Is it Business as Usual for Berahino?

It was during the FA Cup third round between West Bromwich and Gateshead when Albion’s Saido Berahino scored four goals in a 7-0 win.

It would be fairly common to see a player celebrate after scoring a goal in football, and in varying degrees and styles – falling to the knees, sprinting up to supporters, punching the air. The entire team is catching and jumping all over him.

On this occasion, Berahino showed little or no celebration after scoring each of his four goals.

As I watched the replay, I felt a deep sense of connection and understanding.

Let me explain:

Here’s a quick look at Berahino’s goals and the team’s response to each of them:

The media appeared puzzled by Berahino’s lack of celebrations and suggested that he is subdued despite his impressive performance.

I understand this might look a bit odd and worthy of some discussion. Culturally, in a sport, we get so used to specific behaviours that when an athlete breaks the norm, we’re intrigued and drawn off track into the ‘what’s up with him’, mindset.

I haven’t spoken to Berahino, so have no official idea of Berahino’s ‘state of mind’, another way of saying this would be, the way he sees the world, or how life is playing out for him, his perspective. However, it seems to me, in this match, he is deeply connected to that special quiet place inside, we often refer to as ‘the Performance Zone State’.

Berahino appears relaxed; his performance effortless as he displays precision timing and accuracy. His perceptual capacity as he interchanges with the ball, players and space, is the ultimate in synergy, not once but repeatedly.

Could Berahino have produced this type of consistent highly skilled performance IF he had responded in the ‘normal’ way – maybe, maybe not?

It’s an interesting question – here we can see the extraordinary resolve in an athlete, he’s calm and clear-minded. The entire team connects with his ‘business as usual’ approach and collectively produces impressive performance and an outstanding result for West Bromwich.

When you connect to your true self, with a clear unconditioned mind and not absorbed by your mind (ego – we’ve all got one) you access the space within, your innate resilience, peace of mind and well-being.  There’s an ease in your capacity to transfer thousands of training hours to the field or court.

I love seeing this beautiful connection in an athlete. For me, this response from Berahino is entirely ‘natural’, human beings designed to perform. With nothing on your mind, you get to play, full out and fearless, with complete freedom to explore and create opportunities.

It’s like watching a baby learning to walk, he/she takes off, no judgment, expectation, or beliefs that achieving the goal of getting to the coffee table, makes them a good or bad baby!

World-class players regularly engage in quality thinking.  Consider these statements from athletes and the impact on their psychological functioning (state of mind) – quite healthy and productive, I’d say:

  • It’s what I train to do, no need to make a big fuss.
  • I’m not surprised when I score goals; I’m just reproducing my skills.
  • Scoring goals is just a skill, no more or less important than other activities like defending or attacking.
  • I love playing this game, something else seems to take over, and I expect to score – its no big deal.
  • My touch is the final part of great teamwork; I’m just doing my job.
  • The game is won and lost by scoring goals, but it’s just part of the game.

Berahino appears to be in a safe and secure place during the match; it seems he’s experiencing the joy and spirit of playing football.

Such a powerful performance mindset yet completely misunderstood and absent from most performance-training programmes.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that players avoid celebrating their performance and successes. I’m alluding to the fact that when a player is performing from a clear mind, it won’t make sense to him to display distracting behaviours, positive or negative. His wisdom and instinct would be running the show, not his personal contaminated or conditioned mind (thinking).

As coaches and managers, you’ll be keen for your players to spend maximum amounts of time during the match in an ‘optimal functioning state’ – this makes all the difference.

Consider this list of unproductive thinking and an example of an athlete’s temporary low state of mind:

  • My coach spends hours in training with me. I’ve just got to get this right and finish it off.
  • I’ve not scored in a while; I’m hoping to produce the goods in this match.
  • I play at the front; this is what I do, I need to do my job; the team relies on me to score.
  • It’s weird, I’m fine when I play for, but when I put on that shirt for my country everything changes, I feel tremendous responsibility and pressure.
  • We defend the game brilliantly, but if you can’t score, you can’t win; we have to put the ball in the net.
  • I want to perform well, I know I can, and it’s so frustrating!

Most performance sports coaches, (myself included for nearly 20 years), would want to deal with the unhelpful, insecure thinking believing it to be in the way of an athletes best performance.  You might use techniques, practices and strategies that make sense to you, to help create a more productive mindset in your athletes, ie re-framing, positive self-talk, affirmations, values and visualisation.

Mental skills techniques can appear to be effective in the short term, but this type of ‘application’ based learning fails to address how the mind works. Worse still, it can thwart an athlete’s capacity for sustainable high performance by elevating head noise levels, the complete opposite of a quiet mind.

Getting curious – let’s do some reflective work together if you’re open to it:

Ever noticed:

  • How often your mood and perspective change about the very same thing during the day, or even a match!
  • The temporary impact of deliberately changing your thoughts to be more positive – how long does it last?
  • Why is it some athletes with similar skill levels thrive in every circumstance and others can barely cope?
  • Why do athletes fail to elevate their skill level or performances despite their advantageous physicality?

It’s fascinating and immensely powerful to understand what’s really behind our behaviours and actions in sport and life.

Here’s a truth for all human beings, no exceptions:

We do not behave, speak, or feel in response to an outside circumstance; it just looks that way.

The human being has no mechanism to experience directly, anything on the outside of us, whether it’s a goal scored, a poor officials decision, an aggressive crowd, or a pending contract.  

We only ever experience our thoughts and feelings (internal) at the moment.

Our ‘state of mind’ is not a constant; it is forever changing as we engage in a whole range of different Thoughts. Why then, as performance coaches do we continually try to deal with behaviours or try to improve an athlete’s temporary thinking? Wouldn’t it make more sense to look in the direction of understanding the fluid nature of Thought, and how it creates our separate transient realities?

Athletes get so caught up in believing that achievements will give them the joy and happiness they desire when in truth, outside factors have nothing to do with our peace of mind, happiness, joy and well-being.

Personally, nowadays, it doesn’t make sense to me as a high-performance coach to tell another human being how to behave, respond or perform. We all have access to an incredible resource, the spiritual universal intelligence behind all life.

I’m still in awe of how two tiny cells grow and develop into a human being – now that’s some intelligence and way beyond my intellect!

Understanding the nature of the human experience gives us insight into who and what we are as human beings and explains how and why we behave in particular ways – worth knowing, I’d say so!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If this resonates with you, get in touch, and we’ll arrange a time to speak. You’re only ever one thought away from fresh new inspiration!

I wish you the clarity to perform at your best.

Love Denise


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