07815 618905 steve@pro-mind.co.uk
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  • “I can’t keep the ball in play”
  • “I don’t know where my next run is coming from”
  • “I always play badly there”
  • “She’s my nemesis”
  • “He’s better than me”
  • “We lost because of me”
  • “I’m useless at…”

I hear statements like this all the time from athletes. Their language is a window to their inner world and is evidence of how they are deleting, generalising and distorting their experience.

Often I hear responses to these statements that are unhelpful to the athlete. Here’s a real example:

  • Athlete: “I don’t know where my next run is coming from.”
  • Coach: “Yes, you’re struggling at the moment.”

The coach’s response is unhelpful and only serves to reinforce the current perception of the athlete.When a coach hears an athlete talking in this way, It’s a great opportunity for them and their athlete to make some positive changes to their performance by recognising what the words really mean or don’t mean.

So what about helping them recover the lost information from this distorted statement by asking questions such as:

  • Athlete: “I don’t know where my next run is coming from.”
  • Coach: “But what if you did – where would you score it?” or “How is it that you don’t know?” or “How do you know it’s not coming?”

This isn’t about having the right answers for the athlete, this is about helping them recognise how they are distorting their experience so that they can think with clarity and perspective. Don’t give them the answers (unless they really, really don’t know), don’t lock in their unresourceful state by agreeing with them. Instead, challenge them and get them to re-frame their thinking, so that they can start working on the solutions that will help them the next time they perform.

A coach that is tuned in to their athletes will listen for the language patterns and help them challenge the deletions, distortions and generalisations. Once the athlete’s thinking has been re-framed, they will have taken back control and filter the same situation in a more useful way.

My mental toughness workshops, coach programmes (and on-line courses to be launched September) help athletes and coaches recognise these language patterns, challenge them and re-frame the thinking behind them. For more information, get in touch.

Steve Dent is a Mental Toughness Coach & Trainer. NLP Master Practitioner. Licensed Mental Toughness Practitioner and founder of Pro Mind

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