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The Empty Stadium Syndrome

I was reading Quarantine psychology, the new element of a cricket team's arsenal by Emma John and was thinking if there’s was one thing that defines a sports match for me other than winning it’s the roar of the crowd. I miss it so much. I have unbelievable memories of great European nights at Liverpool, IPL, Ashes Victories, International Rugby etc. where I was privileged to attend both a coach and spectator. Now due to new coronavirus restrictions, lots of sports games, are being played without any crowd at all. As a coach I know that performing in front of a crowd can be a great distraction to fatigue. Focusing on the crowd instead of the pain or exhaustion can be an effective strategy to help athletes when they are tiring, and about to 'hit the wall'.  I also know from my coaching that in pre match Visualisation we plan and plot strategies on how to use the crowd noise/energy for both the individual performer and the team. From my own research on the topic of crowd engagement and performance I have found that spectators booing, cheering, or remaining silent can be addressed by positive mind coping strategies.

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Never wrestle with a Pig …

Never wrestle with a pig! You both get dirty and the pig likes it... These are bloody rude times right now, and many people find themselves struggling with how to respond. Do they fight fire with fire or try, somehow, to take the moral high ground? Do they, as Donald Trump does, seek out an echo chamber where you use social media to rant, blame, accuse and intimidate others by yelling Fake News, Fake News at anyone who has the temerity to disagree. Or do they withdraw from engagement in any negative discourse or adopt a Michelle Obama mantra of when they go low, you go high. All of this was going through my mind as I was listening to Ian Dale being interviewed this week by Lisa Shaw on BBC about his new book with the theme Shout less, Listen more. Now Ian, the LBC broadcaster, is a marmite character to me. Sometimes I like him and other times he just winds me up. Some of his views are aligned to mine and some are polar opposite.  However, his theme got me thinking about how we really need to shout less/listen more.

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Holy Sh*t! What a ride!

This morning I met Bob as he climbed the steep steps at Longsands Beach carrying a backpack. Bob was struggling but determined. He simply refused to let the steps beat him and as he arrived at the top,  just like Rocky, he threw his arms into the air and shouted out loudly 'YES YES YES'. Bob is 91. Now anybody can grow old. That doesn’t take any talent or great ability. It’s a journey we all take, from the moment we were born until we reach a final resting place. We don’t know where, we don’t know when, but it’s a fact. I for one have never known anyone who has got out of this life alive. But the idea should be to grow old while having no regrets. There are more wishes unfilled in the local graveyard than in heaven.I wish I had done that, said that, lived that, being that. Yet we are so fearful. Our fears grab us by the throat and yell in our face, you cannot do this or that. You are not good enough, bright enough, smart enough. And when we are not fighting the demon of fear, we are allowing others free entry to…

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The stories we tell ourselves…

I was walking through sand dunes at a place called Bamburgh Castle and happened to come across a couple of strangers, at the exact time when he was proposing to her. Beautiful romantic moment in life - and she did say yes. I felt privileged and honoured to be present and managed capture the moment on camera. I was struck by the commitments we make in life to ourselves and to others, and the changes it brings to our lives and futures. I could not help but consider why we find change so hard when, everyday, people change so much by simply in growing up/older, leaving home, going to university, getting a job, changing a job, getting married, having children, getting divorced, retiring etc. Yet the idea of change, or the want to change always feels difficult. Have you ever tried to change something significant about yourself, whether a personality trait, a bad habit or another aspect of your life? Did it work? Have you ever tried to get someone else to change? What happened?   So often we sit around, thinking about how unhappy we are about one thing or another. Here’s a secret: the only person capable of…

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What drives our choices?

Much of our lives is spent in reaction to others and to events around us. The problem is that these reactions might not always be the best course of action and as a result, they can make others unhappy, make things worse for us or make the situation worse in general. These reactions shape our futures and our lives. We are victims of emotions, expectations, contexts or social norms. Recently I have been the victim of some people’s emotional reactions, one where my dog was overly friendly and a second time when I asked someone to respect social distancing. The individuals  allowed a cloud of anger to overwhelm them and they lost control. I am often asked if we are pawns to our emotions and our biases. Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Lao Tzu

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Kids – make you or break you!

During lockdown, I have tried to teach my 11-year-old; the process has turned out to be a great education for me. Recently, I introduced him to a new mountain bike. Since he seemed - in my opinion - to be less than enamoured with riding this bike to its full potential, I, in my wisdom, decided that a practical demonstration from a ‘master’ was needed in order to engender the right mindset. Basically a dad demonstration was called for! The occasion called for 'the master' to demonstrate his wisdom, intelligence and physical prowess to his student. As you have probably guessed, this ended disastrously with me going over the handlebars and breaking some bones. My wife Karen’s only comment was that it was all so predictable. In a bizarre twist, this incident just confirmed that my 11-year-old has indeed been the greatest teacher in my life. Now, this year marks my 38th year as a dad and 12th year as a grandad!  Like most people, before I had children, I thought I knew a lot about parenting. Of course, I had history, I was a child once myself. One of 10 in fact. I had also had parents. How hard could this…

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Don’t tell me to cheer up

Henry Ford once famously said If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right. Right through Covid, mental health has been one of the most challenging things I have had to coach. Depression, anxiety, negativity, loneliness and a sense of loss or darkness all combine in some people to varying degrees of complexity, and now are exasperated by the piling economic woes that like a tsunami army are marching towards us. I have been coaching John - not his real name - for the past two years. He has been living much of his life with anxiety and depression. John is fragile and some recent events seem to have broken his resilience. John is now also overwhelmed by negative feelings – shame and self-doubt. His relationships are crashing around him, his business is collapsing, his life feels so empty yet his head is so full of thoughts. John has lost count of the number of times ‘well-meaning friends’ have said to him, "Cheer up. Keep smiling. Count yourself lucky. Be positive. Snap out of it.” As though his depression would suddenly lift and his demons be immediately vanquished, if only he stopped…

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