When we hear about mental health and wellbeing, we often think about performers with poor psychological functioning and behaviours, which are troublesome or destructive to self and others. In this article, I’d like to suggest an entirely different perspective on mental health:
What if, all human beings possess an innate divine gift of psychological health, inner resilience and well-being that can never be lost, or damaged?
What if, by accessing this natural resource, you could expand your capacity for insight and deep realisations about how you’re using your mind to navigate your career path and life?
As the former National Coach for Scotland (Netball), I notice that organisations generally provide psychological support at either end of the performance spectrum. There are people at the top in elite and professional sporting roles searching for marginal gains, and the competitive edge of consistency under pressure and there are performers who fall into harm’s way and suffer from eating disorders, anxiety, anger, depression, fatigue, and addiction. But what of the thousands of performers involved in sport in the middle, the athletes and coaches/managers, who appear to be progressing and developing well and who seem to be coping with the demands of the modern game – how do we support and nurture their inspirations?
Do you remember back in the 1960s when the predominant training regime in elite team sports was mainly of technical and tactical? It was the time before physical conditioning. If you were a strength and conditioning coach, you were undoubtedly out of work!
I was talking to my mentor, Dr George Pransky and he tells me the story of Arnold Jacob Red Auerbach, the coach of the Boston Celtics, who operated as some would say, ahead of his time. Red Auerbach followed an insight about the future game of NBA basketball; he dared to tread on unchartered territory.
The secret was simple, Red Auerbach, was one of the first coaches to recognise a piece of the game, the fast break, that required a special type of fitness, which wasn’t attainable from their regular training program.
His players were some of the first to clean up their physical bodies, eliminate the use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes and focus on a new type of fitness training, which has now evolved as physical conditioning!
Red Auerbach was a pioneer, redefining basketball as a game dominated by team play and for introducing the fast break, a potent offensive weapon. He would force opponents to take low percentage shots from farther distances, (there was no three-point arc at the time), for misses to be grabbed by rebounding specialists and passed to elite fast-break distributors, who would either pass or sprint down for an easy slam dunk or layup.
Red’s inspiration and love for the game, led him to go where no one had ever gone before, he drafted players from far and wide, who could put the team before individual performances. He also firmly believed in breaking down colour barriers in the NBA.
The Boston Celtics were renowned for being the best-conditioned and toughest team in the NBA. It was highly noticeable that the Celtics closeout games with an envious freshness, often showing no signs of tired legs on the jump shots, or lack of speed and power through the court. Their sharp awareness, concentration and accuracy on the fast break, their trademark, in the finishing stages of games became an annoying distraction for all opponents.
The Celtics went on to dominate a dynasty that garnered 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. The streak of 8 consecutive championships is the longest streak of consecutive championships in US professional sports history.
So what does this have to do with mental health and your performance in life?
It seems to me that back in the 1960s, physical strength and power was a unique and special ‘add-on’ that progressive coaches adopted for the competitive edge. In time, of course, history tells us that strength and conditioning, being an athlete, became a core fundamental requirement of all elite performance programs.
What if, we now have the technology for so-called ‘psychological freedom’ available to everyone involved in sport, not just specific groups at either end of the performance spectrum?
What if sportspeople at all levels no longer had to suffer times feeling trapped, not enough, and unappreciated but experience new elevated levels of contentment and confidence, no matter what the circumstances and environment?
Let’s look into the future, say 2030?
- Will organisations enjoy a sustainable workforce from diverse backgrounds, no longer needing to shuffle just a few applicants for sporting positions but receive a glut of people, willing to step up, unafraid, ready to be creative and make a difference in the world.
- Can you imagine personnel in powerful, influential roles in the world of the elite and professional sport concerned more about what’s going on in the minds of their athletes/coaches than in their bodies?
- Will you see performance development programs designed around how sportspeople understand how they use their minds, rather than sports science dominated by performance analysis and what we can do with our physicality?
- Is it feasible that, an understanding of the state of mind or levels of consciousness will be the core fundamental performance variable at the base of all sport training programs and no longer an ‘add-on’ for the limited few?
- Will current behavioural based disciplinary policies become redundant, regarded as ineffective and useless to improve/impact emotional and physical outbursts?
All of these qualities are most definitely possible, but it will take people of influence in the field of elite and professional sport, to look deeper beyond what you already know from the intellect, memory or imagination to the unknown.
Just as Red Auerbach did in the ’60s; now is a great time to be a pioneer in the field of elite and professional sport and breakthrough another boundary to new horizons of psychological health.
If you are curious about what I am pointing you towards, get in touch and we’ll arrange a time to speak.
(The foundation for my work is based on the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought as discovered by the late Sydney Banks – Philosopher and Author – 1931 -2009).
Copyright © 2020 Class Performance –Excellence Within – All rights reserved.