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Mind Matters for Sport Educators

by Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc(Hons)

INTRODUCTION
Personal trainers are sometimes called on to work with elite sportspeople to provide personalised fitness and strength programs for improving their performance, but with a little more thought and preparation your PT business can offer much more to the elite sportsperson. Specifically, when you recognise that most sportspeople - even at the highest level - are only training half of themselves, it's easy to understand how you can offer a more complete, holistic training service.

What if you offered some assistance with mental and emotional preparation for your elite athletes, as well as the strength and aerobic fitness work? Athletes are not just bodies are they? Thoughts and feelings affect sports performances - even more so than physical factors, and how much do you know about training this half of your clients? But then, why would an experienced PT such as yourself bother with the extra training and effort involved in a more complete service to your clients?

Is extra money a good enough incentive? Recognise that elite level sportspeople spend millions of dollars a year worldwide on sports related services in an attempt to gain that competitive edge over their rivals - and this is on the increase. Further, elite level sportspeople - particularly in golf, tennis and football - earn enough to pay handsomely for your services, and are willing to do so on a long term basis. How often have you had clients for a few sessions, then never hear from them again?

How about the prestige associated with working with the best athletes in the world? Does that turn it on for you? The opportunity is currently here. There is a huge market of elite level sportspeople needing this more complete personal training service. I believe it is the next logical step in the evolution of PT.

Would working with clients who genuinely want to improve do it for you? Have you ever had the experience of 'backsliding' clients? Or clients who 'say' that they want to lose weight, or get fitter, but keep missing appointments, or who lose their motivation? Elite athletes are professional sportspeople - playing sport is their livelihood, their business, so they are more committed and motivated. They are a joy to work with - particularly if you're used to working a lot with 'average' 9 to 5'ers.

So have I excited you about a huge potential new client base, and a new way of working with your old client base yet? Stay with me, because the next question you're going to ask is "How can I do it?" Which is of course, the meat of this article - how to understand the unique needs of elite sportspeople, and how to develop your skills in five key areas of the new approach to Personal Training. How to deal with the Mind Matters of Personal Training.

A WINNING ATTITUDE
The first of these keys is to encourage a winning attitude in your clients. Now someone with a winning attitude is not someone who is merely obsessed with victory, but rather someone who has : a solution oriented focus; asks the right questions of themselves; and has powerful, positive self talk.

A solution oriented focus is all about looking for the answers, rather than focusing on the problems. You can encourage this in what you do with your clients, and how you communicate with them.
Rather than dwelling on 'problems', encourage them to consider solutions - how did they overcome a similar situation previously? What do they need to do to move forward?

Which leads into asking the right questions doesn't it? How often have you heard why(n)ing questions from your clients? Why can't I lose weight? What's wrong with me? Why am I so unfit? Why can't I get motivated?

The trouble with these kinds of questions is that even if you get the answer, you're still not left with a solution! This, of course, is the problem with traditional psychotherapy! Who cares where the 'problem' comes from - what your clients want is to know how to get out of it! So help them out by encouraging them to ask 'How' questions. How can I do such and such, and enjoy the process? How can I stay motivated? What can I do to achieve this step towards my goal? How can I stay on my healthy diet and exercise program?

Of course, this is supported by encouraging powerful, positive self talk in your clients. Of course you can do it! Stick with it! You'll make it! You deserve success. You've got what it takes. Perservere. Persist. All champions do.

POSITIVE MOTIVATION AND HIGH ACHIEVEMENT STRATEGIES
Goal setting is an obvious characteristic of elite sportspeople, and you've no doubt heard about goal setting ad nauseam! So I won't belabour the obvious here, but rather note a couple of things about goals of which you may not be aware.

Firstly, do you understand how and why goals work?

There is a part of the brain known as the RAS (reticular activating system) which, in simple terms, controls what we pay attention to. It does this unconsciously, based on what we have consciously decided is important to us.

For example, I recently decided to purchase a new car, and after a few weeks of looking around had decided on a particular brand and model. In the next few weeks prior to my purchasing the new vehicle, I saw that particular kind of car everywhere - whereas previously I had never even noticed them! I'm sure something similar has happened to you - either when choosing bricks or tiles for a new house, a new piece of business equipment, or whatever.

As soon as we consciously decide some particular thing is important to us, then our RAS filters the environment around us, unconsciously, and triggers our attention to items related to that particular thing. Without clear goals, this process cannot happen, and so the individual without goals doesn't notice the opportunities that someone with goals does automatically.

The other important thing about goals is that for someone to actively work towards a particular goal, they have to have a powerful enough reason. Particularly in elite level sport! Every athlete gets to a point in their training when they ask themselves "Why am I doing this?" If they don't have clear, unambiguous and powerful reasons to answer that question, then they will give up, and do something else.

So you can aid your clients be pre-asking this question, and having them list a number of clear reasons for you. Then, whenever their motivation is flagging, you can say: "Remember X? Remember what you're doing this for!"

Having clear, powerful reasons makes the difference between someone who is 'playing' sport, and a sports professional. Having powerful reasons makes the difference between someone who takes action on their goals and dreams, and someone who remains a dreamer.

BUILDING POSITIVE SELF CONCEPT
Self belief, in my opinion, is the single most essential characterising trait of the champion athlete. However, like motivation, concentration, a positive attitude, and so on, it's a learned behaviour - and one which you can help build in your clients.

Without doubt the biggest influence upon self belief and self confidence is the ability to cope with mistakes, failures, poor performances, and outright rejection in your life. Everyone can believe in themselves when things are going well! It's only when the chips are down and your back is to the wall that your underlying self belief is really tested, and either found wanting, or is strengthened by the adversity.

Obviously, positive self belief is closely linked to, and supported by, positive self talk. However, there is one key area that is often overlooked in building self belief, and that is one's attitude to errors, and there is an excellent strategy that I've developed which I call the ARIA technique which is extremely valuable that you can teach to your clients.

I'll explain this in detail in the article, together with the other two key areas : Emotional Management and Visualisation Techniques. [If you can't wait then please refer to my Sportsmind book, pages 33 - 35]

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

by Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)

There is a difference between a truly positive attitude and just saying positive affirmations. This difference is having an understanding of the building blocks of behaviour, and the ability to encourage successful learning states in yourself and in the people you're teaching. The most useful and effective behavioural change model for educators comes from the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming [NLP], and teachers and trainers who have a working knowledge of NLP are just that much more successful in their work.

Introduction
Most educators have a lot of knowledge and skill in the specific aspects of their chosen areas of expertise, and many also are up to date in their knowledge of teaching and learning theory and practice, however an important aspect of education that is often not recognised is that, particularly in sport education, successful learning often involves behavioural change.

Whether you're working with an elite athlete or sports team preparing for an important competition performance; providing a new routine for a referee; or implementing a new administrative system; the most successful coaches and sport educators are not those who have an intuitive understanding of human behaviour and behavioural change techniques.

Behavioural Change is 90% Mental
It's often said that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Likewise, it seems like you can provide your people with the most researched and effective approach, but you can't make them follow it. Or can you?

Some people suggest that successful behavioural change is 90% mental, yet few educators - in sport or elsewhere - understand the psychological basics of personal motivation, and positive behavioural change. Understanding the psychological processes of successful behavioural change - and how to initiate it your people - is of significant benefit to educators, because those who don't usually experience resistance to change that can take the form of unmotivation to deliberate sabotage or open hostility. Education courses devote very little time to this important area, and even traditional 'psychology' courses offer few practical tools and techniques for educators.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming - What is it?
The field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, offers a huge range of very powerful and easily-applied techniques and educational approaches that encourage positive behavioural change in both individuals and teams.
NLP is a powerful human performance and behavioural change technology based on modelling excellence - identifying the motivation and thinking strategies of highly successful people, and providing practical tools for teaching these to others. NLP has demonstrated success in the areas of management, education, and counselling, and new SPORTS-NLP applications have recently been designed for sports performance and coaching contexts. SPORTS-NLP techniques provide verifiable, sensory based descriptions of an individual's subjective experience, and practical tools and specific techniques for improving motivation, persistence and performance.
Building Blocks of SPORTS-NLP
There are three core building blocks of NLP that are of significant use in sports education and training : VAK Strategies; Preferred Learning Style; and Anchoring Techniques.

VAK Strategies
One of the main concepts underlying NLP is that all human behaviours - including motivation, desire, decision making, concentration, creativity, and so on - are a result of sequences of 'thoughts'. All thoughts are represented in terms of one of the five senses, with the primary building blocks of thinking being the Visual (V), Auditory (A), and Kinaesthetic (K) senses. So every behaviour can generally be described as a sequence of Visual, Auditory, and Kinaesthetic steps - and this is called a mental processing strategy.

For example, a very simple motivation strategy might be :

Visual (Picture my goal) --- Auditory (Tell myself to go for it) --- Kinaesthetic (Feel good about it) --- Do it!

We all have specific strategies for motivation; for learning; for decision making; for creativity; for belief; and for memory. Some strategies are much more effective than others, and being able to identify an individual's strategies - and change them if they are ineffective - can greatly assist you in helping them achieve their learning outcomes.

There are important criteria in such behavioural strategies which identify whether or not a particular strategy is 'well formed'. Strategies which adhere to these criteria are more effective in securing a successful outcome - be it in making a good decision; learning a new skill; motivating yourself to do a task; or whatever. For example, it's easy to recognise that obtaining information from all our senses would be important - you can see things you can't hear, you can feel things you can't see, and you can hear things you can't feel. Consequently it would make sense to include all sensory systems in one's strategies. However, it is clearly observable that not everyone does this - some people make decisions just on how they 'feel' (kinaesthetic) about something; others attempt to learn by simple rote repetition (auditory); or attempt to motivate themselves without any clear images of the desired outcome. (visual).

Preferred Learning Style
Most educators are probably familiar by now with the concept of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learners. [This information - though rarely credited by most people who refer to it - came from the work of NLP researchers Richard Bandler and John Grinder] Some people learn best if they can see the information, if they can map it out in their mind and have a clear image of what is to be learned. Others prefer to learn through listening to talks and lectures, by discussing salient point and debating different opinions. Still others learn best through doing, by jumping in and having a go and working through things a step at a time until they have a handle on it.

Of course, most people can learn in all of the above ways - however, most of us tend to have a preference for one or other of the visual, auditory or kinaesthetic presentation styles. Interestingly, an individuals preferred learning style is very easy to identify - simply pay attention to the kinds of words they use.

For instance someone who is very visually oriented will often use words or phrases such as : "I see what you mean"; "I'm not clear on that"; "Let's look at this from another perspective"; "From my point of view"; etc. Someone who is very auditorily oriented will often use words or phrases such as : "I hear what you're saying"; "I think such and such"; "You're not listening to me"; "Let's talk about this"; "Sounds good to me"; etc. Someone who is very kinaesthetically oriented will often use words or phrases such as : "I don't grasp what you mean"; "I'm not comfortable that, it just doesn't feel right to me"; "Let's just do it and work from there"; "I want to move forward a step at a time"; "That sits well with me"; etc.

The consequences to educators of such sensory preference are profound: if you're just communicating in one way, you may not be reaching two-thirds of your audience!

Anchoring Techniques
Anchoring is another name for the sophisticated stimulus-response conditioning techniques used in NLP. Anchoring techniques can be used by an educator, covertly or overtly, to disrupt negative emotional states and to lock in positive resource states in students. Self anchoring techniques can also taught to your people, to encourage positive states in training, competition performance, and other areas where you want them to experience powerful, positive emotional states and feel more confident and 'in control'.

Anchors can be established in any of the five sensory systems, with the most commonly used in teaching being visual and auditory anchors. You, yourself, can in fact become a positive visual anchor for your people - just seeing you can help shift them into a positive learning state !

SPORTS-NLP Training
For sport educators and coaches wanting to obtain training in SPORTS-NLP, the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research offers a programs of study in SPORTS-NLP varying from one to three weeks. Courses can also be undertaken by correspondence, and have been accredited with the Australian Fitness Accreditation Council for Continuing Education Credit (CEC) points.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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