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When Sport Teams Touch That Space Of Magic!

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Behind the scenes & Beyond the norms!

I’ve just returned from the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s, it was a phenomenal, carnival experience and one I imagine akin to the party atmosphere expected at the Olympics in RIO later in the year.

As I watched the games, however, I got very quiet, as if I was inside the minds of the players. As a high performance specialist, it is fascinating to observe the human responses especially the communication and connection between players at various stages of the game:

  • Kick off – both teams during the first 60 seconds.
  • Transition – when a team gains or loses possession.
  • Momentum – when a team has possession for a while and gains ground.
  • Power – when players accelerate using superb skill, speed and strength.
  • Scoring – the point immediately after a team succeeds and scores.
  • Mistakes – the opposition when points are scored against them.
  • 1st half v 2nd half  – down or up, by a lot or by a little.
  • Finals – the last game of the competition for silverware or not!

Fiji, won the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s, as they did last year in 2015, but had a rather awkward and slow start on day one, defeating Canada by only two points 19-17, and in the quarterfinals stealing the game from Kenya in the dying seconds 12-10. At no point, however, did I get a sense that Fiji wouldn’t be in the final. As a group of athletes they appeared to leverage what we might call a sixth sense; a deep love and respect for themselves as human beings and for the game that has given them so much in life!

Fiji the hong kong sevens

At the heart of elite performance in sport, we can see this human capacity to synchronize our life’s energy; work in harmony in every respect, both physically and mentally. It is the point when individuals merge to create a team performance, be in exactly the right space and execute with precision timing, where players no longer act or stand-alone but unite and perform as ONE!

The sheer power and accuracy of skill during the Rugby 7’s was simply breath taking. At times, the moves and responses were so magical that for sure something else other than the learned performance components of physical, technical, tactical, and mental/emotional was going on!!

Standing pitch side, I could SEE/SENSE beyond the form of concentration, communication and decision making to players performing from instinct and intuition with a superior capacity for anticipation and cue detection. At these times, you touch the space out of which life itself is created, man-made restrictions and limitations are lifted; the aperture opens, and the performance is born – inside you play ahead of the game, it’s AS IF, you step into the UNKNOWN, but with a real sense of KNOWING?

New Zealand Hong Kong 7s

This level of clarity of mind is every coach’s dream, and now we have the technology to teach this to sportspeople, it’s about understanding there is a human operating system. You can go beyond what you already know intellectually and discover an entirely new dimension/realm, you can experience a higher level of consciousness such that your perspective and the world you see completely changes.

Human beings are designed to experience psychological freedom; you can perform without being troubled by all the noise of, can I, should we, which direction, what skill, when to, is he going to, what if – it’s simply a question of understanding the human experience on a Principle level.

When no-thing (extraneous head noise) seems to matter, you cross the imaginery line into the spiritual, the space of pure potential, and the infinite source of wisdom, love and insight. The ground you stand on is one of innate resilience and well-being; you’re secure in your own skin, you know you have everything you need in the moment, at a soul level you feel perfectly whole, you are free to be totally PRESENT, simply put, you are free to JUST PLAY!

During a competition, players and coaches experience a huge range of the human condition:

  1. Completely lost, caught up and distracted by personal thoughts resulting in experiences of anger, frustration, disappointment, and overwhelm – this leads to insecure responses; bookings, penalties, inconsistencies, mistakes, and general under achievement.
  2. Apparent loss of focus and concentration then fighting to apply coping strategies to control negative thoughts and feelings – positive self-talk, motivational re-grouping, and affirmations. Teams that are pre-occupied using mental skills techniques to get clear appear dis-jointed, display poor timing, lack rhythm, and suffer missed opportunities.

Hong Kong the Hong Kong 7s

Through to the ultimate ‘state of mind’ in high performance sport:

3. Clear-minded, secure and wise in the moment, highly energised connected to your innate mental health and confidence as a human being, in flow, psychologically free, ready and willing to embrace every dynamic of the sport – performances seem effortless, breath-taking, accurate, creative and respectful.

At the Hong Kong 7’s, it was intriguing to SEE the players human-ness, in and out of mood/conscious states throughout each game. This is where the juice is and it is not an intellectual understanding. You must go deeper, beyond the form into the formless, into our spiritual and psychological nature. There you will see the fact that all humans ever feel is our thinking in the moment and that it is not a requirement of being human to be influenced by our thinking or take it seriously – you are NOT your thoughts – you are a bundle of divine energy and intelligence!

Key areas of performance which trouble coaches is how players respond to certain circumstances eg; the draw, selections, first round losses, media, higher ranked teams, venues and the fans to name a few!

As a result, performance programmes are filled with components to build healthy relationships, heighten awareness and improve communications and connections. The aim of these valuable resources is to help players be more resilient, compassionate, and clear-minded yet all these qualities are natural to being a human!!

Are you innocently missing the simplicity within all the complexity of modern day sport?

Could this be thwarting your teams’ capacity for consistency and greatness?

Every human being works in the same way, there is an operating system in place, which is both practical and logical yet remarkable and ingenious at the same time. Intellectually, human beings cannot fully understand it, you must intuit it and/or sense it.

As I have have discovered these past three years since leaving my post as National Coach for Scotland (Netball), players are never actually responding to circumstances, only ever their thinking about it.

It is possible for you to fall out of your individual personal thought system, when you see it for what it is, (arbitrary, fluid and illusory) which allows you to be clear and fully present in the moment – all thoughts of how am I doing, will this be enough, does he have faith in my abilities, am I tough enough, we’ve worked so hard we deserve this, I miss my family, this venue and country suck – whatever you’ve personally got on it, it will be in the way of the teams synergy and evolution.

I don’t know any coach of males or females who wouldn’t want their players to enjoy maximum time in 3) above, a state of mind which is highly productive, effective and incredibly rewarding in every part of their lives.

I hope you have enjoyed this article (please share your thoughts by leaving a comment) and that it has piqued your curiosity to look further in this direction of understanding where performance and experience really come from? If anything resonates and you feel inspired to chat further, visit my coaching profile for my contact info.

Warm wishes


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