7 Steps To Help You Perform Better At Everything

The whole area of Sports Psychology and mental health are gaining exponential traction, but it’s surprising at how little is still understood about what Psychology applied to sport is.  This very thing is addressed in the interview below with Mental Performance Coach Richard Dean.

Richard is a London-based practitioner and Senior Associate of the Royal Society of Medicine.  He’s been a mentor for several NFL players, International Cricketers, International Rugby players, and International Soccer players. He has also been involved in six World Championship Boxing fights.

His academic work has been published by:  American Education Research Journal, American Journal of Educational Science, Nova Science Publishers, and Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy Journal.

Richard, welcome to Premier Players and thanks for sharing your work:

A pleasure to be here.

First off, give an insight into some of your experiences:

My work has led to some amazing experiences.  I’ve had the privilege to work in very high-profile, high-octane environments- such as the NFL, ATP World Tour Tennis Finals, in Boxing- World Title Fights; International Test Cricket, World Athletics Championships. Each experience of working with some of the best athletes in the world has been, and continues to be; deeply enriching.

One of my favourite memories was working with a World Title challenging Boxer at the O2 Arena, London. Looking out from the ring at a sea of 20,000 people, and a host of prominent people at ringside- knowing that all eyes in that arena are on your event; thrilling!

Another momentous occasion had me working with an American client who was fighting for an International title in Germany. Everything was stacked up against him, the logistics were difficult, the promoter made everything as hard as possible. And as my role was wider than just performance psychology, I had to deal with it all! I did- and we won! Despite everything being in the opponent’s favor. It was a great victory and we took the Championship to the USA!

Sounds incredible, so what exactly is Sport Psychology?

Sport Psychology looks at the influence that the mind has upon performance. It is proactively working mentally to be better. You don’t need something to ‘fix’ in order to benefit from working mentally!  It is giving people the tools, so that they can apply consistent approaches in the most pressured moments, and providing a framework for dealing with difficult situations.   That is Sport Psychology! It’s about making people more resilient, tougher, and plugged in to playing without distraction or white noise!

I want to get this across- Sport Psychology is NOT just about motivation and powerful speeches and behavior that is intended to rouse. In fact, I would like to assert that most of the time it is CATEGORICALLY not about that!

Applying specific, focused advice linked to developing mental skills and attitudes is so important. A great example is Russell Wilson- he has worked at this off the field, so that he can ‘just play’ on it!

How do you start with that process?

First, it should be determined how ‘mentally skillful’ an athlete is, and then collaboratively find ways to continually get mentally sharper in order to eliminate fine-focus errors.

I see it is as developing a strategy to ensure that you are the best possible you each and every week. As an athlete, finding comfort in the knowledge that you are preparing in the best way possible for YOU is a huge key! And that is so individual, I would advise and develop completely different ways of going about that process, dependent on the player’s individual personality.

So, just how do you determine someone’s mental fitness?

Having spoken to many athletes over the years, I believe I have a great handle on assessing the level of someone’s mental skills and mental health. Anecdotally, I’m able to see patterns from how people talk and conduct themselves- and I also use inventories if that’s what the athlete wants. I use a method called the TAIS, which was introduced to me by my colleague Dr. Michelle Pain.

I have undertaken programs of study at ‘the mecca’ of healthcare- the world-famed Harley Street, and have carried that forth, and distilled my education into a very practical and solution focused, rather than an overly theoretical MO.

How can someone help themself?

One very simple step that an athlete can take immediately is to:

1- think about your best performances
2- think about your worst performances
3- think about how you prepared leading to the best performances
4- think about how you prepared leading to the worst performances
5- determine if there is a relationship between your preparation and your performances
6- apply more of what led to the best
7- do less of what led to the worst

 I do believe that this model can apply to pretty much any context – Sports, Work or Life!

I have spoken to athletes for hours to get the above exactly right- and it’s amazing for me as a practitioner to have an athlete tell me that due to our work together, they’ve had a eureka moment! They will often say something like- This is it! I identify with this! This is MY way! To help them get to that is wonderful!

Thanks Rich, if anyone wants to reach out, can they do so?

Happy to help if my capacity allows.  People can e-mail me at rich.dean@talk21.com

From Track, To Soccer, To NFL & Beyond For Usain Bolt

When you have won as many premier awards in a career as Usain Bolt it feels like retirement must be a double edged sword.  Bolt retired when he was on top.  He was still the king of the sprinters, still the fastest man in the world.

Retirement in a situation like that preserves a legacy.  It allows Bolt to be looked at as the greatest of his, or any other, generation.  The flip side to that is it’ll always leave us wondering what more Bolt could have done.

The 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, both seem like they could have been realistic targets for Bolt to continue to dominate his sport.  Bolt would have been 33-years-old at the worlds and 34-years-old for the Olympics.  Obviously, that is up there in age for a sprinter, but with Justin Gatlin still at the top of the game – and defending his World Title after beating Bolt in London in 2017 – it is always going to make you think about how many more premier awards, how many more titles, and how many more medals the great Jamaican could win.

Bolt seems perfectly content with his life after track and field.  He attempted to play soccer professionally, never quite finding the right club for his talent, exposure, and salary needs.  This might sound like a failure on some level, but changing sporting careers after your 30th birthday to a new discipline was never going to be an easy task.  That he was ever offered a professional contract at all says everything about Bolts transcendent talent as a premier player, along with a little something about his marketability as an athlete.

Reaching the level of fame and acclaim that Bolt managed over his career may never happen to a track and field athlete again.  The sprinter won eight Olympic gold medals, two in Beijing (2008) and three each in London (2012) and Rio (2016).  In each of those games he won the 100 meter and 200 meter crowns, while he is the world record holder in each event with times of 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 seconds for the longer distance.  These records have not been approached since, with no one (other than Bolt himself) running anything under 9.74 seconds for the 100m in the decade since he set the record in 2009.

Bolt’s last brush with heavy media attention came during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine week.  At 32-years-old and – allegedly – “definitely out of shape”, Bolt tied the scouting combine record of John Ross with a 4.22 second time in the 40-yard-dash.  It makes you wonder what type of player Bolt could have been in the NFL, perhaps something akin to a Randy Moss as the Jamaican stands at 6-foot-5 and has the type of game breaking speed that Moss – the holder of the record for most touchdown catches in a season with 23 – used to tear open defenses.

Bolt is the ultimate example of an athlete that would find his niche in any sport.  He has won so many premier awards as a track guy, but he could easily have won Super Bowl rings as a big part of an NFL team.  Perhaps most importantly, Bolt will be remembered in the sporting world as a showman, but one who is humble and generous at heart.  You can’t ask for much more than that out of a career.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent Sports Writer

Top 10 ways to prepare for a Baseball Game

For most players baseball courses through their veins. It’s more than a game – baseball is a way of life. This statement rings true for all players, from the premier players of the big leagues, to the little leaguers down the street. Preparation is an integral part of the game, both before you arrive at the field and after, and we’ll cover the Top 10 ways to prepare for a baseball game.

The Top 10 ways to prepare for a game can be divided into three categories: What you can do before you get to the ballpark, mental preparation, and physical preparation.

Before You Arrive At The Field
1. If you don’t stay hydrated, the summer heat can zap your strength and slow you down.

2. The same rings true for your diet, if you eat meals that are too rich- it can bog you down. Make it a game-day routine to find your super food. Nobody wants to be thrown out or thrown up on a steal attempt.

Mental Preparation
As the great Yogi Berra once said, “The game is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical.”

3. The best way to prepare mentally is to study the scouting report on your opponents if one is available. That way you can figure out what type of pitcher you’ll be facing, if he’s a righty or lefty, and if he’s a junk ball or power pitcher. That would help you immensely in making a game plan at the plate.

A scouting report can also help you with your defensive game plan. Find out which of their players hit for power, contact, if they’re a pull hitter, or if they can go opposite field. A spray chart can help you with that information, but you’ll only see those at the college or professional levels. If you’re playing American Legion, Babe Ruth, Little League, or High School Baseball, you can generally get this information from friends that play on other teams that have faced your opponents before.

4. Another way to prepare mentally is to arrive at the park early. Put away everything else and focus on the upcoming game- it’s amazing what being in the right state of mind can do.

Physical Preparation
5. Before anything, you need to stretch, getting your muscles loosened up is necessary. With all the torque and strain you can put on your body while throwing, or in the batter’s box, you need to be ready.

6. Run. After stretching, you could do a few ninety-foot sprints, or do a foul pole jog, that would help get your blood flowing, and your adrenaline pumping.

7. Warm up the arm – play some catch. Many player, even premier players, recommend that you warm up with progression throws, starting with your wrist, then elbow, then full shoulder motion throws, then finally into the crow-hop and throw motion. Proper progression while warming up can reduce the risk of injury or strain.

8. Step up to the plate and get some batting practice in, get dialed in and work on your mechanics before the game. With batting practice it’s great to have a routine. With a routine you can work on situational hitting: practice hitting ground balls to advance runners or for hit and run situations, even scoring a runner from third with less than two outs. If you’re struggling at turning pitches inside-out, work on that, try to take some pitches to the opposite field.

9. Let’s not forget about fielding practice – you can do a lot to prepare for a game by just taking a few grounders to feel out your range to the right or left if you’re playing at an infield position. Make it a routine; range to the left a few times, then to the right, then work on charging and bare hand if you’re playing third base. You can do the same thing if you play outfield, practice reading pop flies and line drives.

10. Creating a routine that can cover all of these ways to prepare for games is imperative. If you can create the right routine and adhere to it, your body will recognize the pattern and be prepared for what’s next. Having a good routine the most important way to prepare for the game of baseball, it can propel you into the premier league in the world – Major League Baseball.

Story by Michael Milliken

Ichiro Trained For A Long Future With HOF Results

When you think of great baseball players in the post-WWII era there are many names that spring to mind.  One of those is Ichiro Suzuki. The Japanese great announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Thursday night in Japan, ending a career that was legendary in status on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Ichiro went out on his own terms as the 45-year-old Seattle Mariners franchise defining player said goodbye against the Oakland A’s in the Tokyo Dome.  There was no better venue and no better opponent for Ichiro to retire against as a player whose sports training methods had seen him outlast so many of his peers finally decided to call it a day.

The tearful hugs from teammates and the general adulation of the fans towards Ichiro say everything about the player.  He is a premier player whose star shone brightly wherever he plied his trade, playing with a quiet and respectful reverence for the game that other superstars could learn from.

His sports training methods kept him in fantastic shape throughout his career, with his unbelievable eye for the baseball and the quickness of his swing being among the best in the history of the game. Ichiro is the only player that would even think to swing at a ball that had already bounced before the plate, let alone be able to strike the ball away for a single as if he was playing cricket.

His list of accolades is impressive. Ichiro played 19-years in MLB and compiled 3,089 hits in the process. This was after he starred in Japan and collected 1,278 in that league. The combined 4,367 hits is a professional record that will take some serious effort to break given Ichiro’s ability to hit and his longevity thanks to his sports training methods. Ichiro was also a 10-time Major League All-Star.

The hair today is more silver fox than Japanese poster boy as it was when Ichiro entered the majors at the beginning of the millennium. His famed swing slowed down with age, as it would for anyone, but the spirit to play the game never waned. Even in his last at bats Ichiro looked as engaged and involved in the game as he did when he was trying to prove to America that a Japanese position player could play alongside the very best in the world.

Ichiro is a likely first ballot Hall of Famer.  He is a player who changed the way that MLB was thought of not only in Japan, but also all through Asia.  His next move could just as easily be into acting (he is such a huge draw in Japan) as it could be into coaching or an assistant role. Whatever he chooses to do next, Ichiro had a career for the ages as a Premier Player of Major League Baseball.

The Premier Coach Award

The Premier Coach Award is presented to the Head Coach fans voted as the best in his or her sport via online polls.  Candidates are announced about a month prior to the end of the regular sports season.  Fans then vote not just for the Head Coach with the best regular season team record, but for the coach they felt led his or her team beyond expectations during the season that brought hope and excitement.

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