The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What happens when you do X.....? (using Clean Language)

A young cricketer I have been coaching for some considerable time has had issues with his batting - not so much technical, because I and other coaches have all coached the technical side of his game and he can play every shot in the book when he chooses to.
No, the problem is shot selection......or so it would seem.

How does the coach tutor shot selection in any sport where the ball is moving towards the shot maker? (A semi-closed skill - given that the ball is moving.) Visible clues and cues, of as high a quality as possible and as early as possible, are the bulk of the incoming sensory information. The ability to filter out other external sensory data is hugely important. Also hugely important to eradicate is random and distractive internal dialogue...the only I/D should be positive, instructive and focussed comments, mostly geared to the next set of physical actions required (keep watching the ball, move your feet etc). But at that key moment of shot selection the critical faculty needs to be as clear of irrelevant data as possible in order to make the best choice. QED.

So here is the framework of his actions.....he seems to make 70-80% "good" choices but because of his associated footwork the "good" percentage goes down to below 20%. In matches he gets out easily, almost irresponsibly it seems, because although he knows what he should be doing he seems to be uncareful and uncaring of doing it.

No one who times the ball as well, or can hit the ball as well as he can, deserves to be given up on - but coaches usually want players to at least help themselves somewhat! And thus it transpires that he developed into a coaches' abandoned dilemma because of involuntary and uncontrollable foot movements.

I have been working with CLEAN LANGUAGE over recent weeks and so I tried an approach to the dilemma from the CLEAN angle.

We looked at his foot placements relative to a complete range of shots and relative to the level of committed power to those shots.

PW - "So what happens when you play this shot?"
Plyr - "I play with power"
PW - "And where is power?"
Plyr - "In my hands and arms"
PW - "And what kind of power is that power?"
Plyr - "Very powerful"
PW - "And is there anything else about very powerful?"
Plyr - "I put everything into it"
PW - "And what needs to happen for very powerful?"
Plyr - "I need room to play"
PW - "And when very powerful, what happens to foot placement?"
Plyr - "It gets out of the way"
PW - "And when less power, what happens to foot placement?"
Plyr - "Its not so out of the way"
PW - "And is there a relationship between power and foot placement?"
Plyr - "I suppose there is. Less power means foot placement is in a better place. More power means foot placement is in a different place"
PW - "And for foot placement to always be in a better place, what needs to happen for power?"
Plyr - "Power needs to be less"
PW - "And can you control foot placement?"
Plyr - "Probably only if I control power"

We left it there as he was anxious to get back playing against proper bowlers. Over the next and subsequent batting sessions we all noticed a marked change in his power:foot placement ratio and the improvement in outcomes. He was clearly integrating his control over the level of power and how it gave him control over foot placement.

NLP in coaching works extremely well especially in dealing with barriers that are difficult to break down. Using Clean Language effectively opens up even more doors that are "locked" or just stuck.
To find out more about Clean Language go to

Monday, November 16, 2009

Left Brain / Right Brain? Which way to go?

I'm working with a young right handed cricketer at the moment, who was quite uncomfortable when holding the bat. I asked him to try batting left-handed and suddenly he looked and felt much more natural.

There are two current members of the England team (Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad) who bat left-handed and bowl right handed so this is nothing new. The exciting part for me is that I was involved with his 'discovery'.

More details of the project are here:-


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The 4 Cartesian Questions (NLP) - pre-match team talk

I've been examining the 4 Cartesian Questions in the sporting context and indeed illustrated them in a pre-match talk for the rugby team I coach, a couple of weeks ago.

For a side of average age around 21-22 with few 'old heads' in there, the problem has been consistency in terms of performance. The 'old heads' bring with them a level of experience that gives them a higher level of emotional intelligence, and in this side it is noticeable that the 2 lads at college (the youngest) are the ones with the lowest EI score. So the quandry was to find a means of guiding the whole team into an area where they could understand their own decision making in the course of a game and how it impacts upon the rest of the players, elements of the playing process, and inevitably the outcome of the match.

I started the talk mentioning the Butterfly Effect which pre-framed my point of invitation for the players' thoughts. So (eg) does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Sao Paolo set off series of events to alter the path of a hurricane in the Caribbean?
As thoughts on this were rattling around inside for them I sprung the 4 Cartesian Questions ... and decided to frame them in rugby terms :-

1. What will happen if you DO make that tackle?

2. What will happen if you DON'T make that tackle?

3. What won't happen if you DO make that tackle?

4. What won't happen if you DON'T make that tackle?

So how effective was this?

In terms of performance things went really well, through warm up and overall through the game. There were some momentary slips (as always) but the general level of decision making through the team was much much better. I have not yet asked the players how they felt about the pre-talk (if anything) because most of my talks are aimed at a point just on the rim of conscious awareness, and are metaphorical and non-motivational. We lost by 1 point to a side who had beaten us convincingly earlier in the season, so in outcome terms there was a huge improvement. We should have won to be fair, but missed 2 kickable penalties in the second half to re-take the lead.

These 4 Cartesian Questions do set up interesting trains of thought for inexperienced players, and it certainly de-focusses their feelings of singularity which is so destructive in a 15-man team game. The belief that they and only they can change the course of the game by (in effect) trying to do too much every time they have the ball in hand. So they only have to consider beating their wings to make changes ........

Fascinating concepts - great questions!

Friday, November 13, 2009

How is Your Pain (xxxx) today?

What a lovely way to pre-frame your therapy/treatment sessions!

Without resisting the opportunity for even more sarcasm, this was the chat I had with my pilates teacher/injury rehab facilitator this morning as I had some more critical examination of my faulty knee.
We both agreed that this kind of pre-framing almost trashes any efficacy before treatment has even started...and yet in mainstream healthcare this is a very regular occurrence. This "culture" for want of a better word leads on to the fairly liberal resorting to the chemical solution in far too many cases.

Take dementia/Alzheimer's treatments for instance. Here is a comment from the Alzheimer's Society - and the BBC Panorama programme referred to is not available to view any more but the following article remains -

Living with and "minding" my father (who has dementia and is 91) I have noticed how best to manage his condition drug-free that makes it best for him, and easiest to manage. We all 'have our moments' with him of course, but essentially he potters along quite happily with no treatment - except for supplementary vitamin B12 course administered via his local GP. The fact that this has lapsed over the last 9 months due to "failures of the local system" is disappointing because it clearly made a difference for him when it was regular. There's a long way between vitamin B12 and anti-psychotic drugs however!

So - to get back to the pre-framing, very early on as an NLP'er I came to understand that certain words had the most negative effect on rapport and states, and that there are positive alternatives that open up all the possibilities for clearer (and cleaner) channels of communication.

Imagine the conversation with my father using the above question.....
"How is your memory (or dementia even) today?" - reply - "What? Huh? Sorry I don't know what you're talking about."


Sunday, November 8, 2009


Just started reading Mastery by George Leonard. I think it might well be a book I'll read in a couple of days and already echoes lots of things I have both said and thought - but expressed far more succinctly and eloquently by George Leonard than I could ever have put them.

Its a bit uncanny really...... I'll comeback on completion with some reflections.

Reframing the 'critical' voice

Some 9-10 days ago I did a 2 hour session with a couple of young cricketers. These were guys I had coached many times before.
Technically I know their levels of expertise relative to their elite-aspirant status - and there is nothing technically to hold them back from achieving county selection prior to next summer. Emotionally and psychologically are where their issues lie, and so these were the areas of investigation I wanted to open up for them.

I laid out some basic issues surrounding reality and perception and challenged some of their currently held views. My gateway to this is usually the question "how many ways are there to get out of this sports hall?" Most people usually count the doors, windows and other sources of egress...and they were no exception! Having established for them there were thousands of ways, we then looked at how reality is pared down by our senses and filters, through a process of deletion, distortion and generalisation, into what we what we then compare with our maps of knowledge and experience and then finally perceive as reality.

Along the way, they each identified how their state and how they react to events and (more especially) their own technical actions, all contribute to the next and subsequent actions in some way. Ergo a positive reaction and frame of mind will lead to a better function of process and thus a better outcome.

They were both, primarily, victims of the effects of their own self-critic - which was manifest in a damning and earnest inner voice. Having discovered this helpful 'individual' they were able to reframe the voice to a degree where the earnestness became comical.

We installed a number of other processes to help maintain a grounded state, and they both discovered that mastery of themselves was now a significant step nearer. However, this was an unconscious discovery, since most of my delivered communicative intention was aimed at the unconscious.

Having seen one of the lads yesterday for another session I was able to observe some interesting feedback. It turned out that he had gone to a county training session in such a positive and assertive frame of mind that he had almost surprised everyone but himself in the way he was now performing. His other sporting activities also had taken on a new positive mental framework. His father was amazed and delighted at his new approach, whereas the player himself was quite matter of fact about it all.
What I know, though didn't reveal to father or son, was that having liberated him from the constant self appraisal and the vocal effects of damning and earnest self-criticism, that he is now able to fully express himself with total confidence. And this IS liberation for him, because he can now move on to the next part of his road to mastery, his game has gone up a level, and now the work on a new set of technical and psychological issues starts in earnest.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quite excited today - my copy of Clean Language - Revealing metaphors and opening minds by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees has arrived. Can't wait to get stuck in.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Frogs into Princes

Having obtained a copy of Frogs into Princes by Richard Bandler and John Grinder from my local library, I (after a couple of renewals) am just on the point of finishing it.

Having heard a number of NLP gurus mention it as being a "Must read" and as being a book they still go back to, I felt it was necessary that I see for myself!

I need to read it again within the next 6 months or so so that the first third of the book opens itself up to me. Even though I am quite familiar with Richard Bandler's delivery style, I found that for me the narrative meandered until about p60 - and then it came to life big time and was really interesting and useful.

It was published in 1979 from transcripts of NLP introductory and training workshops. I'd thoroughly recommend it to those who are some way down the NLP road, though- especially as I've been told my own book Don't Think of a Black Cat was "right over my head" or "left me cold I'm afraid" or "can't get into that kind of stuff"! and I described it as basic.

I will get my own copy probably next year now, as I can't keep it out of the library permanently!


Effective team coaching

I do pro bono coaching at my local rugby club. This is not only a pleasure but also good practice and a chance to give back to current and emerging players in the game, the benefits of what I have learnt about performance since I ceased to be a player myself.

The ongoing problems are (a) not enough training time to be able to even talk about mental preparation even at a medium level, (b) the side that actually plays matches contains probably a third of people who did not attend the previous training session. Its no surprise that the players who make the greatest number of errors are the ones not at training. Its no surprise that the players with (arguably) the weakest levels of emotional intelligence are the ones not at training.

The argument should be "then drop them".... but we are hamstrung by being in a very strong league and less conditioned or technical players would be just swept away by the opposition. So - a dilemma that is being compounded week in week out.

For this week's training session I have asked all players from Saturday's 1st XV to come to the session with some thought as to what they want to work on at the session, rather than I impose my pre-planned session upon them. Time will tell!!


At last I've finally been able to get round to getting the Blog going once more.

Much has changed for me over the last 18 months, both in circumstances, daily routines and (above all) experience and knowledge.

The hope is now that I can post regular comments, thoughts, findings and updates.
All I need is the bearwithal from everyone!