I am fortunate to have recently undertaken the UEFA A Licence coaching course at St Georges Park, the impressive home of English football. The facility provided an inspiring backdrop for a course I shared with 34 other coaches. The course has traditionally been split into two parts. Part one, which the group and I started last February, has until recently been a 13 day residential. It is renowned for being both physically and mentally demanding. Our part one was split into three blocks, a 5 day, 4 day and 3 day residential spread over about six weeks. The different format was designed to allow the body and mind time to recover and provide periods of reflection to digest the practical and theoretical aspects of the course. After our third block and subsequent 3 day residential, we had a year to complete the theory and practical aspects of the course. This included 20 hours logged coaching, with at least 5 hours working with 11v11. We also had to research and evidence Long Term Player Development, Performance Analysis, Planning For Performance and Psychology.
The whole process of research and applying what I was learning was an excellent experience, with all the modules proving equally engaging. But it was the psychology module that really got my attention and dragged me down an enlightening rabbit hole. The main objective of the module was to explore my current beliefs, values and intentions and examine how these affected my coaching and my coaching philosophy. However, I ended up releasing how my beliefs have played such a big part in my life and on my mental health.
Beliefs influence our behaviour. Our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world has a major impact on the quality of our experience. They are our guiding principles and we all share some basic beliefs. The belief that fire burns prevents us from sticking our fingers in flames each day. Or belief in the law of gravity means we don’t step off tall buildings. Our beliefs come from many sources, parents, upbringing, siblings, friends, repetitive experiences and traumas. The expectations of those around us in childhood instill beliefs. High, realistic expectations can build competence. Low expectations can build incompetence. We believe what we are told about ourselves growing up as we trust the people around us and have no way of testing this. We act as if the beliefs are true and a strong belief becomes a strong filter. The placebo effect is a prime example of this. Patients given inert substances with no proven medical benefit have responded positively to treatment simply on the belief they have been given something to make them better.
Beliefs generally take one of three main forms. One is cause and effect, what causes what. Another is what is important to us and what matters most. Finally, beliefs about what things mean. For example, if you believe we are born to grow up, go to work, pay bills and die, your experience of the world will be different to someone who believes it’s a spiritual journey full of experiences and learning. False beliefs about my identity and my capabilities have played a big part on my experience with depression and have often contributed to falling into or further into dark days.
My A Licence experience encouraged me to examine and challenge my beliefs. Ones which provided me with positive outcomes and experiences and those that had the opposite negative effect. It also taught me about the difference between behaviour and intention.
Imagine if you will you’re the parent of a young teenager. Just suppose the youngster has been acting up of late displaying some poor behaviour. What if you came home one day and the first thing you notice is the smell of burning and a sink full of dirty pots before your teenager presents you with a cake that looks like roadkill. Your belief that your child is going off the rails could lead to you to think that the teen is creating more drama, more trouble, messing up the house, expecting you to clean it up. This belief could lead to losing your temper, throwing the cake in the bin and sending the youngster to their room before any words have been exchanged. However, a belief that your child is just going through a bad time, adjusting to maturation and exam pressure and is inherently good could allow you time to see the icing on the cake that says “I’m sorry” and the behaviour that created the mess in the kitchen was created through the intention of apologising for recent out of character behaviour.
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice. “Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath and shut your eye’s”. Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things”. “I dare say you haven’t had much practice” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I’d believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. Alice Through The Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
On May 6th 1954 Sir Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier. Prior to that, the record had stood at 4:01 for around nine years with many experts of the day suggesting the human body was simply not capable of a sub 4-minute mile, it was dangerous, impossible. Sir Roger believed otherwise. With the impossible belief shattered, John Landy went under 4 minutes the next month. A year later three runners in the same race went under four minutes.
I’d invite you to explore your current beliefs, values and intentions and see which are serving you well and which are preventing you from achieving your potential.