<![CDATA[performancepsychology.ie - Blogs]]>Tue, 21 Jan 2020 08:31:43 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Parenting  in  sport -  Let's  Do  it  right!]]>Mon, 04 Nov 2019 21:52:43 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/parenting-in-sport-lets-do-it-rightThis is what we have too often.
This is why the pros played as kids!
This is why the kids play!
and this is what they want from their parents!
Let The Kids Play
He stands there in his jersey,
fulfilling all his dreams,
Representing club and family,
and he is on the team.

The ball thrown in, the game is on,
there is movement all around,
some parents shouting frantically,
​as the ball’s played up and down.

The game is moving quickly,
the boy giving his all,
He is moving into spaces,
but can’t get on the ball,

He stays running and tackling,
he is trying very hard,
Somehow, the ball never falls his way,
for all his running yards
 
Eventually it comes his way,
he sees it coming in.
He’s on his own, a perfect chance,
to score a goal and win.

Oh no, he mis-controls the ball,
it’s now gone from his grasp.
Parents groaning, some giving out
that he's has missed a great goal chance
 
One man pipes up and calls him out,
singles the boy out from the crowd,
“Come on to hell Coach, take him off”,
he hollers from the side.

The boy’s heart sinks, he has done his best,
he thought he was doing well.
Why is this man being so unkind,
he’s just here to play with friends.
 
It’s only a game to be enjoyed,
who cares who wins in the end?
He’s only a kid, just turned ten
and playing under twelve.

Sport, he thinks shouldn’t feel like this,
he plays it just for fun,
But when adults grab a hold of it,
sometimes this is all undone.
 
So just let them play and let them fly,
and let them just enjoy.
Kid’s sport is not for adult's needs,
​for we have had our time!
                                                                                 Keith Begley


​Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Sport Ireland Institute under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

​https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
]]>
<![CDATA[Parenting  In  Sport - Awareness  and  Responsibilities]]>Tue, 29 Oct 2019 19:39:21 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/parenting-in-sport-awareness-and-responsibilities
Evidence based report's suggest that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are obese with levels of growth estimated at about 1% per annum. It indicates a drastic rise from 1993 levels, when just 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women reported to be obese. Scarily, huge volumes of 4-5 year old children (24.5%) in Britain (NHS) reported to be obese in 2008. This does not account for the massive population of children that are just overweight, not yet obese but will be by the time they reach adulthood. If the growth rate continues at the present pace, over 50% of people in these countries will be obese by 2050. 
Simultaneously, there is a huge increase in drop out rate from sport among adolescents. According to recent studies, 45% of ten year old boys participate in sports. By the age of eighteen only 26% of them stay active. An overview of youth sports carried out in the USA showed that dropout is well under way at age ten and peaks at 14-15. Similar results were found across a range of ten different sports. 

Sport England research suggests that in all sports, almost half as many 16 – 24 year old women take part in sport as men of the same age while only 15% of girls aged 15 in the UK meet recommended daily physical activity levels. The research points out that those  who don't drop out of sport say they feel a powerful sense of belonging and list friends, fun and socialisation factor, team spirit, coach and parental support as additional reasons to stay involved in sport.

Some of the reasons given for dropout from sport included
  • Loss of interest,
  • Lack of fun, enjoyment and playing opportunities
  • Failure to learn new skills
  • Too much pressure
  • Coach was a poor teacher
  • Too much time involved
  • Coach played favourites
  • Over emphasis on winning.

Bearing all of the aforementioned in mind, physical activity, sport and exercise is increasingly important and is emphasised by Twisk et al (1997), who found that long-term exposure to daily physical activity was inversely related to body fatness. Essentially, outdoor fun and games, physical activity and sport offers a lot more than enjoyment value for children given it's potential impact on a nations health. 

As such, the child’s early experience in sport is critical for their ongoing development and retention in physical activity and sport involvement. If the experience is positive, the child will be more likely to continue participating. If the experience is overly negative, the child may drop out and lose interest in the sport or physical activity. 

Therefore, the importance of the role of the parent in helping and facilitating their child's involvement in sport cannot be under-emphasised. It is crucial for both the child's self development and health development that they are supported appropriately so that they continue their involvement in sporting activity for as long as possible. Given the nature of the reduction in out-door free play, a parent's role in sport promotion is now more important than ever. 

However, many parent's often get overly pushy and competitive when it comes to their child's involvement - so much so that some even have to be restrained from remonstrating with referees and sometimes, even their own children, at underage matches. Recently, after some significant incidents at underage soccer matches in Ireland, the head of the football referees association (soccer) said on national radio, that they were struggling to hold on to referees for underage games, such is the level of abuse that some are subjected to on Saturday mornings.

Yet international best practice suggests young players learn more, and perform better, when parents aren’t there at all. Rightly or wrongly, many elite clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea included, ban parents from games until their mid-teens to prevent against this.

Recent initiatives such as "Silent Sideline Weekends" have been tried to try and reduce levels of abuse and create awareness of the value of affording the children the space to freely express themselves on the pitch. The concept has been brought in to replicate similar initiatives in the US and the UK. Parent's screaming and shouting only invades a child’s playtime as adults look to re-live their youth vicariously through their children. A children’s pitch is essentially a playground and sometimes, if adults acted in a similar way in a playground, the guards (police) could be called. The idea with the silent sideline weekend is just to let the kids play, to let them make decisions and mistakes by themselves without parents shouting at them.

Coaches also regularly report incidents of abuse in their direction as parents of their teams seek to remonstrate with them over their selection policies (good bad or indifferent) and this can also cause needless trouble along the Saturday morning sidelines!  
So let's learn from the experts - the kids themselves. Let's see what it is that they want from their sport and us (the parents), as supporters of them in their sport. Let's create awareness of this issue by talking about it, so that they (our children) can enjoy their sport for the right reasons and fulfill their potential in their chosen sports, whatever they may be!

​The following is a recent video developed by the Arsenal academy and is informed by the actual thoughts of young academy players!
Unleash Your Potential 
Keith Begley is an accredited performance psychologist with the Sport Ireland Institute.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Contact
Let the Kids Play
He stands there in his jersey,
fulfilling all his dreams,
Representing club and family,
and he is on the team.

The ball thrown in, the game is on,
there is movement all around,
some parents shouting frantically,
​as the ball’s played up and down.

The game is moving quickly,
the boy giving his all,
He is moving into spaces,
but can’t get on the ball,

He stays running and tackling,
he is trying very hard,
Somehow, the ball never falls his way,
for all his running yards
 
Eventually it comes his way,
he sees it coming in.
He’s on his own, a perfect chance,
to score a goal and win.

Oh no, he mis-controls the ball,
it’s now gone from his grasp.
Parents groaning, some giving out
that he's has missed a great goal chance
 
One man pipes up and calls him out,
singles the boy out from the crowd,
“Come on to hell Coach, take him off”,
he hollers from the side.

The boy’s heart sinks, he has done his best,
he thought he was doing well.
Why is this man being so unkind,
he’s just here to play with friends.
 
It’s only a game to be enjoyed,
who cares who wins in the end?
He’s only a kid, just turned ten
and playing under twelve.

Sport, he thinks shouldn’t feel like this,
he plays it just for fun,
But when adults grab a hold of it,
sometimes this is all undone.
 
So just let them play and let them fly,
and let them just enjoy.
Kid’s sport is not for adult's needs,
​for we have had our time!
                                                                                 Keith Begley
]]>
<![CDATA[Effective  Leadership - Beyond  the  Sports  field]]>Tue, 16 Jul 2019 21:55:28 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/effective-leadership-beyond-the-sports-field
Sharon was recently overlooked for promotion in her job after 20 years service. During that time she had taken on numerous extra responsibilities, from voluntary to leadership roles, in a company that is widely regarded among its staff, to be a toxic work environment. When a new employee with limited experience joined the company and was offered promotion after a very short spell, there was a strong sense of revolt among the staff. While the new employee was very nice and obliging, the sense of injustice among the staff towards Sharon was palpable. The new employee had been promoted after developing a strong personal relationship with one of the VPs and had other links within the company. For Sharon, this was the last straw and she felt she had to resign. It was hard for her to leave the company she had shown such loyalty to, but the minute she left, she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. The company recruitment process was rotten from top to bottom.
I read this story recently in the business pages of a newspaper. It is reminiscent of so many people's experiences in work organizations globally. Potentially great employees, who come into organizations with an inspired heart and a spark in their eyes ready to make a difference, get uninspired and demotivated when they soon realise, their work-places are not a good environment for anyone, as people with good ideas, experience and know how are shunned and pushed aside while politicising ar*e-kissers with significantly less experience get parachuted into leadership positions.

In toxic work environments, a leader will often surround themselves with people that they can control in middle management, a mechanism to help them control the larger group. Those strategically selected for promotion often lack the necessary leadership capacity and skills. This culture of control sees that once the middle leaders are controlled and dance to the party tune, then all will fall into place for the leader to sit back.
 
Unfortunately, when companies promote people into management positions without the necessary skills, organisations end up with a host of "bosses" and few real leaders. According to Liz Ryan of Forbes Magazine, "weak employees get promoted to lofty positions in fear-based organizations because they are non-threatening to the leaders. Non-threatening is the best thing you can be in a toxic environment. It’s the principal job requirement”.
 ​Fear Based Leadership
Where such leadership exists, it is common for managers to create a culture of fear and coercive control to get their people to work. Such leaders operate in a fear inducing, authoritive climate that makes the work environment an uncomfortable and threatening place for many. Such an environment can induce feelings of resentment and anxiety among the working community, driven by an outdated dictatorial, autocratic, controlling and negative leadership style.
 
Here, the leader promotes hard working but weak candidates (lets call them a "subordinate power cliques" or "Noddies" for now – they never say no!) so that they can coerce  them towards their manner of thought, irrespective of the best interests of the group or work environment. The subordinates are generally insecure in their own thoughts and too weak to offer their true opinion. They have a tendency to just "go along with the boss" and are rewarded over time for doing so - often through further promotion, financially or otherwise!  

Here, an element of "cronyism" is fostered by the leader, resulting in poor work relations and weak staff morale. Some "Noddies" or subordinates may be promoted because they know little about management and are incapable of ever seeing through the underhand manner of the manager. In essence, they are promoted to these positions because they are either interested in feathering their own nest, are too naive to see through underhand politics or too weak to stand up for what is right and just on behalf of those mistreated.

​According to Liz Ryan, a fearful manager’s greatest fear is not that the business might fail, but that somebody working near them might actually challenge them. An autocratic, controlling manager’s ego is even stronger than the fear of business failure. In a wider topic of discussion, their thought process is similar to that of former world leading dictators that felt they were invincible (ie: Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Kim Jung Un etc), albeit at a less life changing level. Recent research has even shown that many leaders of high powered organisations have shown to display psychopathic characteristics where they are more self absorbed with their own ego and control than they are concerned for the good of the group. 

Managers in such environments are often known to engage in various types of underhand behaviour; ie: bullying, undermining gossip, bad-mouthing or negatively influencing worker's perceptions of those the leader may see as a threat to their power. As new recruits are added to the roster, they may also be encouraged to avoid or ignore anyone the manager perceives as a threat to their authority. More calculating leaders may even recruit morally weak employees from within their subordinate power clique to do the same, allowing leaders to exert control, sideline and undermine any perceived threat to their authority.



At it's best, many followers operating in this culture, work towards "getting in" with the "subordinate power clique" while others operating under fear, routinely engage with avoidance tactics of their boss - it just makes their lives easier. Many involved in "subordinate power cliques" tend to only concern themselves with their own roles, their own promotion and their own well-being, while the mis-treatment of others, whom they are partially responsible for as middle leaders, is not important to them. Other subordinates may even be used to do their “leader’s” dirty work - ie: deliver messages that leaders don't want to be seen to deliver, to coerce or induce fear in front line employees.  The rest (the Noddies) are often just too naive to see the bigger picture. Once they get looked after, everything is fine, while contrived nepotism may often occur in the recruitment of new employees. After a period of time, employees just accept this type of behavior as normal. They become institutionalized within the organization, often believing that every company has a similar kind of management or culture.
 
This controlling style is an aspect of leadership that contradicts all evidence of best practice as research suggests that autocratic dis-empowering leadership may work in the immediate short term (coercing and controlling inexperienced recruits into line) but the quality of work will be average at best and it is never sustainable in the long run.


According to Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Scientist, it is the rite of passage in many organizations to promote someone based on their performance at a totally unrelated job. So if you are good at front line tasks; sales for example or any number of specialties – and stay around long enough, the next step in your progression is to be promoted to a managerial role.

However, the skill-set that makes someone successful in front-line non-management roles are rarely the same ones that will make them excel as a manager or leader. In fact, research shows that new managers are usually promoted without the skills needed to lead effectively and 47% of companies do not have a new supervisor training program in place to help them bridge the gap according to Ken Blanchard. Autocratic, coercive power mongering leaders prey on that leadership knowledge deficit in newly promoted candidates to mould the environment and culture in their favour to where they have full control.

​It can be hard for such employees to see their fear when they are in the middle of it according to Liz, but when you’re out of that toxic environment, you soon realize how toxic that environment was and how much the management of the organization contributed to the creation of that environment.
True Leaders don't create followers.
​They create leaders!
Employees in a fear based climate become less interested in the success of the company, the quality of the product or service, or the customer experience as the company often represents nothing but resentment for them. In these instances, employees become more concerned with keeping their jobs and avoiding contact with boss. The effect of such tactics certainly affects employee well-being and engagement and in certain circumstances, depending on nature of role of employee, the customer experience. When employees are stressed and fearful, their dissatisfaction can potentially seep into conversations with clients, and their frustrations with their’ organization’s culture may be voiced as a red flag to potential employees. 


As we all know, there is a cost to poor leadership in any organisation! Invariably, this occurs through high staff turnover, resulting in costs accumulated through new staff training, loss of expertise and reduction in output of front line people. The cost can also occur as an asset loss (people capital), as strong experienced staff with positive customer relations and know how, are needlessly disenfranchised and leave the organisation. 

From an employee perspective, poor leadership can have more serious personal costs. It can cause mental or physical health issues due to work related stress, depression and or anxiety. In fact, research has shown employee days lost due to mental ill-health costs approximately 500 million euro in revenue per annum in Ireland. An even bigger cost is that of "presenteeism"; a state of being present at work but disengaged due to poor leadership. In fact, research has shown "presenteeism" to cost up to 3.5 billion euro annually to businesses in Ireland.
 
Fear, threats and bullying behavior has no place in management and leadership. If anyone does use fear as a strategy to increase output or force higher standards, then they know little about leadership and have no place managing or leading anyone! Fear dis-empowers and turns employees’ attention inward and into a high stress state.

The opposite type of leadership is empowering, creating an environment of creativity, sustainable progress and company growth where people are happy to be open, expressive and be themselves. Here, an effective leader will surround himself with people who know more than they do and are willing listeners. They tend to be open, honest and fair and have little or nothing to hide in the manner in which they conduct themselves in their roles as leaders. They mostly look to enhance the skill-set of the leadership team using a transformative, empowering leadership style that enables creativity in new leaders to expand the leadership capacity of the organization. Here, real true leaders are developed and given autonomy to empower those around them for an altogether different and positive working environment., 

In Sharon's case, it turned out that the boss and so-called "Leader" was politicising with the interview panels, running Sharon down to the interview panel before she attended for interview while bigging up the candidates he wanted simultaneously ie; the successful candidates before they ever entered for interview. He was also illegally present at the determination of successful candidates to ensure that she, among others were held back from progressing in their careers. He brought his gerrymandering to new levels when he persuaded one of his subordinate power clique to replicate this in phone calls to interview panelists prior to the day of interview itself.

All was eventually exposed, as some within the interview room were more loyal to justice and equality than the underhand ways of the so called leader. When the company's board of management realised the level that he went to ensure that she was held back, his position and the positions of other directors became untenable, and they were stood down by company management in shame. Nobody could believe the depth of his gerrymandering ways, while everybody was happy and relieved that he was sacked. Like all corrupt, dirty dynasties and power mongers with dirty secrets (Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Rodovan Karadzic, John Delaney's FAI, Pat Hickey's OCI), it all came out in the wash!


So don’t settle for a toxic, fear-based organisation; it’s not good for your professional development, your health or your energy. Besides, there are many better options out there, so make that jump to change your life. If you are not happy in your environment, change your environment because we owe it to ourselves to live happy, healthy lives.


​               "People don't often leave jobs. They leave toxic work cultures" 
"Unleash Your Potential"
Keith Begley is an Irish based performance psychologist, accredited with Sport Ireland Institute.

​Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeithBegley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Social  Media,  Gaming  and  youth  mental  Health]]>Tue, 04 Jun 2019 20:05:58 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/social-media-gaming-and-youth-mental-health
Poor mental health is a huge issue among young people across Ireland and at the extreme end of this continuum; we continue to lose too many young people to suicide on a weekly basis – often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. 

While the problem of suicide is vast, this is the end point of a continuum that often begins with stress, anxiety and depression. In young people, these symptoms and presentations are increasing exponentially and this is something that should concern us all. In my opinion, it has reached epidemic proportions with huge proportions of young people feeling inadequate and indulging in self harm. The statistics will support my view.
Recently, a “Young Lives in Ireland” study – a school-based study of mental health and suicide prevention within 17 mainstream schools in Cork and Kerry was carried out by the National Suicide Research Foundation. The study – carried out on over 1,000 children with an average age of 13 – 16 found that 14% of teenagers had depressive symptoms, 24% had anxiety and up to 20% had attempted self-harm.

Scarily, it stated that the rate of attempted suicide among school-age teenagers could be as high as one child per class with findings suggesting that up to 7% of participants having suicidal thoughts. Significantly, in this study, 4% had attempted suicide.

This is not an isolated study and in 2012, similar figures were found by Dr Barbara Dooley of UCD in the “My World Survey” conducted with Irish students between 12 and 25. Here it was found also that 21% had depression and or anxiety and that the suicidal attempt rate was higher at 7%. This suggests that the rate of suicide increases as young people progress through their teens and into their early twenties.

In my current role, I regularly see the pain and anguish this is having on families’. Like many front line workers on too many occasions, I have met with parents distraught with worry over their teenage children’s unhappiness, self harm, suicidal ideation and low self worth while the mental health services are creaking at the seams!

The problem is complex but we must ask ourselves why it is occurring in such huge proportions.

​​Contributory Factors
As we are continually told, we have an obesity epidemic in Ireland and at current rates of growth, are forecast to be the worst in the world by 2030. At exactly the same time, the world has developed social media and young people all over the country are becoming addicted to their technology. No problem here you say? You could not be more wrong!

Comparatively on average, a youth today doesn’t move as much as one used to. Our society of convenience sees that they no longer have to. Communication with friends occurs through a different medium than previous – as social media facilitates communication between youths from the comfort of their own home. Where previously, “hanging out” involved some form of physical contact, effort and memory forming exertion; the development of Wifi, Skype, FaceTime, House-party, Snapchat and other social media communication apps facilitates young people to “hang out” with anyone from anywhere in the world from the comfort of their own bedroom with the click of a button.

Some platforms can even facilitate 3 or four in live screen conversation while Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram among others allow us to communicate with bigger numbers in both private and public conversations!

Video gamers can communicate with friends through the internet headsets from the comfort of their own homes. Worse still, children and adolescents anonymously send picture messages and text each other through social media apps such as Kik and Sarahah - a legal minefield for bullying that in extreme cases, requires laborious manual labour on the part of An Garda Siochana to sort out.

We can travel the world on our phone and meet who we want from the comfort of our own sofa and as a result, children and young people meet less to interact in fun, sweat inducing and memory forming activities or minor games like their predecessors. Social media in it's essence is isolating people from each other - so much so that some mental health professionals have even labeled it anti-social media!

In a recent conversation with youth mental health professionals from the Rutland Centre, I was informed of a new phenomenon of mobile phone / social media addiction / gaming where teenagers stay up most of the night to tend to “snap-chat streaks”, social media group interactions and gaming. With tens and even hundreds of people in some groups, the mobile phone doesn’t stop at night with many teenagers losing out on sleep.

As we all know, lack of sleep and poor sleep quality leaves people agitated and contributes to elevated levels of anxiety. Even those who do not comment have interrupted sleep through regular alerts and notifications. Social media and gaming devices also emit a blue light that has a different wavelength of Gama rays than regular light. Long exposure to this blue light results in restriction of the release of melatonin – a sleep inducing neuro-transmitter that is naturally released by the brain to help facilitate sleep. As a result, people who use social media or gaming devices late at night struggle to get the quality sleep they once got naturally, adding to levels of anxiety the next day.

The issue with gaming addiction  has become so prevalent that the World Health Organisation (WHO) have categorized it as a mental illness in the same way that they have categorized alcohol and gambling addiction.

These companies are very clever and have sought the expertise of the best psychologists in the world in making their product, games and apps addictive for young people. The more engagement they get, the higher the share price increasing profitability for their angel investors and creators. Who’d have ever thought that they could get young people addicted to sending blank messages to their friends over breakfast to increase their share price - in the way that maintenance of Snapchat “streaks” have become of central importance to young people? It is amazing that it has got to this level but the users are just pawns in a charade that is more about corporate profit than the well-being of it’s users.

Mental health professionals have also reported increases in volumes of separation anxiety when young people are “coming down” off their social media and gaming devices. How often do we see young people become uncontrollable demons as their parents try to “unwire” them from their gaming and social media devices. Some professionals have even suggested that the dopamine hits that young people are subjected to during their use of these devices are more addictive than cocaine.

The impact of technology has had a phenomenal effect on our social and physical landscape – notably, meaningful relationships, communication skills, energy levels, sleep patterns and our average daily release of a neuro-transmitter called serotonin.

 
Reduction in release of serotonin
A natural side effect of the increase of social media app and gaming use is a reduction in exercise participation and physical activity. The reduction of serotonin release (a natural good mood juice released in brain during physical activity) sees that young people do not ever feel as relaxed or as tired as we once did generally as a human race. What many don’t realise is that lack of serotonin release from the brain is one of the major causes of depression and anxiety. We need to move more to feel better!

The computerization of many physical tasks now sees the reduction of physical labour required around the home. The cutting of turf, felling of trees and chopping of wood is now replaced with the pushing of a button while a robot can now hoover the floor and cut the grass where we once sweated our Saturdays away behind our push lawn-mowers. The same can be said for washing of clothes and dinner ware as our convenience society and computerization of tasks takes hold.
The result is often that our young people rarely have the volume of chores we once had and very often fill this time behind some form of screen. Meanwhile, youth mental health services are creaking at the seams as they struggle to contend with the volume of young people – the pawns in the charade – who are struggling to cope as a result.
 
Keith Begley is an Irish based sport psychologist accredited with the Irish Institute of Sport.

​Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeithBegley

Contact
"Realise Your Potential"
]]>
<![CDATA[Tiger Woods - The  champion   is  back]]>Mon, 15 Apr 2019 21:01:00 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/tiger-woods-the-champion-is-back
In 1997, Earl Woods was there to greet his prodigal son when he finally fulfilled his dream to win the Augusta Masters. 22 years later and 14 years since his last, after much controversy in his personal life, a long hiatus from professional golf and four back operations when many thought he was past his best, he was there to win his 5th Masters - this time to be greeted by his son Charlie, daughter Sam and mother, Kultida. How the tide has turned.
After some good recent performances, the bookies odds had shortened on Woods. With a new chiseled look, he had shown himself to be getting back in shape to compete at the top level again but nobody foresaw what would happen at the Masters in 2019!

Francesco Molinari led on -13 heading into the last day of play ahead of Tony Finau on -11. There was a stacked field behind them however that included Tiger Woods among others. Woods picked up a few shots along the front 9 holes in the final round bringing him closer to the overnight leaders. However, Finau lost all sense of his rythm, dropping shots while overnight leader Molinari became tentative and followed with a series of pars.

So what happened Molinari? 
In the words of Tiger Woods, "it all flipped on 12, with Molinari making a mistake", going straight into the water.

It may be that he struggled to keep his composure under the mental strain of competition. Research has shown that when a golfer is nervous, they become more error prone doing exactly what they are specifically trying to avoid. Molinari most likely scanned the terrain and consciously thought – “keep it away from the water”.

When a golfer addresses a ball, they would often aim in a certain direction while being conscious not to miss either left or right, short or long due to relevant hazards - water, bunker or otherwise. In a non-pressurised situation, a skilled golfer would invariably succeed in executing what they wanted to do with the ball.

However, in a competitive game with high levels of pressure, the daunting task of avoiding the water can become too great (See article on dealing with pressure). Too often, the net result is that the golfer plays the ball to exactly where he was trying not to hit it. Since this is the thing he set out to not do, we call it the “ironic error”.

So what is happening?
When the brain seeks to make the body perform in a specific manner, it relies on two mental processes – an operating process and a monitoring process.

The operating process is responsible for identifying all the steps that will allow us to achieve a desired outcome. If you are going to hit a drive down the fairway, this might include taking a practice swing, picking out your exact target of where you want to hit it, setting your feet in desired spot in relation to ball, and executing the golf shot as desired. Simple, right?

Simultaneously, a monitoring process is subconsciously at work. This works like a  radar sweeping for information on what could go wrong. In relation to Molinari, that might include looking at the flag while thinking about avoiding the water. Once the monitoring process has identified these dangers, it informs the operating process to try harder to find key information that will help the athlete execute its desired outcome; ie chip onto green. Both processes work under one control system and operate together as part of a feedback loop.

The system normally works reasonably well and provides us with the effective mental control to do what we intend. It would mean that Molinari, playing under zero pressure will generally succeed in putting the ball accurately on the green beside the flag. However, in this instance the pressure was vast and the tension was such that Molinari struggled to execute a simple enough shot when under pressure.

Tiger Woods handling pressure
There was one man that could handle the pressure better than all the rest.  Tiger Woods was on a roll and the crowd were buzzing in anticipation like the good old days. He knew how to react and maintain his composure.   Afterwards in the Butler Cabin, Woods was asked what it was like out there and how he handled the cauldron of an atmosphere that developed when there was a lot of movement on the leader-board with a few holes to play.

​Woods said ​
"It all flipped on 12, Molinari made a mistake..........I was patient, kept good control of my emotions, my shots, my shot placement........There was an amazing buzz.......... meanwhile staying present and focused on what I am trying to do out there.............I just managed to plot my way around the golf course"  

On the par 5 hole 15, Woods was on the green in 2 shots, leaving an easy up and down for Birdie to take the lead for the first time sending the crowd into overdrive. The crowd erupted again on the par 3 16th hole. Woods hit an immaculate shot, spinning the ball into a 2 foot putt for birdie to take a 2 shot lead at -14. The noise that reverberated around the ground left some of the others awe-struck. Xander Schauffele, a contender on -12 stepped off a drive to regain his composure before hitting his shot, such was the level of the noise.

Woods was on a roll when all around him were failing to contend with the cauldron of an atmosphere that had developed on the final holes. Woods had been here before. He was equipped to deal with it all - the emotion, the thoughts, the fear, the required course management skills.  

With a two shot lead coming down the last, his decision making was outstanding. He said, he just had to "try to make 5 coming down 18". He held his nerve on the tee with a good drive. He kept his second shot short and left to avoid the deep bunkers on the front right of the 18th hole. He chipped on safely and had an easy 2 putts to regain the crown he last won in 2005.

As the crowd erupted, he celebrated with joy with the masses reacting to every fist pump. He showed an emotion that we rarely got to see in his earlier years, when perhaps he took his success all for granted. Given what he has endured, maybe he values the moment all the more. He greeted his loved ones and entourage with a sense of joy and level of humanity we have rarely seen from him before in public.

​He name checked his kids and mother when interviewed in the winners enclosure - another first for Tiger Woods! It is probably one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time and certainly one that will be talked about in golfing circles for a very long time.


Tiger Woods, the champion is back!

Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

​https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Let  the  kids  play]]>Tue, 29 Jan 2019 07:53:29 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/let-the-kids-play
Let The Kids Play
He stands there in his jersey,
fulfilling all his dreams,

Representing club and family,
and he is on the team.


The ball thrown in, the game is on,
there is movement all around,

some parents shouting frantically,
​as the ball’s played up and down.

The game is moving quickly,
the boy giving his all,
He is moving into spaces,
but can’t get on the ball,

He stays running and tackling,
he is trying very hard,
Somehow, the ball never falls his way,
for all his running yards
 
Eventually it comes his way,
he sees it coming in.
He’s on his own, a perfect chance,
to score a goal and win.

Oh no, he mis-controls the ball,
it’s now gone from his grasp.
Parents groaning, some giving out
that he's has missed a great goal chance
 
One man pipes up and calls him out,
singles the boy out from the crowd,
“Come on to hell Coach, take him off”,
he hollers from the side.

The boy’s heart sinks, he has done his best,
he thought he was doing well.
Why is this man being so unkind,
he’s just here to play with friends.
 
It’s only a game to be enjoyed,
who cares who wins in the end?
He’s only a kid, just turned ten
and playing under twelve.

Sport, he thinks shouldn’t feel like this,
he plays it just for fun,
But when adults grab a hold of it,
sometimes this is all undone.
 
So just let them play and let them fly,
and let them just enjoy.
Kid’s sport is not for adult's needs,
​for we have had our time!
                                                                                 Keith Begley


Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

​https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Exercise  Adherence,  Weight-loss,  Health  &  Well-being.  From  Failure  to  Success]]>Fri, 04 Jan 2019 20:50:26 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/exercise-adherence-weight-loss-health-well-being-from-failure-to-success
Many people set out with great aims of losing weight and improving their health from time to time – often for a wedding, graduation or some other life event. Many experience it annually after Christmas excesses. Gyms and weight loss clinics become inundated with client self-referrals as new enthusiastic and eager customers look to improve their health. There is very often a significant fall off in interest after a few weeks as those enthusiastic exercisers get caught up in other aspects of life and prioritise other things over their previously set exercise plans.


In fact scientific research has shown that adherence to such programs is difficult to maintain for many with a large decrease in new participants after 3 months and about a 50% drop off after 6 months (Tudor-Locke & Chan, 2006). Additionally, research has indicated that only 8% of people who take up such a programme will still be adhering to that programme 12 months later (Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012)

One must also remember that you cannot lose 3 stone or 5 stone very quickly in a sustainable and healthy way so the goals must be process oriented. You must walk before you can run and the same goes for goal theory.

The first step must be taken before making the 2nd and third step of the ladder. Set yourself a target of losing 2-3 pounds per week and make the goal realistic and achievable. If you can maintain this consistency over a period of time, then you will eventually reach your long term goal.

One should also be cognisant that some people simply have slower metabolisms and as such, find it that little bit harder to lose weight. Others become obsessed with the numbers and forget that muscle weighs a lot more than fat so if you are building some muscle, you may becoming lean and burning fat without losing all that much weight. 

Either way, it is a process that takes time and it wont be an overnight success. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Effective Goal Setting
Effective goal setting is key in helping you to facilitate your intentions. These goals must sit closely with the issues concerning what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.  Setting of what are known as SMART goals (Doran 1981) can prove very effective.
SMART goals is an acronym that stands for goals that need to be
Specific
  • What, How, Where, When I will take action?
  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • How exactly I will achieve the goals?
  • Where and when will I go about reaching these goals?
 
Measureable
  • How much exercise I am going to do?
  • How often, many?
  • How much weight I intend to lose / body fat percentage am I going to reach?
  • Reach my target weight of 10 stone.
 
Achievable
If the goal is unrealistic or out of reach, then there is a greater chance of one giving up on the programme. Trying to lose three stone in a month is unrealistic and unhealthy. Trying to get a non-runner to run a marathon within a few weeks is also unattainable. Is this goal realistic to what you can actually achieve in the set time frame? Small but achievable steps lead to attainable outcomes.

Relevant
Are your goals relevant to you reaching your long term goal. Are they facilitating you to reach your longer term targets?

Time Managed
What kind of time frame are you allowing to reach each aspect of the goal. As stated previously, trying to lose three stone in a month is unrealistic and unhealthy. Trying to get a non-runner to run a marathon within a few weeks is also unattainable.
You must remember also that your exercise will be in vain if you don’t have a good diet

As adherence levels tend to decrease over time, there are factors that may help you influence and maintain your adherence (Flegal et al, 2007)

Enjoyment – People tend only to maintain participation if the experience is enjoyable. Take up a sport you enjoy or make your exercise fun and something you enjoy doing. There are numerous fun classes out there – zumba, aqua-aerobics, spinning, yoga, pilates etc while activities like hill walking, social running and cycling clubs etc have become very popular of late – and they can be FUN!

Motivation – Keep a record of what you are doing and note how you can improve your levels of fitness. Use this self-reflection to monitor your emotions about participation and your beliefs about progress.

Belief and Knowledge -read up and inform yourself of the benefits of what you are doing and eating and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Knowledge is power.

Exercise Plan – Try and set targets to increase your activity levels as you gain in fitness levels. What you find challenging today might not produce the same benefits as you get fitter so look to challenge yourself a little more as you go through the process.

​Social support – One is more likely to maintain a programme if they have the social support of a friend, so get your friends involved in your regime or bring a friend to a class you are taking. It will be a key factor in you achieving your goals.

Other Tips
  • Allow yourself a treat every now and then.
  • Be prepared for a relapse every now and again and don’t let it discourage you. It will happen from time to time but use it as motivation to spur you on. If you could do it before you can do it again.
  • Use reminders – Set reminders on your phone to help organise your time and day.
  • You are what you eat so develop healthy habits around food - regarding portion size and nutritional content of your food
Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

​https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[How Mourinho lost his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat]]>Sun, 30 Dec 2018 19:03:24 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/how-mourinho-lost-his-amazing-technicolour-dreamcoat
Manchester United sacked Jose Mourinho recently after two and a half years in charge.​ It was reported that senior figures at the club were unhappy with a lack of progress in form, style of play and development of their younger players. The club felt they had sufficiently backed Mourinho with £358.7million in the transfer market on 11 players during his time in charge and that they expected a greater measure of progress within that time-frame.

He was relieved after a poor performance against Liverpool, where Liverpool had 36 attempts at goal to United's 11. United lay mid-table with a goal difference of 0 almost  halfway through the 2018/2019 Premier League campaign. The United players were believed to have wanted a change of manager as far back as September 18 and were said to have felt very restricted with the rigidity of team structure imposed on them by Mourinho. 
Some former players with a strong media presence (Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes) had questioned the lack of leadership within the playing staff and the souring of the relationship between manager and players. 

Reports suggest that senior figures at Manchester United were concerned that Mourinho's ego was jeopardising the harmony at the club. He had stripped Paul Pogba of the second captain's role in September and after a recent team meeting, some players reported that they had gone beyond the tipping point in their relationship with Mourinho. 

Incidentally, Manchester United 
replaced him with fan favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who started his reign with seven comprehensive wins. After an initial 4-1 win against Bournemouth in Dec 2018, Paul Pogba was asked what has changed. He said that "a team needs to enjoy playing football and we are doing that now while working hard for each other to get results"

It isn't the first time that Mourinho's ego has been a cause of discussion around dismissal. 

In 2015, Mourinho sat with an unshaven beard at Chelsea FC's Cobham training ground for the club’s annual Christmas meal just hours before he was sacked. He was in a disheveled state compared to the one we had come to know as the self proclaimed “special one”.

He had taken the club from the top of the pile as champions in May 2015 to relegation strugglers within 6 months. In other articles, we have discussed the importance of key characteristics of an effective coach. These scientifically validated characteristics are ones that a coach MUST maintain to get the most out of a group. They are as follows.

Inspirational Motivation (where leaders inspire followers with their vision for the future), He set the standards for those to follow.
Individual Consideration (where leaders show concern for followers individualistic needs),
Intellectual Stimulation (where leaders challenge followers to assess their methods and how to improve them).
High Performance Expectations (where leaders promote excellence and performance criteria for followers in the attainment of set goals)
Intellectual Stimulation (where coach challenges players to assess their methods and how to improve them) 

*Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals* (where leaders incorporate followers in the devising of, accepting of and striving towards a common agreed goal),
*Appropriate Role Modelling* (where leaders lead by example in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives in the manner that they would like their followers to do).

Jose Mourinho has exuded charisma throughout his coaching career. This was always backed up with being ultra prepared. However, towards the end of his Chelsea reign, he sold commanding dressing room leaders in Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Peter Cech, leaving the leadership qualities of the group diluted from the team that won the title the previous May. 

In the leadership vacuum left behind, Mourinho's was the dominant voice! By all accounts there was little done to Foster Acceptance of Group Goals in a managerial climate where the coach's voice was the dominant one - there appeared only room for one true leader - the self proclaimed “special one”.

Throughout his successful years, Mourinho rarely had to work with a group of  leaderless players. This is where he found himself at both Man United in 2018 and Chelsea in 2015 at the end of both reigns. One little discussed issue is that within the player leadership vacuum, his autocratic managerial style failed to empower his new recruits to have or develop those necessary leadership skills that he needed them to have.



​Losing the dressing room and staff
Earlier in his final season at Chelsea, he dismissed a very respected member of staff - his doctor Eva Carneiro for entering the field of play to tend to Eden Hazard as he lay in pain on the ground. In the process he castigated her in the media for not fully understanding the intricacies and subtleties of the game – when she entered the pitch, the player had to leave the field of play and the opposition (Swansea) scored against 10 man Chelsea.

It wasn't just the doctor he fell out with either! At Chelsea, there were strong rumours of a bust up between him and another member of staff – his goalkeeping coach. After an injury and against the goalkeeping coach's best wishes, Mourinho apparently tried to fast-track the recovery of star goalkeeper Courtois over-ruling his professional opinion and undermining him in the process. Such a decision wouldn’t have sat well with other staff members especially in light of what had happened with the doctor.

That October (2015), Mourinho lashed some of his players when he suggested in the media that “rats” around the Blues camp had given away confidential team information – he had become obsessed with the fact a close contact from Porto (former club) knew of his plans to drop Cesc Fabregas before a recent Champions League game. As a result, he became guarded over how he set his team up during training, so that players were guessing over who would be starting games.

There were some public scoldings of his players too towards the end of his reign at Man United - none of which would have sat well with those he was trying to "manage".

There was the constant berating of referees and laying of blame at their hands for losses. He even suffered fines and touchline bans for such outbursts on a few occasions. His decisions, selections, tactics or behaviour could never be in question. He was the self proclaimed “special one”.

He always commanded his players respect. At the end of both reigns however, it appeared that he has lost the respect of the players and the performances have plummeted accordingly.

In contrast, a recent BBC documentary on ex Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, “Secrets of Success”, revealed that that one of his primary objectives was that his players would be respectful to the club they played for – a behaviour he himself also espoused. Part of that revolved around being appropriately dressed when travelling away from home while representing the club – suit and tie.

However, a bigger part revolved around being humble to those they met in the football environment when away from home and around the environment at their Carrington training ground by greeting the cleaning and restaurant staff by their first name. In fact Alex Ferguson once said that he knew he had a player if he had the same manner and personality at 21 as he had at 16 when he left his mother. There would be no room for ego and this proved very wise as he became the greatest manager in the history of the British game. You never got the impression that Mourinho was cut from the same cloth.

Mourinho undoubtedly has certain qualities of a top coach with many from a football knowledge perspective. He may also be able to espouse a lot of the factors listed and may provide Inspirational Motivation and have the ability to set High Performance Expectations for players. However, his self portrayal as the all knowing, self obsessed “special one” that he portrayed himself as in the media may not have sat well with his players over the course of time. In short, for them, he wasn’t exactly an Appropriate Role Model.

Mourinho’s narcissistic personality and brash arrogance may make for good entertainment and media copy, but it is the antithesis of the grounded approach Ferguson brought that made Manchester one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world.

It appears that the Man United and Chelsea players could no longer warm to his self obsessed manner and came to resent him more than respect him. His treatment of both players and staff in various instances would appear to accentuate this and he lost the group as a result. Unlike Alex Ferguson’s obsession with keeping both himself and his players as grounded as possible, Mourinho believed himself to be above all around him – players, staff and referees alike.

He was a long way from an 
appropriate role model and it appeared that his goal was more important than Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals. He fell down badly on the last two key characteristics and lost his coat in the process.

Keith Begley is an accredited performance psychology provider with the Irish Institute of Sport under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).


Contact below if you or your team is looking to take your performance to the next level.

Below is a comical song by comic mimic Mario Rosenstock on Jose Mourinho's managerial reign at Chelsea.
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Sport Psychology Support - where should i look?]]>Sun, 30 Dec 2018 18:13:52 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/sport-psychology-support-where-should-i-look
​Sport psychology is often used as a support within a high-performance sporting structure. As its benefits and merits are ever more recognised and respected, some amateur clubs are on the lookout for ways in which they can use such support – often in an ad-hoc capacity. With little knowledge or helpful information available, many are unsure where to go or who to look for to provide such a service.

In fairness, there is very little regulation of the area presently and it is a little bit of a minefield in finding someone that can add value to your team or organisation. This article is written in the context of an Irish sport psychology setting.


Presently, there are many looking to work in the area – under the guise of a “Mental Coach / Mind Coach”, “Executive Coach”, “Leadership or Performance Expert” or other such title. Others might fall into the area as a “Well-being Coach”, “Counsellor” or “NLP practitioner”. Some but not all may have some form of qualification that has a minor link to sport and performance psychology with some belonging to a long list of what we know in the trade as the “motivational brigade”.

Here, self-titled “experts” trade on a personal story of triumph where their inspiring tales of overcoming the odds to achieve a huge personal feat is sold as sport psychology - even if it leaves you or your group in a state of momentary boost. While your athlete’s may be boosted by their inspiring tale, they are rarely if ever left with a skill-set or action plan to tackle their own issues or performance impediments.  
 
Would you ask somebody who has got a knee operation to perform surgery on your knee?
 
Just because one has personal experience or has overcome adversity to achieve a significant feat does not mean they are equipped to impart knowledge around best practice in performance psychology.

Many do the rounds in the corporate sector getting very well paid for delivery of little substance. Unfortunately, some will also chance their arm in the realm of high performance and or amateur sport.

While some may have a shallow understanding of some of the science behind some of the aspects within sport psychology, many are "chancers" purporting to be established in the field. Some will be to the forefront in national media within the sport psychology space and some will name drop teams and individuals they have some form of link to -  purporting to have inspired them to greatness!

A doctor or any professional for that matter doesn’t go around name dropping about private consultations with their clients and a professional sport or performance psychologist doesn’t either.

Most of these people who some might deem as “fraudsters” will offer a lot and leave you with very little. Coaches, who know no better, bring them in to their team for a “talk” to “psych them up”. There is a science to how the brain facilitates and monitors control of the neuro-muscular system and anxiety within it and psyching somebody up when there are issues at play may actually be extremely debilitating for athletes. You, your athletes and your team in essence can and will be sold short.

Before ever paying for a service, you should ensure that they are appropriately qualified to give you a service that will be beneficial.

The following questions should help you find somebody that can help.

What are the qualifications required to be a qualified sport psychologist?

Effectively, A qualified professional sport psychology qualification will take between six and eight years to ascertain.

A qualified service provider will hold three of the following that can easily checked on online registers.

1 – An undergraduate degree in psychology or sport science
2 -  A master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology from a reputable University
3 – A two year’ accreditation process with one or more of the following bodies
  • Sport Ireland Institute (SII)
  • British Association of Sport & Exercise Psychology (BASES)
  • Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI)
  • British Psychological Society (BPS)

If they do not hold one or any of the qualifications listed above, they are not professionally qualified to work in the field. In fact, they could do untold harm while making off with a large portion of a clubs hard earned finance.

A list of approved performance psychology providers under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP) with the Sport Ireland Institute is attached at the bottom of this article.

Any other tips?
It would be preferable to use somebody with reputable experience – somebody that you know has qualifications listed above and that has been involved in genuinely improving other athletes and teams. Significant experience isn’t everything but it is important!

It would also be preferable if the person you use has a sound understanding of the nature of your sport or discipline. In interventions, applied sport psychologists may use “attentional focus cues” for use in real time skill execution. If they do not have a fundamental understanding of your sport, then getting optimal value within this particular area of support could be an issue.


What can they do?
Generally, a sport psychologist would provide an array of services around athlete or coach support in helping them to perform at their optimum. Some of these areas would include various services to improve the following.
  • Sport & Athletic Performance 
  • ​Coach & Leadership Development
  • Athlete Lifestyle & Transition
  • Well-being & Mental Health
  • Corporate Sector Support - Leadership / Well-being
  • Lifestyle and Weight Management.

Keith Begley is an accredited performance psychology provider with the Irish Institute of Sport under the Professional Quality Assurance Programme (PQAP).

Contact below if you or your team is looking to take your performance to the next level.
Contact
pqap_member_contact_details.xlsx
File Size: 19 kb
File Type: xlsx
Download File

]]>
<![CDATA[Self Talk  and  Skill  Execution – Best  Practice]]>Mon, 12 Nov 2018 20:24:25 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/self-talk-and-skill-execution-best-practice
International rugby place kickers Jonny Sexton and Beauden Barrett place the ball, set themselves, say something to themselves and mostly go about their business and put the ball between the posts.


So what exactly should they be saying and why?
Research has shown that the use of psychological techniques, cognitive strategies or mental training has been commonly used by high performance athletes for many years and have been shown to enhance sporting performance (Krane & Williams, 2006). Aided by the growth and development of sport psychology research in recent times, systematic cognitive strategies have become even more common-place as athletes seek out ways to improve performance and gain advantages over opponents. One mental strategy frequently used by athletes is self-talk!


Self-talk has been shown to be beneficial for the learning of motor skills (Hardy, 2006). It can be defined as verbalisations or statements athletes repeat to themselves prior to or during skill execution. These verbalisations may be designed to affect motivation, attentional control, concentration and information processing. Landin (1994) suggested that the use of appropriate cue words may aid task focus by increasing focus on task relevant stimuli. Hardy (2006) suggests that the use of cue words may help athletes adjust their focus of attention towards a more appropriate attentional focus for completion of tasks.


Much empirical research has been carried out investigating the impact of such statements and a lot of this has examined the effect of motivational and instructional self talk on performance. Motivational self talk tends to boost confidence and belief in one’s ability, helping to raise performance, while instructional tends to divert focus of attention on to certain elements of a movement to increase attentional focus and help task execution accordingly.


Additionally, a lot of research made a distinction between two types of focus - internal and external focus. Wulf et al's work showed that for skilled athletes, an external focus is better than an internal focus of attention. This may be because an internal focus of attention draws attention towards little pieces of movement, thus reducing automaticity of that same movement while an external focus draws the focus towards the intended target.


Until recently, very little empirical research has differentiated between the different types of self-talk for skilled or elite athletes in sporting tasks. Of such investigations, mostly power based motor tasks have been utilised. Two examples (Todd and McGuigan (2008) in a rugby power jump task & Goudas, Hatzidimitriou and Kikidi (2006) in a shot putt task) found that motivational self-talk was best when strength or power based movements were concerned.


Until recently, it was never fully investigated which type of "self-talk" is best for use by elite level performers in closed skill accuracy based tasks.  
New research (Begley, Hardy & Blanchfield, (2014), Journal of Applied Sport Psychology) distinguishes that the most appropriate type of attentional focus will be dependent on the skill level of the performer.


The study utilised 40 inter-county level Gaelic Football free takers, many of whom are now household names in GAA. Our research investigated the differences between externally focused instructional self-talk (EFIST) and motivational self-talk (MST).



12 kicks were taken from a 22m distance at 4 standardised angles from the centre of the goal. The study was fully counter-balanced between starting point and nature of self talk.
  • Points were awarded as follows with a maximum score of 24 (12 x 2)
  • 2 points for successful kick
  • 1 for hitting post or crossbar and being unsuccessful
  • 0 for miss
Findings
A two way ANOVA of data shows significant results favouring “Motivational Self Talk” over “Externally Focused Instructional Self Talk” for skilled players. The “Motivational Self Talk” condition (Mean of 19.93) significantly exceeded the “Externally Focused Instructional Self Talk” condition (Mean of 18.75) proving that motivational self talk proved best for elite level players.


As this accuracy based study and all of the existing power based task research using skilled athletes (Edwards et al (2008) and Goudas et al, (2006)) replicate each other’s findings, it may be that motivational self-talk may exceed all types of instructional self-talk in all tasks for skilled athletes by boosting athletes’ confidence and reinforcing belief in natural movement processes and well-honed skills. This research should inform the next wave of thinking when it comes to skill execution and skills coaching of elite performing athletes in closed skill sporting tasks; ie rugby place kicking, GAA free taking, soccer free kicks, golf snooker etc


Conversely, in another aspect of the investigation in an unskilled condition, “Externally Focused Instructional Self Talk”
 (Mean of 14.13) exceeded “Motivational Self Talk” (Mean of 13.23) and correlated with results shown in other studies.
This research will have implications for all skills coaches, PE teachers and sport psychologists in skill development in novice athletes and skill execution for elite level performers on closed skill tasks; ie: rugby place kickers,  GAA free takers, soccer dead ball specialists, American football field goal, basketball free throw, golfers, snooker and darts players among others.
Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[obesity  and  our  children;  Why  is  my  young  lad  fat?]]>Tue, 23 Oct 2018 22:08:26 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/obesity-and-our-children-why-is-my-young-lad-fat
It is generally considered not politically correct to say that a child is fat. I am going to be controversial! Maybe we are doing them a disservice! Maybe we are failing to identify them as overweight and putting measures in place to address this health issue. Besides, the fact that they might be overweight is hardly their fault – more a byproduct of what they are given by their parents to eat. The kids don’t know any different but the parents should.
We are now looking at a situation in the Western world where obesity is becoming an epidemic. Reports suggest that over 35% of people in the USA (National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)) in 2010. Reports also suggested that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are reported to be obese with growth estimated at about 1% per annum. This suggests a drastic rise in obesity from 1993 when just 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women reported to be obese. The importance of sport and physical activity is emphasised by Twisk et al (1997) who found that long-term exposure to daily physical activity was inversely related to body fatness.

If the growth rate continues at the present pace, over 50% of people in these countries will be obese by 2050 with significant cost to the exchequer in respective countries through their health bill. Scarily, huge volumes of 4-5 year old children (24.5%) in Britain (NHS) reported to be obese in 2008. This does not account for the massive population of children that are overweight, not yet obese but will be by the time they reach adulthood.

Bearing this in mind, physical activity, sport and exercise is going to be ever more important going forward, not just for the enjoyment value but the state of the nations health. Therefore, the importance of the sports coach and the role that they play will be infinitely more important.

The child’s experience in sport is critical for the ongoing development of any athlete. However due to various reasons including increased pressure to succeed, children’s sport is often now a negative experience due to pressure placed by coaches to win. According to recent studies, 45% of ten year old boys participate in sports. By the age of eighteen only 26% of them stay active. An overview of youth sports carried out in America showed that dropout is well under way at age ten and peaks at 14-15. This was found across a range of ten different sports. Presently, there is a huge drop out from sport among adolescents. In all sports, almost half as many 16 – 24 year old women take part in sport as men of the same age while only 15% of girls aged 15 in the UK meet recommended daily physical activity levels, and are contributing hugely to the high levels of obesity among our youth.This contrasts strongly with Australia, who who have a huge emphasis in youth sport for the health of their nation. In fact, just recently (Summer 2014), a government minister came out strongly in an address to the nation that the problem of physical inactivity in youth sport among 16 year old girls is getting to dangerous levels as recent metrics showed that participation rates had dipped below 60% – the first time below 60% since metrics were taken.

So they are the facts but are there other contributory reasons for the obesity epidemic?
These may be generalisations in certain cases, though many of these societal and socio-economic reasons will ring true for many people. Through the noughties in Ireland, there existed a building boom that overpriced land, resulting in houses being being squashed together at the expense of play space for children. Had planners been more informed with forward thinking from a societal perspective, would it have been conceivable to put minimal requirements for play space and areas for children in built up suburban areas. If such thought processes were in place, would there be so much concern among parents about letting their children out to play; a genuine concern among many parents due to the speed of traffic on roads in such areas with minimal green space. In such an environment and with the growth of technology and children’s entertainment through social media and computers, occupational sitting time for young children has increased starkly in the past 15 years due to ease of access and reduction in cost.

The huge increase in land and property prices in the mid noughties may also have had an indirect effect on the diets of our children. As house prices increased, it became more of a requirement to have both parents out at work to pay for mortgages and living costs. As a result, fast food became the norm with Chinese, Indian and fast food take away food shops springing up overnight often replacing what was previously a nutritious meal prepared by one of the parents. The major supermarkets even got in on the take away food concept and is now a huge part of their revenue generation with a full aisle often dedicated to high calorie ready made take away meals. Convenience was everything as nobody had time to look after the health of our youth.

The net effect is that now, a cohort of teenagers cannot organise their own games as they never learned how to play in a group setting. How often do you drive through a housing estate and see children playing football, hurling, soccer or any sport for that matter on the green. It doesn’t happen, often because there is no green big enough to play on.

So now as we count the cost of our Celtic tiger greed, it is rarely that we look at the deeper underlying issues we have caused, that without urgent attention, have contributed hugely to the obesity epidemic that will strangle our nation to early death.

Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

​https://twitter.com/KeithBegley
    @Keith Begley
Unleash Your Potential
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Why Sonny Bill Williams handed the medal to the child – All Black Culture]]>Sun, 21 Oct 2018 18:20:12 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/why-sonny-bill-williams-handed-the-medal-to-the-child-all-black-culture
In what is considered to be one of the greatest acts of sporting humility, Sonny Bill Williams gave his winners medal to a young child after he was tackled by a steward when he ran onto the pitch to greet his heroes after the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
People all over the world were mesmerised by the act.
When the All-Blacks come together, high standards are expected. There was a period when becoming an All-Black granted poster boy status for the newcomers. That was a time when the All-Blacks couldn’t win the world cup despite having the talent to do so. Gilbert Enoka has been their mental skills coach for a number of years. Enoka’s influence extends far beyond his job title as mental skills coach and Wyatt Crockett, the loosehead prop, says the squad view Enoka as the custodian of their culture and a huge part of their winning culture. 

This culture came about after a meeting in 2004 to address the All Blacks malaise. Senior management and players met to lay the ground rules and set expectations under which the All-Blacks would prosper. The meeting would last 3 days after which, a significant cultural overhaul would take place.

According to Team Manager at the time Brian Lochore, their aim was to create an environment that would stimulate players and make them want to be part of. He came up with 6 words that would epitomise that ethos. The phrase “Better people make better All Blacks” still rings true to this day.

Gilbert Enoka felt that by taking a more holistic approach by developing an overall team character template and code of values for the squad, it would garner more emphasis on the importance of team. On the generation of the concept, former coach Graeme Henry said that “The management always felt we had to transfer the leadership from the senior managers to the players...... to play the game you need leadership on the field.”

As such, all players at the time were involved in the identification of the required values and characteristics required of an All-Black. As a result, all players were more invested in the process and to this day every member of the team lives those values to a man, regardless of their status in the squad.

Enoka reinforces this and argues that mental strength is impossible without a strong culture. “To deal with pressure you need to make sure that landscape that everyone lives in and on is solid and sound and has got a blood flow through it that nourishes everyone powerfully. If you neglect nourishing who you are, where you come from and what you are about then you just become a team that operates skin deep; we have to be a team that operates bone deep.”

The All Blacks are unique compared to other teams. Enoka suggests that the difference lies “in the transference of power from the coaches to the leadership group who set and enforce standards among the players. When aberrations occur, a player is answerable to his team-mates rather than the coaches. Ego has to be left at the door; there is a rigidly enforced “no d*ckhead policy” in the squad.”

In an outstanding book about the All Blacks called Legacy, author James Kerr discusses one of their core values that epitomizes the selfless attitude.

It’s called “Sweep the Shed.”

While the goal of every All Blacks player is to leave the national team shirt in a better place than when he got it, his goal is also to contribute to the legacy by doing his part to grow the game and keep the team progressing every single day. In order to do so, the players realize that you must remain humble, and that no one is too big or too famous to do the little things required each and every day to get better. You must eat right. You must sleep well. You must take care of yourself on and off the field. You must train hard. You must sacrifice your own goals for the greater good and a higher purpose.

You must sweep the shed.

After each match, after the camera crews have left, and the coaches are done speaking, there is still a locker room to be cleaned and believe it or not, it is done by none other than the players! All Blacks leading players take turns sweeping the locker room of every last piece of grass, tape, and mud. In the words of Kerr:“Sweeping the shed is all about doing it properly so no one else has to”.

Why?

“Because no one looks after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves.”

They leave the locker room in a better place than they got it. They leave the shirt in a better place than they got it. They are not there to get. They are there to give and leave a legacy that goes beyond them and the present moment.

Since 2015, at the World Cup, some might have noticed that during the Haka, the team never leave the ground with two feet at any stage – they used always finish with a jump. This is so that they stay rooted and grounded with their ancestors buried beneath the soil in New Zealand. That they stay connected and united with their roots and their past.

The culture doesn’t change when the game is over either. In the changing room after the match when it’s time to debrief, the All Blacks choose an “off field captain” for each match – often an injured player or someone who hasn’t made the match day squad. This captain leads the debrief in the style of a “whare”, a Māori meeting house where every individual present is given equal status to voice their opinion, to share their reality. From the 100 cap skipper to the first cap newbie, from the head coach to the kit man, everybody is heard and everybody’s opinion is respected.

When discussing maintenance of such a legacy, Enoka says that “The jersey can hunt out flaws as quickly as you can look at it. The d***heads and the posers who are not genuine about adding to this wonderful legacy just don’t survive,” Enoka said. “They become one-Test ponies and get chewed up and spat out relatively quickly.”

Further, he says, “as an All Black, you understand the team powers above the individual and you are part of a wider legacy, which has been passed down to you from the ages. In this particular period, it is your time and it is your moment. We want people to cherish and understand that and nourish it for the next generation, leaving it in a better place than what it was.”

When Sonny Bill Williams handed over his medal, he was just helping fulfil a boy’s dream who he saw rugby tackled to the ground by an adult. When asked after why he did that, he said that the kid will hopefully get more from the medal than he will – that it will help him remember the day and that some day, he too might become an All-Black. Leading by example and setting extraordinary standards in humility, he was fulfilling the ethos and culture of the team.

When we consider the humility of the gesture, lets also bare in mind that Sonny Bill Williams is a world cup winner in both Rugby League and Rugby Union and is also a heavy weight WBA champion remaining unbeaten in 7 professional boxing fights. He has very little to be humble about but he left his jersey in a better place.

Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @KeithBegley
contact
Sonny Bill William’s awards
Individual
2004: International Newcomer of the Year
2004: World XIII
2004: Samoan Sports Association Junior Sportsman of the Year
2012: New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) Heavyweight Champion
2012: Chiefs’ players’ player award
2013: WBA International Heavyweight Champion
2013: Jack Gibson Medalist – Sydney Roosters’ Player of the Year
2013: RLIF International Second-rower of the Year
2013: RLIF International Player of the Year
 
Team
2004: NRL Premiers with the Bulldogs
2010: Ranfurly Shield winner with Canterbury
2010: ITM Cup winner with Canterbury
2011: Bledisloe Cup winner with New Zealand
2011: Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand
2012: Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs
2012: Bledisloe Cup winner with New Zealand
2013: NRL Minor Premiers with the Roosters
2013: NRL Premiers with the Roosters
2014: World Club Challenge winner with the Roosters
2014: NRL Minor Premiers with the Roosters
2015: Bulldogs Team of the Decade (2005–2014) – as a back-rower
2015: Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand
]]>
<![CDATA[Leadership  &  mental  health -  Anxiety  in  the  work-place]]>Sat, 20 Oct 2018 21:53:37 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/monitoring-mental-health-anxiety-in-the-work-place
Everybody has anxiety! We just all experience different levels of it with some people  more pre-disposed to it than othersIt is a topic we hear a lot about recently - a mental health issue that often went undisclosed and unspoken of in times of yore. 

Typically, anxiety can be categorised into 2 levels;
1. Trait Anxiety
2. State anxiety

We all have a natural level of anxiety. We call this our trait anxiety or the level of anxiety that we are normally predisposed to. This can vary between individuals with highly anxious individuals experiencing a high level trait anxiety.
While this natural level of anxiety varies for many, it can elevate significantly, mostly due to a perceived level of threat in one's environment. We call this fear induced state our level of "state anxiety".  

For example, d
ifferent things trigger different levels of threat for different people. Some are afraid of heights, of water, of rats or snakes or even the dark etc. Others may be unaffected by any of these but could be negatively affected by other things such as enclosed spaces, large crowds, spiders, authoritave people, dictatorial work environments, sporting situations, certain fabrics or even awkward social experiences  around people with whom you feel uncomfortable. These are just some of numerous possible examples.

​This elevated level of "state anxiety" is usually higher than one's "trait" level of anxiety.  Generally, this is specific to certain situations as outlined in the examples above and can  also vary between situations and between individuals. Put simply, ones resting level of anxiety (trait level) is generally significantly less than the level at which they are predisposed to in an uncomfortable situation.


Spielberger (1997) defined anxiety as "subjective, consciously perceived feelings of tension and apprehension, associated with the arousal of the autonomic nervous system”

​The part of the brain that facilitates rational decision making processes in the brain is called the "frontal lobe" or pre-frontal cortex. However, when one finds themselves in a perceived uncomfortable situation as the brain detects threat, rational decision making or frontal lobe function is reduced as it interacts with the brain's threat detector!

It is reduced due to the triggering of the part of the brain that helps us detect threat - the hippocampus. The hippocampus performs a vital role in our daily lives. Working in tandem with the frontal lobe, it functions as a monitoring process that helps us to react to danger in the environment. The function of the hippocampus ensures that we react  to avoid an oncoming car, that we react to negotiate obstacles in our pathway - a lamp-post, a pothole or a flying implement. Without it functioning, we simply would not physically survive.  

These parts of the brain (frontal lobe and hippocampus) work within a circuitry loop in tandem with a tiny element at the centre of the brain - the amygdala. In high stress scenarios when elevated threat is detected by the hippocampus, rational thought over-ruled and fear or self doubt experienced, the amygdala is known to enlarge significantly. In high stress scenario's, this triggers the onset of the arousal of the nervous system, resulting in one of three different responses; fight, flight or freeze. In such instances of elevated perceived threat, irrational thinking sees that one's mind can go into overdrive, stimulating over-arousal of the central nervous system, often resulting in needless worry - inducing both physical, psychological and behavioral responses. 

Physical stress responses
Sweaty Palms
Trembling hands 
General Sweating
Hyper-ventilation
Increased need to use toilet
Dry throat
Increased heart rate
Nausea

Psychological stress symptoms
Worrisome thoughts 
Lack of clear thinking
Inability to sleep
Irrational decision making

Behavioural responses
Avoidance
Compliance
Inability to express inner thoughts

Combined at a high level, it can induce mild or moderate panic attacks or what we know as psycho-somatic stress.


These feelings of anxiety may be experienced in any amount of domains - work, business, education, sport or in general life and are generally experienced within a threatening environment.


A recent Gallup Report suggests that anxiety is very prevalent in work environments and that anxiety is one of the main reasons for work absenteeism. Work-place bullying, poor leadership practice, unfair treatment and other undesirable behaviors within a work environment often evoke such feelings in others to a degree that they no longer feel comfortable within a threatening work environment. In such an environment, employees in a fear based climate become less interested in the success of the company, the quality of the product or service, or the customer experience. Their priority often takes the form of just getting to the end of the day without experiencing that anxiety and or sense of threat. 

In such instances, the work-place represents nothing but resentment for employees and they become more concerned with compliance and keeping their jobs, while often feeling inhibited in expressing themselves within the work environment. Many even plan out their day to avoid contact with the aggressor - the person who undermines them or the person they perceive as the threat to their well-being.

As such, work-place leadership plays a major role in the creation of a positive group dynamic and leaders must ensure that all employees are treated fairly and with respect to engender a positive motivational climate within the work environment. Where this does not exist, work-place leaders are duty bound to ensure that any cliques or bullying behaviour is stopped and a sense of fairness and respect is afforded to all.

So my advice is that if the "threat" is having an overbearing ​negative impact on your life, your challenge is to deal with it as best as you can. If there is something that you can do to remove this threat from your daily life, then take action to do just that.

If it isn't something you can remove fully or even immediately, then equipping yourself to be better able to handle it is a good start. Positive self talk may help, as can having somebody to talk to that makes you feel better about yourself - whether that is a friend, a colleague, a family member or a mental health professional. 

​Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, exercise and or progressive muscular relaxation may also help you find that mind/body balance to help you get through the day.

Everyone is entitled to live an anxiety free life, but sometimes you have just got to empower yourself to take charge of your own life and take control of the threats within your environment.

Doubt your doubts and not your beliefs. Back yourself. If others can do it, then you can too! 
Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is an Irish based performance psychologist, accredited with Sport Ireland Institute.

​Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeithBegley
​​
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[The  SportsMan's  Demon :  Depression]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 23:02:58 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/the-sports-mans-demon-depression
Numerous accounts of high profile athlete's suffering from depression have surfaced in recent times. This openness and honesty is both refreshing and healthy as it normalises issues that affects the majority of families at some level in some shape or form. Previously, people suffered in silence, almost ashamed to reveal their reality to the people around them. Truth be told, it is extremely common, normal and most importantly, very treatable! Unfortunately, some still choose to keep their struggles to themselves due to a perceived stigma around mental health and some unfortunately take it to the next level - often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. 
The NHS (2010) have diagnosed depression as having at least four of the following feelings for over two weeks.
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor concentration
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Sadness and irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Feelings of guilt or low self worth
  • Disturbed sleep or appetite

These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities as they fall into a place of dis-satisfaction they might never have experienced previously. 

Former USA Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps revealed his mental health struggles after retirement while many former premiership footballers have reported to struggle in life since leaving football due to a sense of emptiness and lack of purpose. As we all know, some former well known players ended it all through suicide.

Numerous former greats turn to alcohol and drugs to replace the natural highs they once received off the adulation, adrenalin and dopamine release they received from competing  in front of big crowds. When high performance athletes retire, they often struggle with the monotony of regular daily life, as their sense of self worth and identity is tied too tightly to their athletic identity. Everybody wanted a piece of the athlete but the goldfish bowl doesn't last forever and many ex premier league soccer players report to be financially broke within 5 years of finishing their playing career. In fact a study has recently revealed that up to 40% of them get divorced within five years of retiring, further adding to their difficulties.

Neil Ruddock revealed his struggles in a recent TV documentary while Irish Internationals, Jason McAteer and Paul McGrath in particular revealed struggles with depression and coping through it all in their respective autobiographies. Former 400m Irish athlete David Gillic also revealed his struggles recently after retiring, while an ex-Arsenal star of the early nineties was reported recently to have fallen on hard times - struggling with addiction and homelessness in London. 

The stark reality is that many of these athletes live in a goldfish bowl for much of their adult lives. They are mostly considered to have a high status in society and most would have developed a significantly high level of self esteem through their mastery of sport as they grew through their adolescent years. In professional football,  many are flush with cash and with clubs providing people to service their every whim, (from laundry to buying car insurance), many do not develop the life skills to survive once they leave their sport.

​"Joe Public" tends to be all about "Alan" the athlete but once you are released, you are on your own as "Joe Public" pays homage to the next wave of stars! The ex-player can sometimes feel left out and on their own, often trying to find a new identity outside of sport where they realise that things will never again be like they used to be. Many struggle with this sense of loss of not being involved in sport!

While I would acknowledge that clubs are now more aware of this area, many club chairmen do not fully understand the mental anguish that can develop in elite level athletes that are ill-equipped to deal with the strain of daily life post retirement. 


​German goalkeeper Robert Enke ended it all a few years ago as he struggled to cope with depression. Numerous former superstar boxers have died in tragic circumstances as they struggle to live a life without the fame and adulation they received during their careers. We don't need to look too far in Ireland either as one of our former Olympic medalist boxers died in tragic circumstances while struggling with the black dog. Tyson Fury (Former World Heavy-Weight Champion) also revealed recently that he has had his struggles. He went into a deep spell of depression after losing his world title, gaining a significant amount of weight. He now speaks openly about his experience regularly and now advocates for positive mental health for others like him! 


​So how is this linked and what is happening?

There is a very strong link between exercise and depression. In fact causes of depression are known to come from
  • Low serotonin levels (Stockmeier, 1997)
  • Past experiences
  • Mourning
  • Underactive or overactive thyroid (Awad, 2000)

​Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, of which low levels are linked to depression. When the body is engaged in exercise, serotonin is slowly released from the brain and into the body to help muscles relax. Think of how you feel after a long swim!

As sports people transition through their career into a non playing phase either through retirement or injury, they can move from being extremely active to doing very little in a short space of time. They go from releasing significant levels of serotonin regularly to releasing very little and as a result, can become quite depressed. 

This release of serotonin also affects the workings of the thyroid gland. If the balance is not right, the thyroid gland may become under-active or over-active. The thyroid gland controls metabolic rate and if it is not working properly, can cause you to experience various symptoms.

If your thyroid gland is overactive, one could feel very speeded up, lose weight and have symptoms similar to mania. If a thyroid is under-active, one might feel sluggish and lethargic, while some can struggle with their weight as diets might not necessarily adjust or align with the reduction in calories burned - many continue to eat like they did when they were training. Some struggle with their appearance, lose their general zest for daily life, much of which can be influenced by poor lifestyle choices. Either way, many just slowly fall into a state of depression and neglect their bodies as they move away from an active lifestyle. In fact, Simon et al (2006) suggested that you have a 25% greater chance of suffering from anxiety or depression if you get to the stage where you become obese. 

Of course, this isn't exclusive to the famed and rich sporting stars of the past and present and the exercise / serotonin / depression relationship can be a huge factor for any athlete transitioning through their sporting career - through injury or otherwise. 

Generally, we know that if exercise is maintained, then there is a much lower risk. 
In fact one meta-analysis study (Biddle, 2009) revealed that at least 33 clinical studies have identified that regular physical activity has a positive effect on mood and subjective well-being . Stathopoulou & Powers (2006) and Chaouloff (1997) showed that exercise improved psychological and emotional health as it
  • Reduces/alleviates depression, stress and anxiety.
  • Reduces negative mood and enhances positive mood.
  • Enhances self-esteem, confidence and sleep
  • Improves quality of life.
  • Improves social relationships.
  • Increase serotonin levels in the brain

For others, the depression is nothing to do with serotonin. Mourning of a lost loved one or traumatic past experience can also be a significant factor. Some may struggle with the pressure to perform and the constant scrutiny that goes with the nature of social media. Unfortunately, anonymous blogs slating athlete performances are a regular occurrence and some athletes leave themselves open to such scrutiny by engaging with negative fans through their Twitter and Instagram accounts. 

Others struggle with the perception that everyone else is having a blast and enjoying the party scene as old friends and acquaintances post aspects of their social lives online. The nature of a sporting career doesn't allow as much for such engagement and some athletes struggle with a perceived "fear of missing out" (FOMO) with many wishing they could just live a normal life without the adulation and attention that their sporting success brings. 

 
So what is the moral of the story?
  • Value the fact that your training made you feel good so find a form of exercise you enjoy even if you are not training to be an elite athlete.
  • There are issues that exercise and serotonin release cannot fix. Such issues can normally be alleviated through use of talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.  
  • No man is an island. Seek help with a professional or talk openly to somebody you trust about how you feel, no matter how bad it is. A problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Educate yourself and prepare yourself as best you can for post career transition. 
  • Don’t believe the lie that everybody including your friends is fantastically happy from their posts and pictures in social media - many are just putting on a front!

Please “Share” or “Like” if you find this article interesting………

​It may have an impact on one of your friends that is suffering in silence…….

Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Unleash Your Potential
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Understanding  Match  Day  nerves]]>Tue, 14 Aug 2018 15:07:35 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/dealing-with-match-day-nerves
The nervousness started the night before the game. A former team-mate, with whom he shared a room in the early stages of his career, once called his attention to it. "He said he did everything he could to try to fall asleep before me. Before games, my right foot would twitch so hard that the entire duvet would rustle. It drove him crazy. I never noticed until he said it to me
.Then there's the diarrhea he got on the mornings of matches - looking back, he says it happened on more than 500 days of his life. "I had to go to the bathroom right after getting up, right after breakfast, again after lunch and again at the stadium. Everything I ate just passed right on through."

For a while, all he could eat were noodles with a little olive oil. He couldn't eat any later than four hours before a game to ensure that his stomach was guaranteed to be totally empty when the nausea started. Everything surrounding the prospect of playing the games just made him want to puke.

The nausea came four to five seconds before kickoff. Once he took his position on the pitch, surrounded by roaring fans, he knew that it was coming. Every time, once again, he had to give it his all for 90 minutes. The sum total of the value of his being would be reduced to the level of his performance for the 90 minutes of the game. The stress and anxiety this brought was excruciating!

The tension, he says, became almost unbearable. "My stomach started churning and I felt like I was going to throw up. Then I had to choke so hard that I teared up." He always turned his head to the side with his chin facing his shoulder so that no one could see what was happening - no TV cameras, no coaches, no teammates; so that nobody would ever ask what was wrong. 

Per Mertesacker, the quiet, confident defender - didn't want anybody to know what was wrong with him - a member of the 2014 World Cup-winning German national team and former captain of Arsenal. 
(adapted from http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/interview-with-mertesacker-about-exit-from-arsenal-football-a-1198260-amp.html)

​In 1996 in Atlanta, Sonia O' Sullivan was set to win Olympic gold for Ireland on the track as the red hot favourite. The nerves got the better of her. She left the track, distraught with anxiety with many laps remaining.

We have often heard the difficulties of players struggling to sleep on the night before an All-Ireland final as they struggle to contend with the possibility that they might become part of history the following day! ​These are the feelings than some high performing sports stars experience prior to or during sporting performances in highly charged stadiums.



Much of this is influenced by the debilitating fear of failure where athletes struggle to maintain normal levels of anxiety often resulting in the inability to perform readily doable skills under their perceived feelings of extreme pressure. 

All Black psychologist Gilbert Enoka suggests that the brain delivers three types of response when challenged in a stressful environment – instinct, emotional and thought response. When anxiety increases, the part of the brain responsible for rational thought (pre-frontal cortex) is lessened as the part detecting threat (hippocampus) takes over.  When this occurs, it fires an even smaller part of our brain (amygdala) to enlarge, increasing our emotional and instinctive response while reducing our rational thought and ability to think clearly under pressure.

​Dr Steve Peters (a psychiatrist that has worked with elite athletes eg: Team SKY, Liverpool FC and England football) termed this the "Chimp Paradox". The body always does what the brain tells it to do but if the brain is controlled by instinct and emotion and not rational thought, then we have lost control.


Emotional and instinctive decisions can be somewhat erratic and often incorrect ones. For the 2011 Rugby World Cup, The All-Blacks sought to address this area as it had scuppered their World Cup attempts previously. They needed needed their players to steer towards decisions that are thought induced, made by clear and rational minds and that aren’t overwhelmed by the stress and pressure of the occasion. For that to happen they needed them to be calm under pressure.

They worked on control of attention to alleviate anxiety in pressure situations - a preventative intervention to reduce the chances of their minds becoming over-heated, tense and frustrated.

With the help of Gazing Performance Systems, they described the All-Blacks to be H.O.T when under pressure in tight games.
  • Heated
  • Over-whelmed
  • Tense
They called this “Red Head” – where one is no longer in control.

Other unhelpful characteristics of having a “Red Head” might be
  • Tight
  • inhibited
  • results oriented
  • anxious
  • aggressive
  • over-compensating
  • desperate


They required the players to have a “Blue Head” – one of calmness that can maintain clarity of consciousness, situational awareness, accurate analysis and have the ability to make good decisions under pressure.

Typically, a “Blue Head” would have the following characteristics.
  • Loose
  • Expressive
  • In the Moment
  • Calm
  • Clear
  • Accurate
  • On task

Such a state of consciousness allows you to see the bigger picture, remain on task, and attend to relevant stimuli. Put simply, it allows the players to process the information at hand and make correct decisions.
While some have tricks to try and alleviate it, some prefer to just hope for the best and  travel up on the morning of the game having slept in their own beds. Some bring their own pillows with them while others have been known to sleep in an empty bath tub to try and avoid the snores of a sleeping room-mate!

Distraction can also work well! Kerry football legend Jack O'Shea was famous for playing a few rounds of pitch and putt on the morning of every All-Ireland final. Others are known to arrange to meet friends with no interest in sport or switch off by watching a DVD or film. The Dublin footballers hang out in the Gibson hotel and have access to pool tables, table tennis and other amusements on the morning of an All-Ireland final and most big games - anything to take your mind off the game can be helpful. 

While it wouldn't be recommended now, GAA folklore is full of stories of lads taking a "shot" of brandy to settle the nerves before going out to play a county final while some of the Kerry footballers of the 1980's and a few of the Offaly hurlers of the 1990's were known to have a few "quiet drinks" on the night before a big game to help them sleep better! 

Some just don't play to their potential or struggle to deal with performing on the big day! 

Any performance psychologist worth their salt should be adept in advice around anxiety management and mental preparation for big day scenarios whether that is attentional focus strategies, distraction, relaxation or breathing techniques.
Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_ta
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Leadership - Doing  it  right  in  the  corporate  sector]]>Wed, 08 Aug 2018 18:36:48 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/leadership-doing-it-right-in-the-corporate-sector
​At the football World Cup 2018 in Russia, the president of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović flew to Russia economy class. She took a regular seat with her fans in the stadium at all of the matches bar the semi-final with England where she was busy at a NATO conference. At the final, she is spotted in the crowd with her people and invited to the VIP section. She is told she can't wear her jersey or nation's colours in this section. She wears them anyway - supporting her team all the way!

​After the narrow loss, she is invited to the presentation podium with national leaders of both Russia and France. While other leaders stand under umbrellas, she greets her team and the opposition with pride in the spilling rain getting drowned wet! She embraces each player at the end, both winners and runners alike like long lost sons! Social media takes it viral! The people of Croatia are ultra proud!


Leadership is something that is difficult to quantify. There are those that are naturally good leaders and there are those that can develop into good leaders over a period of time. There is huge value from an economic standpoint to having good leadership in a business or any organisation.

​As we all know, there is a cost to poor leadership or management in any company or organisation! The cost can be financial and occur through needless hemorrhaging of staff due to poor people management / leadership. The company can experience financial costs through training new staff and reduction in output of front line people. The cost can also be an asset loss or people capital cost as strong experienced staff with much experience, positive customer relations and know how are needlessly disenfranchised and leave the organisation. 

From an employee perspective, poor leadership can have more serious personal costs. It can go as far as to cause mental health issues within individuals in a given organisation due to work related stress, depression and or anxiety. In fact, research has shown employee days lost due to mental ill-health costs approximately 500 million euro in revenue per annum in Ireland. An even bigger cost is that of "presenteeism" a state of being present at work but disengaged due to poor leadership. In fact, research has shown "presenteeism" to cost up to 3.5 billion euro to businesses in Ireland.

Given such figures, leadership and leadership development is important and might be worth investing in! However, we can only invest in it if we actually know what it is!

Some years ago, a research team at Google set out on a study to figure out what good leadership looked like and what makes teams successful. They called the study Project Aristotle, a tribute to the philosopher's famous quote: "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." 

They analysed various teams within their company, interviewing hundreds of executives, team leaders and team members in the process. They discovered that a number of factors contributed to a team's effectiveness. However one factor more than any was considered the single greatest influence on a team's effectiveness - a factor  described as "psychological safety." 

"In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members," wrote the researchers. "They feel confident that no one on the team will ridicule, embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea." 

In essence, trust is a central feature of an effective, high performing team!

Business is mostly about people and positive relationships and trust is a central element of a positive relationships. We all know the saying, "Buy cheap, buy twice"! Customers want to trust their suppliers or the relationship will break down.

Equally, employees want to trust their leaders or bosses or the relationship will break down! Employees want to trust that leaders have their best interest at heart and if they do, they will do a lot for the said leader.

So how do we build that trust and a sense of purpose in a work environment? 

What we know from psychology research is that employees generally will work hard if they are “emotionally engaged” in a process. They will only get to this point if they feel valued by their peers and leaders! A leader can help followers be emotionally engaged by showing them high levels of fairness and that they care. Care you ask?

Followers will remember if they felt valued by a leader. They will also remember if they felt let down, disrespected, under-valued etc. Sir Alex Ferguson made a special effort to get to know all members of staff at Manchester United. He made it his business to know their spouses names and always showed interest in what was going on in their lives and encourage his players to do the same. He did the same for his players and got the best out of them as a result. He was a people manager. Manage your people and the results will look after themselves!

There is plenty of research on leadership and leadership style and its effect on group success. "Transformational Leadership" - a phrase first coined by James Downtown in 1973  has been proven scientifically to be the best and most effective type of leadership across business, education and sport. Transformational Leadership is known to empower rather than control followers. Such leaders inspire, develop and challenge followers (Yukl, 2006) by acting as role models, showing concern for followers and transcending their own self interest for the overall betterment of the group.

Such leaders are known to inspire, through formulating a vision, challenging followers to reach realistic goals, encouraging ownership and involvement by stimulating them intellectually to solve old problems in new ways. Such leadership has been shown to be associated with increases in motivation and performance (Charbonneau, Barling & Kelloway, 2001; Ruwold 2006) and group cohesion (Callow, Smith, Hardy, Arthur & Hardy 2009).

A scientifically validated measure (Transformation Leadership Inventory (TLI) identifies six leadership behaviours which are considered transformational in nature. 

Inspirational Motivation (where leaders inspire followers with their vision for the future).

Leaders sharing their vision for the company with followers can give employees a sense of ownership of the development of the company and take pride in their work as a result. Inspiring them by regularly getting "down and dirty" with the front line staff can generate a sense of empathy and shared experience with your followers and will help to negate an "us versus them" hierarchical feeling among employees.
Appropriate Role Modelling (where leaders lead by example in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives in the manner that they would like their followers to do)

Michael O'Leary (CEO of Ryanair - while not hugely popular at times with certain unions) is known to often help out with check in and baggage handling when needs be. He is a no nonsense positive sort of influence who "mucks in" when the time is required! Again such a dynamic mindset is one that will build trust and sense of "shared experience" with his employees. 

Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals (where leaders incorporate followers in the devising of, accepting of and striving towards a common agreed goal)

Including followers in the development of their own targets and goals incorporates a sense of ownership among a group of followers where they are more likely feel a greater sense of control and autonomy over their own development. 

Individual Consideration (where leaders show concern for followers individualistic needs)

There will be times where individuals specific cases and needs will need to be factored in. A one size fits all approach can often be debilitating. Bending the "rules" at times to facilitate an individual's personal need or requirement can lend a follower in having even greater respect for you as a leader. This will result in a build in trust and increase in effort levels on the followers part. 

Showing concern for your followers everyday lives, interests and important events is crucial for them feeling valued, listened to and connected within the organisation. This alone can have a significant impact on their level of loyalty, likelihood to stay and effort levels over future periods. If they feel valued they are more likely to stay!

High Performance Expectations (where leaders promote excellence and performance criteria for followers in the attainment of set goals

Somebody has to set standards. While external forces setting performance criteria occurs mostly in a production or sales setting, involvement of key members of staff throughout the organisation is crucial in engendering a sense of ownership throughout the organisation and avoiding a perceived hierarchical top down approach which can be debilitating to an organisation.

Intellectual Stimulation (where coach challenges players to assess their methods and how to improve them) 

Despite management or leaders and followers having a sense that there is a hierarchy, the expertise of the front line tasks generally lies with front line workers. Tapping into such expertise, taking the time to find out how they think a task could be done better can prove invaluable in giving followers a sense of ownership, while it can also be helpful in the build up of trust between leaders and followers. Give them scope to explore new ideas. A simple thing like a suggestion box or a knowledge sharing "power hour" once a month could prove very beneficial to an organisation in streamlining services or actions for the benefit of the organisation. It gives front line workers a voice and a sense of value that what they think matters and that their thoughts are being listened to! 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte won over the hearts and minds of a group of cleaners at a subway station recently. After spilling his coffee going through the turn-style, he proceeded to mop up his mess to the bemusement and appreciation of the cleaning staff. See below.

Alex Ferguson put his priority on forming positive relationships. In fact Ferguson's leadership principles always put the person before the player, because he knew that he needed to have the emotional investment of the player to get the best from them on the pitch!

Employees want leaders to see them as people, not employees. Ferguson's approach ensured that the player felt valued as a human being. In a business or organisational context, it demonstrates to an employee that the leader or manager is invested in the employee as a human being and they will feel more valued, giving more of themselves in return! 

​As Croatian president
 Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović approaches an election after displaying her humanity and sense of respect for her players in Russia, she is a certainty to remain in office as she has won the hearts of her people!

"People don't really care what you know, until they know that you care!"


Unleash Your Potential
Contact
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @KeithBegley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
]]>
<![CDATA[youth Obesity,  anxiety  &  Depression - an  exploding  epidemic]]>Wed, 08 Aug 2018 13:44:14 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/youth-obesity-anxiety-depression-an-exploding-epidemic
As we know, obesity is an epidemic that will have far reaching implications for the health of our nation. The statistics are frightening. Studies have shown that obesity has quadrupled in last 30 years. In fact, of the 74 million school-aged children in EU, 21 million are overweight, with growth rates suggesting this is increasing by 1 million children every year.
Additionally, an NHS study completed in the UK in 2008 showed that
  • 24.5% of people reported to be obese.
  • 25% of 4-5 year olds reported to be obese in certain urban areas

The same research suggested that at current rates of growth (1% per annum) it is projected that by 2050: —60 % of men, —50 % of women and greater than 30% of children will be clinically obese in the UK.

An OECD study conducted on the problem in Ireland in 2010 suggests that it is a huge problem also on this side of the Irish Sea with
  • 24.5% Irish adults reporting to be clinically obese
  • More than 66% of Irish women reporting to be overweight
  • 50% of Irish men classed as overweight

Scarily, a recent study conducted by research staff at University of Limerick has found that mothers of overweight and obese children struggle to recognize their child as overweight or obese. The national longitudinal study of children, Growing Up in Ireland reported on 7,655 mothers and their nine year old children. Study co-author, Professor Ailish Hannigan, highlighted that “while three quarters of overweight mothers and 60% of obese mothers in the study recognised themselves as overweight or obese, mothers of overweight or obese children were much less likely to recognise this in their child.” Just 1 in 6 mothers of obese children classified their child as moderately or very overweight.
At these growth rates Ireland is projected to be the worst in world by 2030. Scarily, it will be more normal to be overweight or obese than to be of normal weight with continuation of existing trends.

In fact the cost of our physical inactivity is costing our country approximately €1.6bn a year in dealing with many physical diseases brought on by over-weightedness such as dyslipidemia (high cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides), liver disease, cardio-vascular disease, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnoea, stroke and gynecological problems among many others health problems.

The “silent killer” Type 2 diebetes is an ever growing problem as people poison their bodies with sugar. As blood sugar levels are so high, people don’t have enough insulin in their bodies to regulate their blood sugar levels and so need to inject themselves daily with extra insulin to avoid chronic organ failure and serious illness. This goes hand in hand with growth in obesity rates as Diabetes increased 66% over the last decade. (Hardoon et al., 2010)

The problems are growing at an alarming rate – so much so that Dr Eva Orsmond recently said on a TV documentary that the current Irish teenage population could be the first generation ever to die before their parents.

Mental health has become very topical in recent times and it is no surprise. A study in 2006 reported that if one is obese, they are 25% more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression (Simon et al., 2006). As such, our depression and anxiety rates are growing arm in arm with our obesity levels at about 0.5% per annum (Kessler et al., 2005) and currently lie at about 20% of the population.

So what is the link between exercise and depression?

Their are a few mechanisms for this effect. How do you feel after you do a good workout? Tired? Yes but something else is also happening.

When you exercise, your brain releases a chemical called seratonin – a good mood juice, that seeps through your blood stream and into all your working muscles, helping them to relax. Some may relate to this by how they feel after a good session of swimming when they feel very relaxed. In fact swimming is one of the better exercises for seratonin release as every muscle in the body is worked during a swim session.

Exercise also regulates the working of the thyroid gland; The thyroid gland controls metabolic rate and if it is not working properly, can cause you to experience various symptoms. If it is under-active, you will feel sluggish and lethargic, may put on weight, and feel depressed.

In a recent meta-analysis, it was found that 33 studies have shown that exercise can have positive affect on mood & alleviate depression (Biddle, 2009). The study confirmed that Exercise
  • Improves psychological/emotional health.
  • Reduces/alleviates depression, stress and anxiety.
  • Reduces negative mood and enhances positive mood.
  • Enhances self-esteem, confidence and sleep.
  • Improves quality of life & social relationships.
  • Increases serotonin levels in the brain.
  • Regulates thyroid gland.

In fact a study by Craft in 2005 showed that exercising moderately 5 times per week reduced depression levels by over 75% in clinically depressed patients. We were not born to sit on a sofa and mope about our perceived hardships. Exercise is the antidote to stress and anxiety but the pharmacological firms don’t want us to know this. Stress and anxiety for them equals money.

Our government fail to acknowledge or act on this as they have downgraded the status of physical education in our schools. As more progressive thinking countries (Finland and UK for example) are extending time allocations for physical education, Ireland have recently announced that PE will be incorporated as a short course Junior Cycle subject or as a smaller part of a bigger subject area. If the science shows that exercise can have such a positive impact on people’s lives, then why is such a key subject area being downgraded especially given the depth of our obesity problem and the longer term effect on the physical and mental health system?

Additionally, those who are overweight and under-exercised may develop various psychological issues from being uncomfortable in their own skin to various forms of mental illness such as social physique anxiety, eating disorders, exercise obsession (OCD) and body dis-morphic disorder. In fact psychologists are now inundated with clients looking for help with their levels of unhappiness and depression in general society.

Exercise however, won’t fix all mental health issues as some problems  may be caused by a traumatic event or experience. This can only be fixed by talking about it. There is an obvious problem with our youth as suicide rates are growing exponentially. In a recent newspaper article, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin suggested that it has reached epidemic proportions. Can the doctors and mental health specialists all be wrong when they voice their expertise on the matter? In fact a doctor friend of mine recently suggested that the number of young people reporting with mental health issues has pushed the current system past its breaking point and that schools are grossly mistreated. His recommendation was that there should be a psychologist attached to every school of 500 or more and psychologists hours shared among smaller schools.

We have seen huge issues for our young people with almost daily reports of suicide and missing persons in the news. The governments cut to provision of guidance counselors in all schools is having serious ramifications as our young people struggle through daily pressures. Many struggle with pressure to meet their huge life expectations garnered through peer pressure and projections of peer perfection through social media. Being just a “normal” kid is never enough any more as adolescents really struggle to find their way through their “unsure of themselves” teenage years. The services are not there in the volume they are needed and our youth are paying the price.
Somebody needs to do something

Niall Breslin (aka Bressie) recently addressed the Oireachtas on this very matter. Promises will be made with the impending election but we will continue with the status quo as families watch their loved ones in depression and despair. The politicians have the power. Lets see if they react in an appropriate fashion.
                                                                        
Unleash Your Potential
Contact
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @KeithBegley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
]]>
<![CDATA[Golf Performance - Mastering the yips]]>Wed, 08 Aug 2018 11:52:13 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/golf-performance-mastering-the-yips
How often have we seen golfers do erratic things at the most inopportune times? Ernie Els made a six-putt at the first hole in Augusta a few years ago. Such poor skill execution can often be seen in golf – known as “the yips”. This often occurs when golfers feel under pressure and anxious during performance.


One only needs to look back at Rory McIllroy at Augusta in 2011 to see how anxiety can destroy a performance. On the Saturday, he shot 70 to finish at 12-under-par, four strokes ahead of four other challengers. However, on the fourth and final day, he shot the worst round in history by any professional golfer leading after the third round of the Masters Tournament. McIlroy scored one-over-par 37 on the first nine, and still had the lead, but shot a round of 80, finishing tied for 15th place at -4 for the tournament.

Watch his round unfold below

Afterwards he said “I displayed a few weaknesses in my game that I need to work on. For 63 holes I led and it was just a very bad back nine that sort of took the tournament away from me, I suppose. I was just trying to stay ahead of the field, which in hindsight probably wasn’t a good thing. I just should have gone out, played my game and said ‘Right, if I play well I’m capable of shooting 65 around this golf course and winning by 10′. But that’s not the way it worked out and that’s experience. That’s just learning to be in that position more often. Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself in those positions more often in my career and sooner or later it’s going to happen where it finally clicks and I’m able to handle the whole thing a lot better and win.”

He later employed the services of sport psychologist Dr Bob Rotella (since deceased) and obviously learned to deal with the problem. Months later in his next major, McIlroy won the U.S. Open held at Congressional, winning by eight strokes over Jason Day. McIlroy set several records in his victory, most notably, his 72-hole aggregate score of 268 (16-under) was a new U.S. Open record.

Others also suffered a similar fate, none more so than Jean Van De Welde famously at the British Open and Greg Norman at Augusta as they both threw away huge leads on the final day after holding convincing leads overnight from the third round on the Saturday.

More recently, a young Irish amateur Paul Dunne led the British Open in 2015 entering the final day leading by 3 shots. After his final round collapsed, Dunne found it tough to take after his first three rounds of 69, 69 and 66, as he enjoyed massive support among the galleries from Greystones club members and Irish golf fans.

Afterwards he said “I just never really got settled into the round,” he lamented. “I got off to a bit of a rough start and didn’t make my score on the front nine and threw away some shots on the back nine. I wasn’t too bad starting. I just hit three wedge shots fat and one thin. I didn’t see those shots in my game or in practice before today. I don’t think I’ve done that ever. I don’t know where that came from. It kind of surprised me on the first. After I hit that second shot it rattled me a little bit and I never got settled after that.“

So what happened?

Basically anxiety is having a significant negative impact on performance. Anxiety takes two forms and may impact the brain (psychological anxiety) or the muscular system (somatic anxiety) or both.

Psychological anxiety can affect decision making, ability to sleep on nights previous to performance and bring on worrisome thoughts – often about winning or losing - or other peoples perceptions around how you are doing eg: player, crowd, coach or family perceptions of performance which may make suffering players uncomfortable.

Somatic anxiety manifests itself in various ways – trembling hands, hyperventilation, nausea, increased need to use toilet, dry throat, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, general sweating or indeed struggling to sleep on the night before the performance. In severe cases, performers can suffer from nausea and some might even feel the need to throw up before performing in competition.

The combination of an increase in both psychological anxiety (head worry) and somatic anxiety (muscle worry) at the same time forces the body and mind to overheat and golfers then struggle to execute what are considered relatively easy shots. It takes the form of a mild panic attack or what we know as psycho-somatic stress resulting in skill breakdown.

The nervousness within the body bring about involuntary muscle movements which contribute to the “yips” as skill execution that is normally considered easy becomes a lot more difficult as a skill breakdown or de-chunking of natural movement flow occurs.

This has been extensively researched by Lew Hardy at Bangor University with his 1996 paper suggesting that boosting confidence can help buffer the level of anxiety at which these performance decrements occur.

Various strategies such as appropriate relaxation techniques, self-talk and attentional focus cues as well as imagery can help alleviate the impact of the anxiety and reduce the impact and onset of the “yips”.

Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is a member of British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES)  and is an accredited performance psychologist with the Sport Ireland Institute. 

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Effective Leadership - Why Sir Alex Was So Successful]]>Fri, 03 Aug 2018 12:18:02 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/effective-leadership-why-sir-alex-was-so-successful
Why was Alex Ferguson so successful?

So we recognise that Alex has been an inspirational leader in the football world for the past 30 years or more, winning numerous titles with Aberdeen and Manchester United. So many managers have come and gone in this time, many unsuccessful. So is there something that Ferguson happens to be good at? While he may not have realised the strength of its impact, his leadership had a direct impact on the reactions and performance levels of his players.
There is lots of research and posts on leadership style and its effect on group success. "Transformational Leadership" - a phrase first coined by James Downtown in 1973  has been proven scientifically to be the best and most effective type of leadership across business, education and sport. Transformational Leadership is known to empower rather than control followers. Such leaders inspire, develop and challenge followers (Yukl, 2006) by acting as role models, showing concern for followers and transcending their own self interest for the overall betterment of the group.

Such leaders are known to inspire, through formulating a vision, challenging followers to reach realistic goals, encouraging ownership and involvement by stimulating them intellectually to solve old problems in new ways. Such leadership has been shown to be associated with increases in motivation and performance (Charbonneau, Barling & Kelloway, 2001; Ruwold 2006) and group cohesion (Callow, Smith, Hardy, Arthur & Hardy 2009).

A scientifically validated measure (Transformation Leadership Inventory for Sport (DTLI), Callow et al, (2009)) identifies seven leadership behaviours that help performance, six of which are considered transformational in nature.

This article looks at how Sir Alex drove success and changed the culture of Manchester United from a "transformational leadership" perspective - transforming them from a sleeping giant into one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world.

The following characteristics are those of a transformational leader!

Inspirational Motivation (where leaders inspire followers with their vision for the future).

Sir Alex had to contend with a very poor drink culture at the club among the players  when he got there. They were talented players who wanted success but some weren't prepared to or were unable to take the actions that would get them there. He tried  to set the high standards for those established players to follow and those who didn't (Paul McGrath & Norman Whiteside for example) were moved on. In the initial years, he revolutionised the youth system at Manchester Utd, imbuing the youth players with a willingness to work extremely hard regarding fitness and skill development – so much so that in the early nineties he was able to bring in the likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ben Thornley straight from the youth team. The following year he could add the likes of Phil Neville and Keith Gillespie.

Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals (where leaders incorporate followers in the devising of, accepting of and striving towards a common agreed goal)

Throughout his time at Manchester United, we can think of the leaders he had  - Robson, Hughes, Bruce, Schmeichel, Cantona, Keane, Scholes, Neville - the list is endless. Ferguson always gave high priority to the views of the senior players. He knew that once he could manage them, he could manage the dressing room. He used the senior players to set a culture of change around the club that would see them climb to the very top of European football. Once the senior players were right, it was easy to bring in the young players that he knew had the right work ethic and application to foster a winning culture as they were immersed in it from a young age. Their success wouldnt have happened on such a continuous basis without the players being invested in the culture, driving standards to new levels on a continuous basis. 

Individual Consideration (where leaders show concern for followers individualistic needs)

While it was mentioned that the drinkers were weeded out, he was still able to identify that Bryan Robson was a real leader on the pitch and one he could not do without in his earlier years at the club. While there was one rule for the majority, he could identify that he needed Robson more than he needed to weed him out for a few nights out. Others with substance misuse or gambling issues were given every chance to find their way out of trouble as Ferguson sought to support many through various addictions as they developed from boys to men. All was kept private and in-house which further endeared him to the people at the club. If it didn't work out, they were moved on but most if not all left on very good terms.

He was known to meet and greet all parents of youth players on their arrival at the club and ensure they would be looked after. Some who were homesick in their early months were often sent home to their parents for a week or two at the cost of the club. He understood the importance that everyone was different and he took each situation on its own merits.

When Eric Cantona did his Kung Fu style kick at West Ham and got suspended for numerous months, Sir Alex could have had good reason to move him on. He saw it differently - he knew the taunting and abuse he received from opposition on daily basis. He understood. He put his arm around him and Cantona repaid him in spades on his return at Anfield when he scored a fantastic goal as Man Utd went on to capture the league. Ferguson had his back and Cantona knew it!


High Performance Expectations (where leaders promote excellence and performance criteria for followers in the attainment of set goals

​Alex would have set out a level of expectation regarding performance and training. Standards were high and the players knew it. As discussed previously, he did this initially by weeding out the majority of the drinkers at the club, while giving a successful youth development programme graduates their chance to shine under the tutelage of senior players acting in the best interests of the team and club. He was one of the first premiership managers to engage with sport and performance science on a consistent basis and he was well ahead of the curve on this front. Mick Clegg ran a mandatory S&C programme from the Cliff training ground and when they moved on to their plush new training facility in Carrington, yoga, pilates and GPS monitoring was added to the menu for players seeking to improve their athleticism or maintain a body to play into their late thirties and early forties as we saw with Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel and Ryan Giggs.

Intellectual Stimulation (where coach challenges players to assess their methods and how to improve them) 

Little do we know about the interactions between Sir Alex and his players but there was a tendency for players to improve when they went to Man Utd at that period of time. Those who left often regretted it and went downhill afterwards. Only the best coaches were recruited, sometimes from within the system. Ferguson was known for asking questions and engaging with players. He got them to think out solutions rather than telling them the answers. He was an engaging person with outside interests in horses and business and encourage players to do the same. He knew there was more to life than the football merry go round and openly stated that he was happy to see players settle down and have kids as he knew they then had interests outside of football.

Appropriate Role Modelling (where leaders lead by example in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives in the manner that they would like their followers to do). 

In his early years, Alex was well known for participating in some of the 5 a side sessions on the training field. He kept himself in good condition physically and as Gary Neville recently alluded to, he was always very personable, whether you were on the team, a youth team player or a tea lady at the training ground. He made it his business to know the name of every member of staff at the club and learned about their families. He knew that if he could create a family atmosphere around the club, that it would be a happy place to be! He demanded the same of his players and insisted that all players call all cleaning and canteen staff by their first name. He was known to be very humorous at times and this endeared him to everyone around him as you can see from video clip above during one of his final games as Man Utd boss.

However, as we all know, he knew when to be serious and those that demonstrated themselves to be above their station displaying large ego were quickly reprimanded. In fact he once said that he knew he had a player when they had the same manner around the first team as they did when they left their mammy's kitchen at fifteen years of age.


The research also includes one transactional behaviour that is important in getting the most out of a sporting group! 

Contingent Reward Leadership (where leaders trade praise or recognition for desirable behaviours)

Alex was well known for always backing and praising his players in public even if they made a mistake and never dissed them in public, often to the annoyance of the media. Everything that needed to be said could be said in private and the players respected that. He obviously was able to get the most from his players. They knew he had their back and they gave as much as they could in return! 

So basically, Alex has mastered these behaviours of his own accord. In my opinion, others also appear to have these credentials and in Pep Guadiola, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have benefited.  

In a sport psychology context in Ireland,  the GAA inter-county managerial merry go round, borne of player unrest and unhappiness is a clear indication of poor managerial acumen among many inter county managers. More successful managers (Mickey Harte, Brian Cody, Jim Gavin and Jim McGuinness albeit with quality players) have been proven to be very influential and have been very successful recently. It would be generally accepted that they would also have adhered to these performance psychology principles and leadership characteristics during their time in charge.
Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Thinking  Clearly  Under  Pressure  -  The All - Black's Perspective]]>Mon, 30 Jul 2018 16:04:17 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/controlling-your-mind-under-pressure-the-all-blacks-perspective
In 2007, the All-Blacks were set to win their first Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. They led France 13 to 3 at half time in the quarter final. In the second half, it went a little pear shaped for them and they lost 20 18 in the process. Star player Anton Oliver likened the feeling afterwards to a death in the family. The expectation was so great, the result so damaging and hurtful. The players had choked due to the fear of failure – a crippling form of anxiety and performance stress brought on by huge expectation.
When the French took the lead, commentators suggested the All-Blacks just needed to get up the field and take a penalty to win it. They got up the field and created an opportunity but went for the try instead. Poor decision making and inability to stay calm and rational under pressure cost them the game and their chance to fulfill their countrymen’s expectations.
France players celebrate as Rodney So’oialo of New Zealand walks away dejected following the Quarter Final of the Rugby World Cup 2007. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

We have seen where huge expectations - often exaggerated by the media - have a major negative impact on performance in other sports too. Home nation Brazil were beaten 7-1 by Germany in the soccer world cup in 2014 as the nation expected. The English soccer team failed to meet expectations at numerous championships – most notably the 2014 world cup as the media frenzy set huge hysteria and expectations around them before they finished bottom of their group. After huge hype in the national media, Eddie O'Sullivan's Irish Rugby team capitulated in the 2007 world cup as 6 nations champions when they failed to get out of the group stages while struggling to beat what are perceived to be a lesser rugby nation in Georgia. 

We have also seen it on an individual basis. In 1986, Greg Norman led by 6 shots heading into the final day at Augusta National. He couldn’t handle the pressure and lost. Rory McIlroy suffered the same fate in 2011 while Jean Van De Welde made a similar fall when he was red hot favourite to win the British Open at Carnoustie. His decision making was out of control and he even considered attempting to hit the ball from the drain on the famous 17th hole. Colin Montgomerie could never win a golf major despite topping the European Tour Order of Merit for ten years in a row while Jimmy White could never win the World snooker championship despite being the best player in the world for many years.

All Black psychologist Gilbert Enoka suggests that the brain delivers three types of response when challenged in a stressful environment – instinct, emotional and thought response. The body always does what the mind tells it to do and he felt that this was the root of the problem. The problem wasn’t one of fitness or physical skill-set.

Emotional and instinctive decisions can be somewhat erratic and often incorrect ones as had proved on previous occasions. He needed needed his players to steer towards decisions that are thought induced and made by clear and rational minds that aren’t overwhelmed by the stress and pressure of the occasion. For that to happen he needed them to be calm under pressure.

In 2011 the All-Blacks looked to address the negative impact of expectation by building skills in the players to alleviate anxiety and performance stress. They brought in extra psychological support to help players manage their minds and decision making when under pressure. 

Gazing Performance System’s work with high end business organisations such as Xerox, UPS and Avis in handling pressure and improving performance. Gazing Performance began working with players by helping them understand match day nerves. They developed skills in players to help them control attention, alleviate anxiety in pressure situations enabling players to transition into a state of mind where they were clear, positive and on task. 

With the help of Gazing Performance Systems, they described the All-Blacks to be H.O.T when under pressure in tight games.
  • Heated
  • Over-whelmed
  • Tense
They called this “Red Head” – where one is no longer in control.

Other unhelpful characteristics of having a “Red Head” might be
  • Tight
  • inhibited
  • results oriented
  • anxious
  • aggressive
  • over-compensating
  • desperate


They required the players to have a “Blue Head” – one of calmness that can maintain clarity of consciousness, situational awareness, accurate analysis and have the ability to make good decisions under pressure.

Typically, a “Blue Head” would have the following characteristics.
  • Loose
  • Expressive
  • In the Moment
  • Calm
  • Clear
  • Accurate
  • On task

Such a state of consciousness allows you to see the bigger picture, remain on task, and attend to relevant stimuli. Put simply, it allows the players to process the information at hand and make correct decisions.

For example, have they they the ability to think clearly under pressure? Can they see a positive overload to left or right (5v4 or 4v3 situation)? Is there a gap off the side of the ruck? Is the maul dominant enough to make yards? Is there a kick chase on? Should we take penalty or scrum? Tap kick penalty or go for the line-out? What type of line-out? Such decisions are made on a constant basis in rugby and such decisions often influence the result. Therefore having the ability to take the optimal option can be the deciding factor between winning and losing.

In this regard, some players need to be more psyched down than psyched up for a performance so that they can maintain appropriate clarity of consciousness for optimal decision making. Without realising, the natural charge of the environment of competitive sport (stadium, fans & noise) can put players in the H.O.T zone where they are unable to manage their thoughts. Those in that negative zone tend to go with an instinctive or emotional response as opposed to a rational thought induced response which very often is the wrong decision.

James Kerr in his book about the All-Blacks “Legacy” allays that former All-Black out half Andrew Mehrtens likens it to “striking the balance between being lucid and being motivated. There comes a point where you become too hyped up and you lose your lucidity and ability to read a situation and make a good decision.”

For example, with only minutes remaining in a match where your team are expected to win, your team are in an attacking position on the pitch in possession of the ball but losing by two points. Your thought process might be, “crap, we have to win this game, we are in trouble here”, as opposed to a strategic rational thought oriented response. This type of thought can keep you calm, allow you to see the big picture and make optimal decisions to help the team create a score to win. 

Additionally, in such a contact sport, the best players and teams play on the edge of the rules. However, numerous athletes struggle to stay on the right side of that edge in intense pressure situations. Their “controlled aggression” is no longer controlled - often due to frustration and their minds being flustered. Such frustration can come about due to many reasons – mistakes in own performance, unmet expectation, a bad pass, a missed putt, a dropped ball, a poor refereeing decision, concession of a soft score, a missed opportunity or previous negative relations with said opposition. When this happens, athlete’s often overcook their aggression levels (H.O.T.), lose their thought clarity resulting in erratic performance or behaviour leaving them open to ill-discipline that may have further implications for the team or performance.

As such, the All-Black’s sought to implement a programme to develop optimal thought processes for the 2011 World Cup. Team psychologist Enoka suggests that many teams use psychological support on an ad hoc basis – a one off visit from a sport psychologist or inspirational motivational speaker, a day away but rarely something continuous and progressive.

​Few focus on long term improvement. Enoka told Real Estate Business Magazine that it is crazy the way some people think, “because if you want to build up strength, you go to the gym three times a week and work on your core strength. It just seems that if you want to develop your ability to concentrate and focus and be flexible in what you do from a mental perspective, wouldn’t you apply the same approach?”

Prior to the 2011 world cup, Enoka, with Gazing Performance built layers of pressure allowing the player’s minds to adapt and acclimatize to the pressure. Accordingly, All-Black brains adjusted and developed clarity with regard to accuracy, automaticity of execution and situational awareness in a similar way to which a Math’s teacher might build layered schema in his students. Never too much too soon, but a strategic layered approach. When they were finished, players felt in control of their minds and were ready to execute their skills with appropriate tactical awareness.

​Mental strategies were put in place to firstly calm the mind. Richie McCaw in his book describes the work Gazing Performance did with helping them to maintain such calm. Like meditation, he described how he got them to reconnect during breaks in play at opportune times. “Breathing slowly and deliberately…..shift your attention to something external – the ground, or your feet or the ball at hand or the grandstand………use deep breaths and key words to get out of your own head, get yourself ‘back in the present’, regain your situational awareness”. These techniques help the body and mind to centre, relax and maintain appropriate thought activation.

Other mental strategies or what sport psychologists might call “attentional focus cues” or “triggers” were implemented by Enoka and Gazing Performance also. These cues gave players a map of what they should be doing generally in different scenarios. It would work in a similar way to what Neuro Linguistic Programming might do for adult behaviour.

It would work as a road-map to help players to navigate their way through a game while enabling activation of appropriate thought processes and clarity of mind and purpose. While we don’t fully know the actual cues implemented for 2011, Anton Oliver – an All Black at the world cup in 2007 gives some insight into what may have been involved in James Kerr’ book “Legacy“. Remembering the “cues” from 2007, “I can still remember them……….TQB, top quality ball. OTG, over the gainline. KBA, keep ball alive. LQB, lightening quick ball. You get those four things going, we’re fine………that gave us the template to figure out the game”.

In the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final with the All-Blacks in the lead at 8-7 against the same opposition as 2007 (France), the All-Blacks now had the tools to win. The book “Legacy” describes how “Richie McCaw breathes, holds his wrist, stamps his feet – reconnecting with himself, returning to the moment. Brad Thorne throws water over himself cooling his thoughts. Kieran Read stares out to the far distant edge of the stadium, regaining perspective” all maintaining appropriate clarity as the clock counts down slowly. They are in control of their own minds. The whistle goes. They are finally champions.
Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Drop  out  From  Youth  Sport  - Responsibilities  of  the  Coach]]>Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:43:20 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/drop-out-from-youth-sport-responsibilities-of-the-coach
​We are now looking looking at a situation in the western world where obesity is almost  an epidemic. Reports suggest that over 35% of people in the USA (National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)) in 2010. Reports also suggested that about 25% of people in Britain (NHS 2008) and Ireland (OECD 2010) are reported to be obese with levels of growth estimated at about 1% per annum. It indicates a drastic rise from 1993 levels, when just 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women reported to be obese. 
 If the growth rate continues at the present pace, over 50% of people in these countries will be obese by 2050 with significant costs to the exchequers health bill. Scarily, huge volumes of 4-5 year old children (24.5%) in Britain (NHS) reported to be obese in 2008. This does not account for the massive population of children that are overweight, not yet obese but will be by the time they reach adulthood.

Bearing this in mind, physical activity, sport and exercise is increasingly important and is emphasised by Twisk et al (1997), who found that long-term exposure to daily physical activity was inversely related to body fatness. Essentially, outdoor fun and games,  physical activity and sport offers a lot more than enjoyment value for children given it's potential impact on a nations health. 

The child’s early experience in sport is critical for their ongoing development and retention in physical activity. If the experience is positive, the child will be more likely to continue participating. If the experience is overly negative, the child may drop out and lose interest in the sport or physical activity. 

Presently, there is a huge drop out rate from sport among adolescents. According to recent studies, 45% of ten year old boys participate in sports. By the age of eighteen only 26% of them stay active. An overview of youth sports carried out in the USA showed that dropout is well under way at age ten and peaks at 14-15. Similar results were found across a range of ten different sports. 

Sport England research suggests that in all sports, almost half as many 16 – 24 year old women take part in sport as men of the same age while only 15% of girls aged 15 in the UK meet recommended daily physical activity levels. The research points out that those  who don't drop out of sport say they feel a powerful sense of belonging and list friends, fun and socialisation factor, team spirit, coach and parental support as additional reasons to stay involved in sport.

Some of the reasons given for dropout from sport included
  • Loss of interest,
  • Lack of fun, enjoyment and playing opportunities
  • Failure to learn new skills
  • Too much pressure
  • Coach was a poor teacher
  • Too much time involved
  • Coach played favourites
  • Over emphasis on winning.

Therefore, the importance of the sports coach and the role that they play now is infinitely more important than it used to be.

Abraham Maslow, a famous Danish human psychologist established a "Hierarchy of Needs" from a human psychology perspective in the late 1960’s for the development of the child. In this author’s opinion, this is very much transferable into the sports coaching domain with relevance to athlete development.

He explained that for one to reach their full potential in life, a sense of love or feeling of belonging (mostly to parents and family) is central to reaching ones potential. It's  applicability to a coaching context is exemplified where a positive social dynamic, fostered within a group by the coach, ensures that all players feel like they belong! Here, desirable coach behaviours imbue an enhanced sense of player connectedness within a group - positively impacting on their willingness to stay involved. 
As kids develop at different rates, a weak 12 year old could potentially be an excellent 18 year old if given the correct coaching and time to physically develop. However the nature of team sports and often a coaches “must win” philosophy or "feeling of pressure to win" can have a huge impact on weaker players willingness to stay involved. Very often the actions of a coach can leave them leaving them feeling left out or unimportant.

Needless disenfranchisement through lack of playing opportunity, creating a poor sense of belonging within players along the development pathway, could mean that some  never reach that phase where they garner self esteem and the respect of their peers, let alone reaching their full potential (self actualization phase). This is often the reason for drop-out from youth sport.


The Relative Age Effect (RAE) is a commonly acknowledged factor in the dropout rate in sport. It briefly explains that a child born later in the athletic year is less likely to garner success in sport because on a general scale, they are less likely to be chosen on teams due to being physically weaker than those born earlier in the athletic calendar year. For example, a child born in December is more likely to drop out of sport than a child born in January in team sports where the cut off age date of birth is January 1st in any given year.

Obviously, this is negated at adult level but a lack of playing opportunities on the path towards adult sport may impact on their likelihood to continue in sport as some may feel unappreciated or hold a poor sense of belonging to the group at large through the development years. 



Too often, a win at all costs philosophy on a coach’s part results in players leaving their chosen sport because of lack of playing opportunity. Too often we see young players being left on the bench for the coaches perception of self-pride when their team is winning or losing comprehensively. Some under 12 teams are being trained in an exceptionally serious manner with the criterion for success being whether a championship is won or not.

When all is said and done, in the greater scheme of things, does an underage title really matter towards long term success? While it may encourage those involved playing, for those weaker kids not given opportunities, it may inherently tell them that they are not good enough to play. Remember that for every team that wins, there are a lot more losing teams. A sub on a losing under 14 team who rarely gets game time is not going to have a high level of self worth in relation to their playing capability. As such, a coach’s relational discourse will most likely have a much larger impact on an athlete’s feelings of self worth than they can imagine.


As coaches in our hot pursuit of sporting excellence, we must not lose sight of the fact that children play for enjoyment, not success of the coach. A far more appropriate criterion for coaching success or lack thereof, of an underage team would be whether the weaker players at under 12 level are still playing, developing and enjoying their sport as 18 year olds. If they are not, maybe one needs to ask questions of their methods, objectives and manner of coaching, irrespective of how many championships a coach wins.

As a coach of young players, one needs to ask and answer some of these questions?
  • Are the players having fun and enjoying the training?
  • Am I making them technically better?
  • Am i developing a love of the game in my players?
  • Am i helping all of my players feel wanted?

​This can only be done by embracing each and every individual athlete as an individual, creating a positive group dynamic and allowing all youth athletes to enjoy their sport for the right reasons - not least their entitlement to some physical activity in a world where youth obesity levels are reaching epidemic proportions. 

Yes, there will be times when you want your strongest team on the pitch, but there are also times when winning or losing does not really matter. If it takes an extra effort to arrange friendly games to cater for weaker players, then that should be done. What right do we as coaches have to limit a players potential development or worse again, turn them off a sport they might love and contribute to the growing rise of obesity through mismanagement of youth sport.

It is their game, not ours. We have had our time!

This is what the kids think!
Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Unleash Your Potential
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Team  Culture  -  Creating  a  Winning  Mentality]]>Mon, 23 Jul 2018 16:18:33 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/team-culture-creating-a-winning-mentality
Over time, we have seen how winning teams always seem to have a very positive team ethic and culture. While having a positive team culture doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the sense of winning silverware, it generally ensures that a team gets the most out of itself.  

Very often, there is only a minimal difference in skill and or fitness levels between the top few teams in any given competition. As such, the differentiator between being successful and not is often influenced by the level of selfless work-rate that individual members of  a team are prepared to take on during the course of a game.

Typically, this selfless work-ethic is directly influenced by the level of team cohesion among team-mates; and t
eam cohesion and work ethic is directly influenced by team culture. As such, the culture that a team management sets around a team is critical to producing an environment where the players are willing to forego individual ego and work hard in the best interests of the group. 
If there is a strong team culture, a team will work for each other. If there is a poor one, results will fall. This is one area where engagement with performance psychology support can prove beneficial. One standout example is the level of social cohesion at Chelsea FC pre and post the Mourinho - Doctor saga (where Dr Eva Carneiro was sacked for entering the field of play to tend to Eden Hazard as he lay in pain on the ground injured).


​In the previous season, they displayed a significantly strong team ethic and culture in becoming league champions and all seemed rosy in the garden. However, the team cohesion and unity was both tested and compromised by the sacking of the doctor who was held in high esteem by the players. After her sacking, the team went into free-fall. Mourinho had lost the dressing room and eventually lost his job!

Performance psychology support can strategically create a positive team environment, where individuals are given ownership and autonomy over their own goals and standards enhancing social and team cohesion. In fact studies (Locke & Latham, 2006) have shown that where athletes are involved in the creation and development of their own goals, standards and team culture, that up to a 16% increase in performance effort levels may be obtained. In essence, it increases the level to which players are prepared to work for each other both on and off the field of play.


The  New Zealand All-Black culture is one that is extremely strong presently. It puts the needs of the team above that of all individuals. The challenge is for each individual to leave the jersey in a better place than they found it – to add value to it. However it wasn't always this way.

Team performance coach Gilbert Enoka went about changing the culture in 2004 – at a time when they struggled to fulfill their potential. The culture change was facilitated by bringing the players to camp - a 3 day conclave where team standards and behaviour expectations were addressed by players facilitated by performance psychology experts – the result being a transference of positive leadership from the coaches to the players.

Since then, the All Blacks are different to most other teams. Enoka suggests that the difference lies “in the transference of power from the coaches to the leadership group who set and enforce standards among the players. When aberrations occur, a player is answerable to his team-mates rather than the coaches. Ego has to be left at the door; there is a rigidly enforced “no d—head policy” in the squad.

According to Team Manager at the time Brian Lochore, their aim was to create an environment that would stimulate players and make them want to be part of and where peer pressure was of a positive variety - challenging players to be the best that they could be. They  came up with 6 words that would epitomise that ethos. The phrase “Better people make better All Blacks” still rings true to this day.

In May 2015, Leicester City struggled to avoid relegation from the Premier League. With some smart acquisitions under the advice of Steve Walsh (who since departed to Everton FC) and a sport science support team that was valued and listened to, performance psychologist Ken Way helped foster a culture where players got the most out of themselves. The manner of message delivery and engagement from the sport science team left the players feeling empowered and motivated where a level of accountability and transparency was facilitated. 

After each game, on pitch player movements were recorded through a GPS system, showing various metrics including distance, the level of intensity of various runs, acceleration, deceleration, and changes of direction. Players were known to have internal competitions on scores for various aspects of the data. When sprint scores were presented to the whole group and it was no surprise that Jamie Vardy topped the poll but others were trying to beat him. 


Small five-a-side tables were published and players watched clips of each other’s performances. Such initiatives offered a transparency where players had no place to hide. The result was an honesty where players became accountable to each other. Such internal squad competition incorporated a sense of fun and challenge but also a positive motivational climate that becomes the key driver of success. Such levels of data, when used and delivered appropriately in a smart way can only enhance player motivation. It challenged the players to take ownership and autonomy over their own development. 

It challenged and empowered the players to make good decisions for themselves and helped foster a positive group culture and fighting spirit notwithstanding the banter generated around the internal competition to mould the players into a happy cohesive group - incorporating best practice  from a psychological perspective as we know from Locke and Latham's 2006 research.

While using such objective screening, the backroom staff had a general understanding of exactly where all players were at. It gave coaching staff valid information for when they spoke to players and offered opportunities to speak in tangible fact, not opinion. This transparent dynamic forced an honesty among the players and offered ownership of player development with the player, further enhancing a positive motivational climate.

Significantly, Leicester City ceased their engagement of Ken Way's performance psychology services early the following season and we saw how their performance levels dropped as Claudio Ranieri was relieved of his job and some of their more prominent players moved on to newer pastures. 


Wales - semi finalists at Euro 2016 had a similar structure with Dr Ian Mitchell as performance psychologist. The group was always priority despite having a world class player like Gareth Bale on the team. Each player was part involved in the forming of the team motto - "Together, Stronger" that became emblazoned across much of the promotional material around the Welsh team. 

The unity of the Wales team that Summer was supported  by an element of self-policing within the squad - a feeling of not wanting to let each other down. It forced them to be   honest with each other to get the best out of each other. Reaching the semi final for the first time ever ensured that they were getting the most out of themselves.

It is no surprise that Dr Mitchell was in high demand subsequently with the English FA appointing him to join Dr Pippa Grange and work with the English FA in a performance psychology capacity. We have seen since through the most recent world cup 2018 and underage world cups (where England were successful) the impact that creating the right type of culture around a team has. Gareth Southgate's team became a team that won the hearts of the people both in England and beyond for the first time in a long time on their journey towards the world cup semi-final!

Within a GAA context, Micheal Donoghue employed the services of two performance psychologists behind the successful Galway hurling team in 2018. The Limerick senior hurling team also employed performance psychology support in 2018 when they surprisingly won their first senior hurling All-Ireland since 1973! 

The success that Jimmy McGuinness had with Donegal is also noted with McGuinness having a background in performance psychology while the Dublin senior football team is another noted example. Jim Gavin's professional air-core background informs his style of leadership where all team panelists are responsible for carrying out their roles to the best of their abilities while he also avails of performance psychology support for his team as they seek to become the greatest Gaelic football team of all time.

On a lower level but with equally significant levels of improvement over a short period of time, the #CarlowRising (Carlow GAA successes of recent times) was supported with use of performance psychology support in both hurling and football while the double All-Ireland winning Cuala club hurling team have also engaged with performance psychology services in creating that winning mentality.  


​In a professional sports setting, this may be augmented by a manager creating positive engagement around the working environment by engaging positively with ALL members of staff - beyond the immediate team support staff. Simple acknowledgement of the roles of everyone creates a harmonious working environment where a positive motivational climate develops and players feed off such positivity and "can do" approach!

In fact, out of respect, when Alex Ferguson was Manchester United manager, he ensured that ALL players addressed catering and cleaning staff by their first names. He made it his business to ensure he knew the names of cleaning  and catering staff's spouses and what was going on in their lives! Incidentally, Pep Guadiola is no stranger to this either and stressed the importance of the team effort to his staff in a heartfelt thank you after he led his Manchester City team to the Premier League title in 2018
Success in the majority of examples provided all came from the fostering of a positive team culture - primarily led by team management in conjunction with performance psychology support, creating a high performance culture in conjunction with the players.
Unleash Your Potential
​Keith Begley is a member of BASES and an accredited performance psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland

https://twitter.com/KeithBegley       @Keith Begley

https://www.linkedin.com/in/keith-begley-69755850?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[What is holding Mayo back?]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:21:58 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/what-is-holding-mayo-back
The story goes that the victorious Mayo team of 1951, while passing through Foxford during the All-Ireland celebrations, failed to pay due respects to a passing funeral. Enraged, a local priest cursed the county team, that while any member of the 1951 team lived, Mayo would never win another All-Ireland. It remains unbroken — despite the team reaching the Final on nine occasions since then. They have either completely collapsed on the day or been undone by a series of other unfortunate events. 66 years on, only two of that 1951 team remain.
In many of these finals, significant leads were thrown away as the game neared the end. In 1996, when having led by 6 points, a freak point by Meath’s Colm Coyle bounced over the bar from a 70m kick at the end of the game reinforcing the concept of the dreaded curse coming to pass. See highlights here.

The replay was just as bad as Meath came from a 6 point deficet to win the game in the last few minutes. Kerry prolonged the torture with big wins in the finals of 2004 (eight points) and 2006 (thirteen points).

Mayo were back again in the finals of 2012 and 2013 against Donegal and Dublin respectively. After losing to Donegal in 2012, a priest, Fr Padraic Costello was called in to lift the curse and end the misfortune for the Dublin game. While Fr Costello was sceptical about the curse, to be on the safe side, he gave the squad an official blessing at the exact place on the bridge over the River Moy in Foxford, Co Mayo where it was allegedly imposed.

They lost again by a point to Dublin.

Again in 2016, they failed to win when dominating the drawn final, while fundamental errors and failure to take chances when presented could easily be put forward as reasons why they were yet again unsuccessful.
So is there really a curse and what is going on?

Mayo might be cursed alright but most likely it is one of a different kind than the popular stories suggest. The likelihood is that too many have been cursed with performance anxiety at varying stages of the finals that they have participated in.

Performance anxiety regularly gets the better of highly skilled athletes as they make unusual and uncharacteristic errors at key moments in front of big audiences in highly charged environments.

Anxiety takes two forms – psychological stress and somatic stress.

Psychological stress takes the form of head worry – worry over how one is playing and other peoples perceptions – family, management, other players, worry about winning or losing. It can also cloud optimal decision making and cause difficulty in sleeping on nights previous to the game resulting in lethargy and tiredness.

Somatic anxiety may cause the following: hyperventilation, increased heart rate, increased sweating, trembling hands and toes, nausea, increased need to use toilet, dry throat, freezing sensation (stage-fright) and inability to process visual information.

The combination of an increase in both psychological anxiety (head worry) and somatic anxiety (muscle worry) at the same time forces the body and mind to overheat and athletes then struggle to execute what are perceived to be relatively easy tasks.

In such scenarios, players sometimes don’t turn up to play at their maximum (2004 & 2006) and the game is over before it even gets going. In other ways, the anxiety manifests itself in poor skill execution and decision making among skilled athletes as they lose the ability to control their nerves.

Could this explain Rob Hennelly’s errors in 2016? How often would Rob Hennelly drop a ball like he did in the 2016 final? After that final, Hennelly said “I’ll never be able to fully describe what was going through my head at this moment. What I was expecting to be one of my best days turned out to be the opposite, and it breaks my heart that I didn’t come through for my team and county.”

In 2017, Jason Doherty missed a relatively easy goal chance late in the game while Donie Vaughan (Mayo full back) was red carded when he needlessly and erratically floored Dublin’s John Small at a critical moment. Ironically, Mayo lost the advantage as Small was sent off and a scoreable free straight in front of the posts was turned in to a throw in which Dublin won.

Cillian O Connor (forward) had a great year for Mayo in 2016 and they wouldn’t have been in a final replay but for his equaliser in the drawn final. However, given the nature of his miss from a very scoreable free kick at the end of the replay, one wonders if he let the nerves get the better of him? If he had that kick over again, could he regulate his emotions more effectively, allowing himself to better execute the kick like he might do in training?
​He also had a free to put Mayo ahead in injury time in 2017 as the ball hit the upright, albeit from a difficult position. Meanwhile Dublin free taker held his nerve in the very last minute to score a free kick from a similar distance to win the match.

In fact, the decision making can affect more than players and stress could have played a part in manager Stephen Rochford’s decision to leave out All Star goalkeeper David Clarke in 2016 final for Rob Hennelly! Could it have played a part in his decision to substitute his star forward Andy Moran with Conor Loftus in the 2017 final?

After that late substitution in 2017, Conor Loftus could have take a better decision with the game in the melting pot late in the game when he turned down a passing opportunity to offer a 4 v 3 goal scoring opportunity t go on a solo run into Dublin traffic where he was turned over in a favorable attacking position.

This phenomenon has been extensively researched by Lew Hardy at Bangor University with his 1996 paper suggesting that boosting confidence can help buffer the level of anxiety at which these performance decrements occur. This may explain why teams that have won more regularly don’t suffer nearly as much. Kerry and Dublin in football and Kilkenny in hurling often have higher levels of confidence from being used to being in the winners enclosure.

They rarely suffer the burden of having a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders as there are often a number of their team-mates that have had previous success. There isn’t the same level of mass hysteria within a successful county as those counties that have experienced a huge length of time from the previous success. Additionally, former players from clubs and parishes in successful counties have All-Ireland medals and this knowledge will give them some confidence that success is inevitable and “in their blood”. Many players in traditionally successful counties often see success as a divine right and are less hampered emotionally as a result supporting the often stated mantra that success breeds success.

While Mayo have obviously suffered in the past from this, perhaps it is unfair to pin all of their most recent close attempts on this reason alone. They have acquitted themselves quite well in the last few years – possibly due to the support of a team psychologist. That said, some of the mistakes of the 2016 & 2017 finals could have been prevented if players were better able to regulate their emotions enabling optimal skill execution, composure and decision making when it mattered most.

Let’s hope they finally find the tools to banish the “curse” and win the title that everybody wants them to win!

Keith Begley is an Irish based sport psychologist accredited with the Irish Institute of Sport.
Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland
https://twitter.com/KeithBegley    @Keith Begley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[Loris Karius' Costly errors - a psychological perspective]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 09:37:50 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/how-liverpool-lost-the-champions-league-a-psychological-perspective
Let’s not cloud the facts. Real Madrid were reigning champions and were the bookies favourites to win. Real Madrid have the players, the money and the power to regularly contend for the champions league final. Liverpool on the other hand were coming from a lower base, albeit one where they were lighting up the premier league with some electric football. Despite being underdogs, they were fancied by many in the football world, as over 160 million viewers waited in anticipation of a cliff-hanger.
With their storied history and tradition in the competition, the city of Liverpool shut down as all stood in anticipation of long awaited glory. They could never have foreseen what would happen.

We have seen in the past where sports people were unable to hold it together in those “clutch” moments when the championship is on the line in a highly charged  environment. Invariably, in such instances, players struggle to hold their nerve and execute basic skills to the best of their ability and they or their team pay the price with failure to perform to their potential when the need is at its greatest.

So what was going on in Karius' head?
The natural charge and emotion of such a high stakes competition can significantly impede the brain’s processing skills. When one is anxious, a part of the brain (hypothalamus) detects threat. The threat could be anything from fear of making a mistake, fear of making a mistake or not being good enough and or manifestation of anxieties within.

When the threat is detected by the hypothalamus, it triggers another part of the brain (amygdala - controls our animal instinct) to enlarge, resulting in one of 3 responses (a)fight, (b)flight or (c)freeze. This results in elevated activation and undesired over-firing of the autonomic nervous system creating psycho-somatic stress. Our understanding is that psycho-somatic stress is when the body experiences elevated levels of both psychological stress and somatic stress where they lead to following experiences within the player:

Psychological stress symptoms 
Sweaty Palms
Trembling hands 
General Sweating
Hyper-ventilation
Increased need to use toilet
Dry throat
Increased heart rate
Nausea

Somatic stress symptoms
 Worrisome thoughts about
  • winning or losing
  • crowd perceptions
  • player perceptions
  • coach perceptions
Lack of clear thinking
Inability to sleep
Poor decision making
  • On the ball
  • Off the ball

When both psychological and somatic stress are elevated, the functioning of the autonomic nervous system goes into overdrive until information processing and decision making (1st goal) and basic skill execution (3rd goal) are significantly inhibited.
 


Psycho-somatic stress is something that is quite common in sport, especially in high stakes scenarios and takes the form of a mild unseen panic attack. Remember Jean De Velde at the British Open, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at Augusta, England football team and penalty shoot-outs at various major championships and Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip – the list is endless as players  struggle with the weight of expectation.


As long as Liverpool FC struggle to win titles, the weight of expectation will grow and become a larger psychological hurdle and burden for others that follow. Their storied history, success starved fans and media frenzy that follows them when ever they get close to any title of significance does not help and plays a part in elevating the anxiety of the players - some of whom struggle to handle as we have seen on numerous occasions. 

The bookies are rarely wrong and Real Madrid might have won the game irrespective of Karius' costly mistakes! However, enabling players to better manage the game, their emotional arousal and its various scenarios is as important as managing tactics and fitness because if it isn’t right in your head, it cannot be right on the pitch.

All that said, recently the question of concussion has been considered a possible reason due to a previous knock early in the game. The answers as of yet are unknown and only Karius and the medical people behind Liverpool know the actual true picture!

Unleash Your Potential
Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeithBegley
Contact
]]>
<![CDATA[What  Separates  The Best  From  The  Rest]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 16:55:11 GMThttp://performancepsychology.ie/blogs/what-separates-the-best-from-the-rest
Great athletes inspire. Kids make them their idols and dream of one day emulating them while adults thrill at the sight of watching the very best. Lesser athletes, through lack of ability may never become as good as the champions, but they strive to improve themselves copying their behaviours or what they know of them.

There is a group often overlooked however. Only a certain volume can make it to the elite, but there is a wide layer hovering below the line that are almost as talented (sometimes even more so) that we never hear of. These, we know generally as the “nearly men” – The ones equally talented growing up but fail to reach their potential and end up in the lower leagues.

So what is it about those that make it as opposed to those that don’t just quite get there?
​The difference between the greats and the nearly men appears to be how each group responds to adversity. The greats rise to the challenge with a “never give up” attitude while the “nearly men” lose motivation and go backwards.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology examined the differences between athletes who overcame adversity and went on to become world-class (what they call “super champions”) and those “nearly men” who struggled in the face of adversity (named “almost champions”).  Whereas super champions were playing in the top leagues and/or competing on national teams, “almost champions” had achieved well at the youth level but were playing in lower leagues as adults.

The researchers (Collins, McNamara & McCarthy) found that “super champions” were characterized by an almost fanatical reaction to challenge”. Super champions viewed adversity and challenges in a positive light and thrived on it. They saw them as opportunities to grow — and overcame them thanks to a “never satisfied” attitude. This is in stark contrast to “almost champions”, who looked to find blame for their misfortune while mostly becoming negative and de-motivated. Interestingly, while athletes in each group faced comparable challenges, the researchers suggest their responses — “what the athletes brought to the challenges” — were quite different.

Such responses are likely to be the product of personal histories, histories that turned out to be similar amongst athletes in the same group but patently different between groups. By examining these differences, we can learn how to cultivate unwavering effort — a “never satisfied attitude” that gains strength from failure — in ourselves and in others.

Follow your interests 
Super champions showed great interest in their respective sports from a young age. They reported to not just enjoy competition, but also practice and training. Interestingly, super champions were late to specialise in their chosen sport and sampled multiple sports at a young age. Incidently, a paper published in the journal Pediatrics recently supports this notion, suggesting that later specialization is best for health and development while other studies show early specialization doesn’t work in athlete development as it may restrict development of movement vocabulary.

Almost champions also loved the thrill of competition, but reported to having an aversion toward training and often felt forced to pursue their respective sport. One “almost champion” put it: “I loved fighting, but the training was just a chore. I would miss it if I could, and always avoided the bits I was shit at.”

The best goal is simple: Get better
Super champions were driven intrinsically. Their main concern was self-improvement and held themselves to high standards. Many reported to judge themselves against previous versions of themselves and not against others. In other words they had a better chance of “controlling the controllables”.

Almost champions were different. Many were focused on external reward; benchmarks like rankings or how they compared to rivals. They were influenced by parameters they could not control, a mind-set the researchers speculate explains why almost champions got discouraged during times of adversity.

What type of parent are you?
“My parents were not really pushy,” explained one super champion, whose response was representative of her peers. “It was a kind of gentle encouragement …they didn’t get [overly] involved. They’d just come and watch me, support me. But they never wanted to know what I was doing training wise and never got involved in that way, and that helped.”

The parents of almost champions, however, were an ever-present factor, hovering over their every move. “My parents, my dad especially, was always there, shouting instructions from the touchline, pushing me to practice at home,” remembers an almost champion. “Really, I just wanted to be out there with my mates. I felt like sport stole my childhood.”

This correlates closely with Self Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan) who suggest that the more one is pushed in a certain direction, the greater the resistance. Just be a parent and let them play. Do not try to relive your sporting life through your child.
Empower your athlete
Researchers reported that coaches of super champions empowered their athletes and “mostly seemed to take a longer-term perspective”.  This differs greatly from the experience of almost champions, whose coaches were more focused on immediate results and success or lack thereof was determined by the result and not the development of the athlete. As a result, almost champions remembered changing coaches frequently whereas super champions maintained longer-term relationships.

An esteemed martial artist I know often uses the phrase to his students;  “attitude x aptitude = altitude.” It’s true that not everyone can be a world-class performer but effort DOES count. In fact the psychologist Angela Duckworth, who rose to fame for her pioneering research on “grit,” argues that effort actually counts twice: Talent times effort equals skill, she says, and skill times effort equals achievement.

However, our inherited human characteristics still matter; and in a paradoxical twist, our willingness to exert persistent effort may be at least partially genetic. Some are born with lower sensitivity to the feel-good neuro-chemical dopamine, widely known to be connected with desire. Dopamine isn’t released when we achieve a goal, but rather, when we are pursuing one. It follows that the more dopamine we need to feel satiated, the more likely we are to remain eternally hungry.

Dopamine may be a factor, but it’s one of many and only useful if harnessed and pointed in the right direction, as super champions are able to do.

World-class performers, then, don’t rely on either nature or nurture, but on a combination of the two — and they are really good at nurturing their nature. All of which suggests the recipe that gives rise to super champions is worth emulating: Individuals who demonstrate persistent effort, follow their interests, practice foremost to get better, not to outdo others; derive satisfaction from within; and feel constantly supported, but not pressured, in their journey toward achievement. 

If these criteria are in place, experiencing failure doesn’t weaken motivation — it bolsters it. In the words of Dr. Michael Joyner, an expert on human performance at the Mayo Clinic, “With enough persistent effort, most people can get pretty good at anything.”

Adapted from Brad Stulberg article http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/09/what-separates-champions-from-almost-champions.html
                                                                  
"Unleash Your Potential"
Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

Find us on Facebook: Performance Psychology Ireland
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeithBegley
Contact
]]>