Behind the scenes & Beyond the norms!

I’ve just returned from the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s; it was a phenomenal, carnival experience and one I imagine akin to the party atmosphere expected at the Olympics in RIO later in the year. 

As I watched the games, however, I got reticent, as if I was inside the minds of the players. As a high-performance specialist, it is fascinating to observe the human responses, especially the communication and connection between players at various stages of the game:

  • Kick-off – both teams during the first 60 seconds.
  • Transition – when a team gains or loses possession
  • Momentum – when a team has possession for a while and gains ground
  • Power – when players accelerate using superb skill, speed and strength
  • Scoring – the point immediately after a team succeeds and scores.
  • Mistakes – the opposition score points against you
  • 1st half v 2nd half  – down or up, by a lot or by a little.
  • Finals – the last game of the competition for silverware or not!

Fiji, won the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s, as they did last year in 2015, but had a somewhat awkward and slow start on day one, defeating Canada by only two points 19-17, and in the quarterfinals stealing the game from Kenya in the dying seconds 12-10.  At no point, however, did I get a sense that Fiji wouldn’t be in the final.  As a group of athletes they appeared to leverage what we might call a sixth sense; a deep love and respect for themselves as human beings and for the game that has given them so much in life!

At the heart of elite performance in sport, we can see this human capacity to synchronize our life’s energy; work in harmony in every respect, both physically and mentally. It is the point when individuals merge to create a team performance, be in exactly the right space and execute with precision timing, where players no longer act or stand-alone but unite and perform as One!

The sheer power and accuracy of skill during the Rugby 7’s was simply breathtaking.  At times, the moves and responses were so magical that for sure something else other than the learned performance components of physical, technical, tactical, and mental/emotional was going on!!

Standing pitchside, I could see and sense beyond the form of concentration, communication and decision making to players performing from instinct and intuition with a superior capacity for anticipation and cue detection. At these times, you touch the space out of which life manifests; human-made restrictions and limitations are lifted; the aperture opens, and the performance is born – inside you play ahead of the game, it’s as if, you step into the unknown, but with a real sense of knowing?

This level of clarity of mind is every coach’s dream, and now we have the technology to teach this to sportspeople, it’s about understanding there is a human operating system. You can go beyond what you already know intellectually and discover an entirely new dimension/realm.  You can experience a higher level of consciousness such that your perspective and the world you see entirely transforms.

Human beings are designed to experience psychological freedom; you can perform without being troubled by all the noise of, can I, should we, which direction, what skill, when to, is he going to, what if – it’s simply a question of understanding the human experience on a Principle level.

When extraneous head noise doesn’t seem to matter, you cross the imaginery line into the spiritual, the space of pure potential, and the infinite source of wisdom, love and insight. The ground you stand on is one of innate resilience and well-being; you’re secure in your own skin, you know you have everything you need in the moment, at a soul level you feel perfectly whole, you are free to be present, simply put, you are free to play!

During a competition, players and coaches experience a huge range of the human condition:

1.                Completely lost, caught up and distracted by personal thoughts resulting in experiences of anger, frustration, disappointment, and overwhelm – this leads to responses; bookings, penalties, inconsistencies, mistakes, and general under achievement.

2.                Apparent loss of focus and concentration then fighting to apply coping strategies to control negative thoughts and feelings – positive self-talk, motivational re-grouping, and affirmations. Teams that are pre-occupied using mental skills techniques to get clear appear dis-jointed, display poor timing, lack rhythm, and suffer missed opportunities.

Through to the ultimate ‘state of mind’ in high performance sport:

3.                Clear-minded, secure and wise in the moment, highly energised connected to your innate mental health and confidence as a human being, in flow, psychologically free, ready and willing to embrace every dynamic of the sport – performances seem effortless, breath-taking, accurate, creative and respectful.

At the Hong Kong 7’s, it was intriguing to see the players human-ness, in and out of various conscious states throughout each game.  This is where the juice is and it is not an intellectual understanding.  You must go deeper, beyond the form into the formless, into our so-called spiritual and psychological nature to experience this highly evolved state of being.

Key areas of performance which trouble coaches is how players respond to certain circumstances eg; the draw, selections, first round losses, media, higher ranked teams, venues and the fans to name a few!

As a result, performance programmes are filled with components to build healthy relationships, heighten awareness and improve communications and connections. These valuable resources aim to help players be more resilient, compassionate, and clear-minded, yet all these qualities are natural to being a human!!

Are you innocently missing the simplicity within all the complexity of modern day sport?

Could this be thwarting your teams’ capacity for consistency and greatness?

Every human being works in the same way; there is an operating system in place, which is both practical and logical yet remarkable and ingenious at the same time. Intellectually, human beings cannot fully understand it; you must intuit it and sense it.  

As I have discovered these past three years since leaving my post as National Coach for Scotland (Netball), players are never actually responding to circumstances, only ever their thinking about it.

When a person sees their psychological system in action, the fact that experiences come and go, it has the impact of holding beliefs and perspectives lightly, not something concrete to master! Mental activity can be understood such that distractions dissolve, leaving nothing to overcome.

Now that’s worth a second glance, don’t you think?

Warm wishes