For the love of the game-A panacea for Elite Sports Performance

USP - For the love of the game

Sometimes I’m lucky,

Generally, when athletes utilize my services they are more reactive than pro-active. What I mean is that they usually seek out my services when they need them…they have been suffering an injury and have failed to successfully rehabilitate it…they have may have been cut from the rep team….they may have been delisted from their sporting club..or they simply may not be performing at the levels they should-or know they can…

Delisted Brisbane Lions Player Sam Michael Busting out with a Log Jammer Press during a recent USP PIT Training Session with Strength and Conditioning Specialist Joey Hayes before getting drafted to Essendon!

My role is to ascertain the weakness and get their performance back on track…sometimes that performance issue may be more psychological than physical…

I recently caught up with one of my most successful clients to discuss what he has learned throughout his career spanning spanning more than 10 years as a professional athlete…

In his own words he has had his most consistent footy and he puts it down to FOUR key reasons!

Fun, Love, Enjoyment and Happiness!

I love footy

Where is the passion, enthusiasm and love-it sounds like some corny motivation mantra or line from a book or song….

Where is the love of sport gone?

Where is the love of sport gone?

What the?

It sounds kind of ethereal….soft…whatever…I don’t really care..it worked for this superstar and could potentially work for you!!!

And may hold the key and be the Panacea for life and sport!!

Let’s examine how this works??

As an elite athlete or aspiring athlete you MUST make sacrifices, in fact I outline these during our parent/athlete interview process.

You’ll have to forgo many of the things most normal non-athletes may indulge in…for example poor dietary choices, consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs etc.

No Drugs No Alcohol No Cigarettes

You’ll need to focus on recovery, sleep and early nights when your mates may be out late partying.

But the question is when and where does it start and end?

At what point does sacrifice become a mute point and override enjoyment of life-family, friends etc.

Case in point you have a game at 7.30pm on Saturday night and for upwards of 2 days before the game you can’t eat, can’t talk to anyone, you effectively isolate yourself off from the world.

You’ve knocked back offers from friends and family to catch up for a feed the days before the game…

You get in the zone, you work yourself up into a frenzy…

You analyse your opponents within an inch of your life.

Opposition analysis

You play the game over and over in your head….

In the locker rooms before the game-the coaches are walking around nervous as all hell, wondering if he trained the team hard enough or if the players are flat and over-trained, even second guessing himself, has he selected the right players for the key match ups,..the look on his face is intense, his face is glum, no smiles around here in the locker rooms, this is serious business…after all this is professional sport…each and every week your performance, your coaching and or playing career is on the line, a few losses and out comes the axe! bang you’re fired, under pressure, intense media scrutiny!

Oh wait it’s game time ready to play, ready to put into action everything you’ve practiced for the entire week…finally your time has come…

You’ve got your lucky jocks on…..

You’ve had a 3 game winning streak since you’ve grown a beard…so you don’t dare shave it…

Max Gawn believes his beard makes him lucky

You’ve got your ipod blaring tunes to pump you up…

You don’t make eye contact with anyone in the locker rooms before game-keeping your power to yourself…if someone looks at you, you wonder what they are staring at??

It’s time to lace up the boots and run out onto the field to play…

You freeze up…you don’t play as well as you want, your team loses..

You’re down in the dumps for an entire week, you’re inconsolable…(entirely understandable if it was a grand final) but this is a regular home and away game there will always be next week!

You make a pact to yourself you’re going to train even harder this week, maybe it was the wrong food, maybe the coach didn’t put you in your regular position….

But you didn’t perform how you expected…

Problem you base your self worth on how you perform and unless you kick 6 goals and get BOG you’ve failed to live up to your expectations…

Yes it’s true the greatest of great the elite of the elite have the highest levels if dissatisfaction…

So where does that leave us?

I’ve been involved with successful clubs both as an athlete and coach and successful I mean we could count the number of losses on one hand! In fact if we did lose it was like someone had died that was the eerie feeling in the rooms after a game etc.

Top 12 Insights from the elite:

  1. Don’t stress about games or opposition 2 days before hand or 2 hours before the game. As it is largely out of your control how well the opposition performs. All you can do is focus on yourself and your preparation. Focus on your preparation and things you can control.
  1. There’s nothing you can do to get better in the next 2 hours or 2 days! Playing the game over and over in your head doesn’t usually work too well and can drain you of your energy.
  1. Don’t miss out on things in life have brekky with a mate, watch a movie or spend time with a partner. It rarely impacts negatively upon performance. Just make sure they are good company and will allow you to be free. If you don’t want to talk about the game-don’t hang out with people that will.
Tippos shout for brekky in Melbourne a few weeks ago the morning before his game!
  1. Find how you perform best. Do you play better in a relaxed state or do you play best when you’re on edge? You don’t always have to follow what’s always traditionally been done.
Optimal Arousal
  1. Tradition dictates coaches and players are always serious, highly strung and under stress-it’s how they cope with their own personal stress. This underlying feeling, subsequent action and behaviour filters thru to players as well. It sets the example for young athletes to follow and is extremely rigid. The great Sport psychologist Phil Jauncey who was enlisted by legendary triple premiership winning coach Leigh Mathews at the Brisbane Lions had individual personality profiling done on his athletes and classified them into 4 types of athletes-they were coached differently and prepared differently. Brownlow medallist Jason Akermanis was a mozzie!
Legendary Sport Psychologists Phil Jauncey was a master at individualising coaching feedback and athlete preparation when the Brisbane Lions won their 3 grand Finals
  1. It’s going to be the highlight of your life…enjoy it. Other people would kill for the opportunity. And you’re stressing out, giving yourself an ulcer every time before you play. It’s all going to be over soon! Enjoy it while you can!
  1. You will win and you will lose-it doesn’t define you! There is always next week.

  2. Don’t play scared! Anyway what are you afraid of? Being nervous, having superstitions are all fear based processes. When you play under these conditions you effectively play scared and under stress. This inhibits flow, instinct and reaction and can negatively impact performance. Don’t be scared ask yourself the question-are you a pussy? Play under the guise of gratitude and appreciation; be grateful you’ve been given the skills, talents and abilities to play at the elite level! Be grateful for a disease free, healthy body! It goes a long way and immediately changes your psychology!
Fear and gratitude cannot coexist!
  1. Remember you are a professional, you know what to do, you’ve been doing it for 10 years..you’ve got mastery…TRUST yourself!
  1. Strip it all back. The bare essentials-Remember why you got started and the purity and enjoyment you had. Way before, money, managers, contracts, media, sponsors, stresses etc. Enjoy the camaraderie of playing with your mates. It’s usually the highlight of your life to get paid for doing what you love. Focus on being your best in everything you do. Give it your all. And enjoy it… it could very well be over tomorrow!!
Enjoy it while it lasts!
  1. A happy athlete, is a great athlete! Leigh Matthews
  1. You will have ups and downs wins and losses take it enjoy the journey!

Legendary coach Ian King taught me the power of fun and enjoyment during games and training.

The video below depicts Ash Jones the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Canterbury Crusaders showcasing some of his old school PE drills to develop speed reaction and agility for coaches attending the NSCA seminar in Washington DC 2019!

Video: Check out the Essendon lads getting up in the gym courtesy of USP Athlete Sam Michael after copping a 12 goal thumping the weekend before!!

Play based on fear or play based on gratitude, neither way is right or wrong…it’s simply a matter of doing what works best for you.

But stop and smell the roses, before it’s all too late! Because it’s over all too quickly!!

All the best,

Joey Hayes