(UNDERSTANDING or Application)

It’s fascinating to watch other sports – right now, I’m enjoying the fantastic International rugby and getting curious and intrigued again by the intricacies of elite sport.

I’m inspired to share what occurs to me about the differentiator between teams who seem to THRIVE under pressure rather than just SURVIVE!

These past two weeks we’ve seen several matches finalized with margins of less than 5 points.

The fact that the scores are close, might suggest that the teams are, as I used to say, ‘all matched up’, ie, in terms of technical skill, composition, game strategy, and physicality.

All things being equal, what separates teams who are deemed to be world class and those who are not!

Here’s a copy of my notes during the past two weeks – I invite you stay with me and take a deeper look at what’s really going on in elite performance:

• What is momentum, what causes it and how do teams then lose it?
• What enables athletes to suddenly raise their level of intensity?
• Why do teams stay stuck in the same old plays for long periods of the game?
• Why do some athletes look subdued, confused, hesitant and doubtful?
• How is it that athletes drop balls at key moments that they wouldn’t normally?
• How do you ensure a man down on the opposing side is an advantage and not a disadvantage?
• What drives an experienced athlete to be ill disciplined and mess with the rules of the game?

Let’s take a closer look:

When a team THRIVES in a highly competitive environment, athletes unify in the resilience of a clear mind. Individually athletes drop all attachment to personal thinking (stuff/ego/judgement of self and others), and collectively experience absolute freedom to BE in each moment.

And it’s not just the athletes, the entire team; management and support staff included, are in sync, connected to wisdom, totally absorbed, NOT by the way you’re playing or by winning (or the implications of any outcome) as you might expect, but with the LOVE of the game, the ability and inspiration to create the most extra-ordinary plays.

Athletes and Coaches access instinct and intuition and are guided to respond to conditions and circumstances with the utmost clarity and innate confidence. It seems you touch a sixth sense (freedom) to KNOW exactly what to do and when!


Sharpness, and creativity prevail such that the quality of execution is up to and beyond your current skill capacity – the performance is breath taking, not once but repeatedly.

Consistency becomes the new norm but it’s not forced, or strived after, it just happens as a natural by-product of absolute synchronicity of the powerful resource that fuels us all as human beings.

Conversely, teams who feel like they just SURVIVE competitive matches, have a completely different experience of the ‘match up’. You find it difficult to drop into the optimal functioning state (ZONE), of a clear uncluttered mind.

Possessions are not capitalized upon, because personal thinking gets in the way of performance flow. You have your own innocent story of what the game means to you – this might include, the want to be effective, prove, justify, beliefs, values, honour, whatever you’ve got ON it!


Thoughts completely outwith the game; relationships, family, finances, career can also impact your performance, if, you don’t have an understanding of how you operate as a human being.

Consumed by additional compelling thoughts, the spark that once was highly recognisable diminishes, leaving hesitation, doubt, and frustration to prevail from low level ‘States of Mind’.

There’s no hiding in International sport.  Experienced sports people diligently apply strategies, methods and techniques to get back into the game, re-focus, and concentrate. All this additional mental activity, however, just makes matters worse – it results in alot of head noise, uncharacteristic mistakes, lack of intensity, and ill-discipline.

Teams are generally left ruing missed opportunities, confused at the lack of transference from the training ground to the competition field.

So THRIVE or survive – how can Performance Specialists help?

As National Coach for Scotland (Netball), I would have considered myself to be at the cutting edge of high performance, a member of UK Sport’s inaugural Inspire/Aspire Programme, International CPD and superbly supported by sportscotland and the Scottish Institute of Sport.

In 4.5 years the Scottish Thistles moved from 17th to 12th in world rankings and qualified for the first time, in their own right, for the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014.

On leaving my role, I knew, that I hadn’t nailed it, there was something missing and it’s this question of how we coach athletes to THRIVE and not merely survive in pressure situations, that I’m so grateful since to discover.

Now, I see clearly that a person’s ‘State of Mind’, is the key determinant, it is THE fundamental performance variable. Understanding the nature of the human experience, how you operate as a human being SO THAT you can perform is very different to simply APPLYING techniques and strategies to ENABLE you to perform.

The answers therefore to all my notes above lie in, how you see the world in any given moment and how seriously you take that perspective – what you’ve got ON it, that keeps you restricted and bound up!

Contrary to what you’re culturally led to believe, you don’t experience circumstances on the outside of you directly, the outcome, media, relationships, home crowd – it just looks like you do!  You experience your thinking in the moment ABOUT them.

It’s an innocent misunderstanding of where your experience comes from – it’s a trick of the mind.

The TRUTH is, all human beings live in ‘Thought Created Separate Realities’. Beneath all that Thought, (the infinite creative potential of life) there is a true-self, perfect and rich in well-being without the need to, be someone, have things, do stuff, prove, seek approval, be right, or first at anything!

When you let go (as illusory and transitory) insecure, fearful, unproductive thinking; the ‘ought to, have to and shoulds‘ of human life, you access wisdom and your natural game, the spirit to play instinctively.

From this inner spaciousness, everything starts to fall into place – momentum, intensity, precision, creativity, enjoyment, unity, oneness, innate confidence, fulfilment – and you get sports people that THRIVE.

I hope this sharing is helpful – I wish you clarity to perform at your best.

Warm wishes

Denise x

I’d love to hear from you – simply use the comments box above.

If this resonates with you and you’d like to learn more about this work, for your athletes and coaches to consistently perform even when their thinking isn’t co-operating, get in touch and we’ll arrange a time to speak.

Please go ahead and share this post, the more sports people involved in this new psychological paradigm the better our world of sport will be in the future.