The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Makes a Genius? Its the detail that counts for me

I managed to watch this programme in earnest this evening:-

Once again with Horizon gems like this, I find that the really exciting jewels for me are embedded in the detail of the programme.

For instance - About 37 minutes in there is a 3-4 minutes section on how a person who has been deaf for over 20 years can now "see" by the brain processing certain inputted sonic data. This data has been produced by software which has converted elements of outline visual data through a specially adapted camera.

So, in effect, this person is learning how to see by using different sensual data. Interestingly Marcus de Sautoy also mentions the background sensual data we receive and process - eg in the case of auditory data we "hear" things more than just via our ears. Vibrations, resonances, distance, depth and other spatial information - all of which goes to enrich our perceptions.

For me, genius comes in many guises - from creative to interpretive. And very occasionally the world is presented with a person who has genius quality in not one but a number of fields.

It is what makes us awesome creatures.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bilateral Co-ordination

In "my day" we never did bilateral co-ordination as part of PE at school. Maybe it was in its infancy when I was - but it and balance are such an integral part of all sports that some ground work would be useful for everyone as they grow up.

In an ideal world I'd like to see bilateral co-ordination part of an enhanced and expanded PE programme in schools from ages 5 upwards. Then maybe there'll be many more brilliant and dextrous people like Tommy Baker........marvel and enjoy!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Keep Your Conscious Clear!

I was working recently with a 15 y/o cricketer, and we were coming to the end of the session so I spent quarter of an hour with him on throwing at targets.

First we just explored dead aim from about 15m and he got the usual hit ratio as a start. With a little advice on improving various technical points he and I had a competition (hits out of 10 throws). The most he got was 2 but with a much improved accuracy level. On one set I got 5 - but I explained that I'd been a dead aim devotee for about 4 years, and I also had the facility to shut out distractive elements from my conscious mind.

To conclude the session I asked him what success level he thought he might have with eyes shut. Now, from past experiments and experience* I know that some players with good visualization can actually hit targets as well with eyes-shut as they can with eyes-open.
He was confident he would hit 3 out of 10 - which was more than his eyes-open score. So, he proceeded to visualize, open eyes, visualize and test for strength and clarity; and then when he was ready I asked him to throw with eyes closed.

He hit the target twice in the first three throws!

He continued, but had no more success - and I asked him if he noticed what was going on inside his mind after the first 3 throws.

Turned out he had been thinking (a) how amazing this was for starters and (b) could he keep it up and then (c) he started thinking about why he was missing until (d) he was quite disappointed he had scored no more hits.
I explained to him that for the first 3 throws he had not done any thinking, but had only visualized the target and thrown without attachment or distraction. Thereafter when he returned to use the visualization this had begun to de-focus due to internal dialogue. The chances of any more hits thereafter was almost nil whilst the original process was being degraded this way.
Had he reset the visualization from the beginning, and been able to switch off that internal dialogue (or even dampen it down) then he would have (probably) had even more success.

* - (refers to a past experiment with group of players doing eyes-open and eyes-shut target throwing. See an earlier Blog post for details)


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winning Ugly - a Learning Experience

Yesterday the rugby team I coach were playing the bottom club from the adjoining geographical league and they should have strolled through the game to be honest. Generally, the pre-match prep was good as was the first ten minutes of the game - and after twelve minutes gone they took a 3-0 lead with a penalty.
Then their game began to go very flat – no patterns of play and some very thin tackling on the opposition which led to them almost scoring on several occasions.
Then – on about 25 minutes the referee got injured and there was about a 15 minute break whilst things were sorted with a replacement. From the restart my side were not just flat but shapeless and without backbone, nay almost without a skeleton at all. Eventually half time came, but not after the opposition had drawn level at 3-3.

With such a young and inexperienced team, there is a real danger that once having gone psychologically off the boil (or defocused in a slightly better vernacular), then it is very difficult (a) for individuals to get it back and (b) for the team to function once again as a collective. Things usually degenerate into everyone thinking “well everyone else has lost it so it’s down to me - and me alone - to put it right.” And in a 15 man team game, one (no matter how brilliant) cannot overcome even five of the opposition let alone all of them.

That crucial half time talk….

So – the players tottered into the half time break expecting to be harangued, vilified and brutally cajoled, because it’s the way we tend to do things when we are trying to get people to “snap out of it!” isn’t it? But then all of a sudden (naturally) we would be back in negative phrases territory such as (a) reminding everyone of all the bad stuff they have been doing and (b) the damning and ignominious consequences of their losing to an inferior side, etc. There was a chunk of this, to be fair – however fortunately I had a minute available to guide them to safe and positively stimulating waters – by using the calmly motivating and recent memories of the changing room mood just before kick off. I invited them to float back and recall how they all felt focussed and motivated and properly fired up.

Winning ugly

I’m happy to report it did the business for them all, and within 20 minutes we were winning comfortably after 3 good and varied tries. Plus we added one more for good measure to give us a “half decent” finishing 25-8 scoreline.

Summing up in the after-match chat, the skipper reminded everyone that they did just enough to beat a side they should have scored a lot more against. The players, he said, needed to work a lot harder in the upcoming games or else X would happen. My comments were more complimentary in that they had succeeded in overcoming themselves and how they had been reacting to (a) going flat and (b) the very huge distraction of a long delay while the referee was replaced after injury. It’s not an easy task to change the course of your own game, and in learning terms it was a good experience for everyone – by seeing that there ARE ways of dealing with things calmly and positively by using very simple strategies.

Putting it succinctly, they won Ugly – and as such learnt more about themselves than by walloping the opposition by over 50 points.


Another Clean Language outcome...

This week I had a short consultative session with a client whose general issues were around weight loss, and getting back to feeling confident and not squeezing tightly into her clothes. In the course of the conversation it was apparent that she would be comfortable and okay for 3-4 weeks at a time and then would fall off the wagon and “binge” for a period of time. The binge period was always broken by self control in the end, by arriving at the conclusion that “enough was enough”. However, she then had to go through the detox and rehab required to get back to feeling good again.

This is all familiar territory – and so having discovered what stopped the binges I moved to discover what started them – ie what pushed her off the wagon. It turned out it was pretty much all work related stresses and situations, and whilst I was on the point of exploring those areas she said, “Oh but that’s coming to an end because in two months time I start a new job.”
So – the conversation moved to this and how she felt and what about the job would be likely to impinge upon her. She then uttered that time-worn phrase that reveals everything we encounter about a new job – “of course there will be stresses especially at the start of the new job because I want to make a good impression…”

Having got her to pause, I asked her to put herself in the shoes of the people at her new place of work.
“You’ve just chosen this person (you) above many others (probably) to fill this role in your organisation, because of what this person (you) brings to the table in terms of work, expertise and personality. You’ve already made the best possible impression, haven't you?”
“Oh yes,” she said, “I happen to know they have been trying to fill this post for over a year.”
“Now,” I said. “Can you show or describe in physical terms, what you are like when you are trying hard to do something – like trying hard to make an impression.”
She got into an expression of tense determination, tight jawed, gripped hands, rigid shoulders. “Relax,” I said, “You’re a very good actress - I’m impressed!”

And then I asked one of the mind-shifting questions that set the scene for using
Clean Language:
“And what are you like when you’re working at your best?”
There was an electric pause as she went inside and presented all the answers to herself, before telling me,
“I’m calm, relaxed, focussed and concentrating.”
“And when calm, relaxed, focussed and concentrating – that’s like what?”
“Oh it’s very, very easy.”
“And when very, very easy, and calm, relaxed, focussed and concentrating – what happens to make an impression?”
She smiled with total recognition.
“I don’t have to try,” she said.

“So, is the new job going to be less stressful knowing that you don’t have to try to make an impression – rather that you just have to be how you are when you’re working at your best?”
“And how do you feel about the job now, looking forward?”
“Even more excited.”

We then continued to discuss, with even more clarity, how the new job would present adjustments to her lifestyle which could facilitate all the exercise and dietary changes she was planning to make – so that everything could be integrated into making her life much more pleasing and fulfilling.

Seems to me to be a pretty good recipe for going forward!

Find out more about Clean Language here:


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pre-Match Team talks #3 - The Four Cartesian Questions

One week I started my pre-match “few words” to the team I coach by 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 eventually 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 / pass?
2. What won't happen if you don't make that tackle / pass?
3. What will happen if you don't make that tackle / pass?
4. What won't happen if you do make that tackle / pass?

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 throughout 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 a) aimed at the unconscious, and b) 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.

The 4 Cartesian Questions do set up interesting trains of thought for all players especially the inexperienced ones, 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........

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pre-Match Team talks #2 - Don't Think of a Black Cat

Early in my coaching regime at one club I trod on the Manager’s toes big time. The side were coming back in to the changing rooms after their warm up routines, for the last 5 minutes before kick-off. As they trooped past the Manager he exhorted them to “Not play like last week, it was crap – Don’t do X or the opposition will walk all over you – play like that and you’ll lose” and so on. Hearing this I knew I had to wipe it out as best I could – and quickly.

So I told them about Don’t Think of a Black Cat. And they discovered that in order to NOT think of one they actually had to bring up an image of a black cat. This is because the unconscious only deals with positives, so the “nots”, “don’ts” etc are just ignored. So as their ears were still smarting from his “call to arms” their minds were presented with “do X” and “play like last week”. They realised that what they had just had to endure from him was likely to bring about exactly what he’d commanded them NOT to do.

PLUS (and this is also significant) his diatribe was full of embedded commands. Embedded commands are subtle phrases within a script that are processed unconsciously, and, in the case of his talk, phrases such as “play crap”, “you will lose”, “the opposition will walk all over you” were going in under the radar. Once the match is under way, any instances of the above happening would just reinforce these opinions and pretty soon they become beliefs - by which time the whole side is at a (self-induced) psychological disadvantage.

Pre-Match Team talks #1 - Big Game from You Today

In my son’s rugby playing years from 16-18 he would recount, on a weekly basis, the pre-match talk of his manager. As a reasonably good impressionist, for him and a number of his team mates, this was increasingly a source of some amusement.
The manager, an ex-player of more than modest playing ability, was not blessed with either bubbling communication skills or an innate knowledge of sports psychology. He approached the various elements of managing a colts rugby team from an honest, experiential standpoint, and probably appreciated that the minefield created for him by the wide spectrum of youth and its culture was almost always going to blow up in his face! Stoically, however, he stuck to his task….

Amusingly, his pre-match talk involved him addressing the lads by going down the team sheet one by one with the same opening line: “John Smith (pause for breath) – Big Game from you today,” and then next one: “Tommy Jones (pause for breath) – Big Game from you today.” As the players got to know him, this serious (for him) routine actually put them at their ease - because of the humour that my son’s coterie were able to put into the equation. Over post-match beers I once heard them discussing a reframed variant that went thus:- It was a hot afternoon on the Serengeti and the lions were sat around observing the herds of zebra and wildebeest grazing, when pride leader Old Leo turned to the others and started his team talk: “Simba – Big Game from You Today.”

With 18+ players to deal with this way, each with a little vignette outlining what was required of them, there was much time taken up to little overall effect it would seem. However, the point was always a positive one (if a little repetitive) and the message was certainly rammed home.

Increasingly, their results showed volumes as to how many of them DID regularly have big games. The team achieved a considerable amount both on and off the field, and their social cohesion was such that now, even ten years on, they are still a very close-knit crew, even though they are geographically scattered far and wide.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Visualization and Coping with Distractions

Recently I read this abstract from the International Journal or Sports Psychology:

Penalty shooting and gaze behavior: Unwanted effects of the wish not to miss - which you can read here:

Interesting study, and rather links to a number of my posts in the Prodigy Coach Coaches Forum. In Hypnosis-Opening the Senses I talk about the RAS (Reticular Activating System) and how it can be programmed in terms of dead aim and hitting targets. However, the IJSP article seems to advocate the downside of this...until you look at it from the NLP perspective and how the penalty takers (already anxious at not missing) are internally processing the target area.
Instead of just seeing the target areas for what they are (just targets), the penalty takers have associated a kinaesthetic representation of anxiety to those targets. They might also have internalised an auditory representation of "the critical voice" telling them not to miss. So - every time they see the target areas they fire these anchors!

There are two ways to avoid this.
One is to set up anchors with the penalty takers in practice, so that when they encounter the circumstances in a match situation then they can fire the anchors to help propel them towards proper execution.
The other is to use visualization - not of the targets but of the process (in this case the approach, strike of the ball and follow through).
If you saw the BBC2 Horizon programme "The England Patient" (2003) you will have seen the work done by David Beckham in this regard.

Essentially, visualization as mental rehearsal of physical processes is of enormous benefit. And by anchoring a particular state to your visualizations as well, you can bring some very powerful resources into play.

Distractions are always with us, and there will be some that are unplanned - viz: Jonny Wilkinson and the quality of the match balls at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Fortunately, once they knew to "test" the ball before every kick, the distraction was manageable.

Whatever sport you play, mental prep needs to be on many levels to assist you in getting into a position of best performance through best process. Visualization, although it might seem a practice strategy, is actually very vital in performance as well. Especially when all else seems to be failing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ezine Articles

You will notice the logo off to the right of my blog pages for Ezine Articles.

Having signed up with them, I will publish some of the longer forthcoming articles there rather than clog up the blog with over-lengthy entries. It also spreads the word into new areas as well.

First up is Is To Be Not To Be, which is taken from the preface to Don't Think of a Black Cat.,-to-Be?&id=3683568

Cool as a Cucumber

This fascinating Blog Post by Dr Darius Umrigar on the versatile and efficacious cucumber is worth investigating.

Later today there will be one residing in my shopping basket for sure - can't wait to experiment!


Monday, February 1, 2010

Half Time Talk - pay attention to the LAST thing said

Consider most speeches, sermons, presentations, and you'll easily remember how they struck you in terms of interest, stimulation and motivation. However - in terms of content, what is easiest to recall? Almost always its the first and the last things said. And in terms of immediate impact and effect, it'll be the LAST things said.

Team players are particlarly vulnerable to the closing content of half time talking - and it impinges (often dramatically) on the collective and individual nature of their play in the second half as their internal representations of those final comments get played out by their physiology.

Typically half times are laced with comments from lots of players, each feeling they've got to chip in with their 3-pen'orth. A lot of it is based on negatives - stop doing X, don't do Y, if we do Z we're gonna lose - and since the unconscious mind processes positives and negatives alike these get processed as "doing X", "do Y", "do Z", "we're gonna lose" and so on. Plus - like everything pulled into the foreground, if you leave it there then it will take seed in the mental foreground of the players and (almost magnetically) they will be drawn towards doing it.

Last Saturday my team were just ahead at half time. They are young and easily influenced and guided, and I wanted to make sure that the last things said were by me and were positive, and that my voice would go with them into the second half. I got them enjoined into a huddle, with no talk - just deep breathing and looking into the eyes of team mates whilst I spoke. I guided them to playing patterns and trusting themselves and each other's abilities. It took 30 seconds - and the benefits lasted well over 40 minutes. I got exactly the desired effect - and they got exactly the outcomes they wanted.