking categorises this as visual, auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory representations. Add to this the vestibular system (Balance and three dimensional location and orientation) and you have basis of an understanding of how an athlete represents their performance to themselves. Each performance will consist of a combination of these known as a strategy. Understanding that each person has their own combination of representational systems and individual strategies for every aspect of their performance gives the coach and athlete a constructive framework in which to work. The Majority of performers will not have recognised their own processing and representational systems until it is pointed out to them. It is important to test for these representational systems as each person has their own way of representing their own performance. I worked wit an elite dancer, I assumed, wrongly, that she would represent her performance would be kinaesthetic and possibly visual. When I modelled her I learned that this was not the case. She had no kinaesthetic, visual, or auditory dialogue representations of her performance at all. Puzzled, I challenged this and she nervously confessed that each move had an internal abstract noise which she could play back to reproduce movement. I would now suspect that there was a vestibular representation as well although I was not able to elicit this at the time. Understand your own representational systems and you can take control of them and adjust them to suit your own performance.
All representations are subject to variation I terms of sub-modalities:- colour to black and white for example. Adjusting personal representations has a direct impact on performance, as well as beliefs about performance.
State is crucial to learning and performance. State is the relationship between behaviour, performance, breathing, feelings, and thoughts. They are all linked, change one and the others change with them. Awareness of state gives you choice over your performance.
This is something which I would assume mindfulness for athletes do naturally but I have learned not to assume. Tapping into a persons representational systems, gives access to learning new performances internally. You might call this creative visualisation but NLP teaches us that visualisation alone will be less effective tan utilising a persons own representational systems, association and dissociation in a variety of flexible patterns tailored to the athlete. In this way internal rehearsal can be much, much more effective than visualisation alone. Once installed this pattern, enables mindfulness training for athletes to rehearse and create new performance in any context in preparation for competitive performance.
Many athletes have patterns of problematic performance that are linked to internal representations of performance. A golfer, for example may have a repeated experience of playing a particular shot badly at a particular hole. What the Swish Pattern enables the golfer to do is to replace the negative representation with a positive one. As they represent the poor performance to themselves they use this as a trigger to elicit a representation of a positive performance instead. Once installed this pattern becomes automatic very quickly - with the original trigger for poor performance now the trigger for a representation and now an expectation of excellent performance. In the same way which specific aspects of performance can be switched from positive to negative - other contexts locations or even competitors can be easily reprogrammed to be triggers for excellence.
Every sports man or woman has a set of values and beliefs which operate at an unconscious level driving choices, actions and motivation. NLP Coaches are able to elicit a persons values hierarchy and enable them to reconsider both values and mindfulness sport performance enhancement in the light of sporting goals and aspirations. One value that can be surprisingly absent is that of practice! Bring this to the attention of the client and the coach is able to lead them to a new understanding of their relationship with their sport.