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Well, you may have noticed that there is a little sporting event going on at the moment in London. I think it is called the Olympic Games?

Here we have the people who are best in the world at what they do competing against one another to win the coveted “Olympic Gold Medal”. Can NLP (and other psychological tools) help you improve your chances of winning?

There are three factors that influence our sporting ability:

  • Physical Fitness
  • Technical skills
  • Mental skills

Although many sports performers will spend a lot of their time on their fitness and technical skills, the mental side of the game is often neglected. I said in this recent post about Andy Murray at Wimbledon, at the highest level of sport, it is rarely the physical ability of the sports person that wins them the medal, but their mental and emotional strength.

As Timothy Gallwey puts it in his seminal book on sports performance psychology “Inner Game of Tennis”:

“In every human endeavour there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner. The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. The inner game is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that prevent an individual or team from accessing their full potential.”

NLP can help you understanding this connection between the mind and the body and how to use your mind to improve your sporting ability.

By changing the way we think when we approach a game we can learn to:

  • Enhance our self-belief
  • Deal with how we respond to errors
  • Set more effective goals
  • Maintain a positive “winning” attitude
  • Mentally rehearse to get yourself in “zone”

Remember, much like the physical aspect of sports, these may be “simple” techniques, but they are not “easy”. Training your mind to hep you achieve success is as important as training your body and requires the same level of dedication and effort. Many sports people have tried and failed to implement psychological tools and techniques because they have not given the mental aspect of the training the respect it deserves and think just some simple “visualisation” before a game is all they need…

How can you learn NLP and use it to improve your skills? You can either do one to one sessions with an NLP Practitioner who specialises in sports performance, or undertake an NLP training course to learn the skills for yourself.

If, physically, you and your opponent are equally matched, can you afford not to develop your winning mental skills?

**Please note: I am not a “Sports Psychologist”, nor do I make any claims to be one. “Sports Psychologist” is a protected name under HPC (Health Professionals Council) guidelines. For more details please visit their website at www.hpc-uk.org**

I am sure, like 16.4m other people you were watching, or at least heard about, Andy Murray’s amazing performance at the Wimbledon final yesterday. He was so close, but didn’t quite get past the perfection of Roger Federer.

So what made it so Roger Federer won and Andy lost? At high levels of sport, such as the Wimbledon final, it is rarely the sports person’s physical ability that is the deciding factor, it is their mental ability; their ability to remain calm, focused and positive. You saw the turning point in Federer’s game, where he cast off the nerves and focused in and his game totally changed, whereas, you saw Murray do the opposite; his starting energy and focus drained away.

How can you as a sports person improve your mental ability so you can win? Well, here are a three simple tips and tricks to help you creating a winning mindset.

Use the Nerves

I don’t care who you are, you will get nervous. It is how you use those nerves that count.

Nerves can be reframed quite simply from something you are frightened or apprehensive of, to something you are exciting about. Think about something you were excited about and looking forward too, the feeling is almost identical to the nervous feeling isn’t it? It is just how you label it that counts.

Take that nervous energy and, rather than letting it scatter all over the place, imagine drawing it into a ball somewhere. A big ball of glowing energy, something you can tap into as and when you need it, like a an endless energy source.

Create a Winning Trigger

The difference between a winning mindset and and losing mindset tends to be the direction yo think in. If you spend your time focusing on the all the negatives, all the bad the performances you have done in your life and talking to yourself in an negative way, of course you aren’t going to win! But, it is easy to slip into that negative mindset, particularly if the game is not going your way. You need to create a trigger that simply and quickly resets your thinking and gets you thinking in a positive direction.

To do this follow the below steps:

  1. Think of a time when you played your very best, you were in the “zone” and felt unbeatable.
  2. Fully recall that experience; see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel how you felt.
  3. Once you are fully immersed in the memory, as if it is happening now, squeeze your finger and thumb together.
  4. After about 10 seconds, release your fingers and relax.
  5. Squeeze your finger and thumb together and see if it brings back that peak state.
  6. Repeat until it instantly brings back that mental state.

Deal with Bad Performance

You will make mistakes during the game or match. And it is important to explore and critique these mistakes so you can learn from them. However half way through the game or match is not the time to start doing this!

Create a place where you can almost physically move the memory of the experience to a “review later” folder in your mind. Make sure it can close, so the memory doesn’t pop back out again! Practice moving these mistakes in there during the game or match and then reflecting on them once it is complete.

Do I think Murray will win next year? He seems to have demonstrated his mental strength and this battle will only have improved that.