Holder hints at changes for second test

th-28Under pressure West Indies captain Jason Holder has hinted at changes to come ahead of Friday’s second test against England at Headingley. The team will be looking to rebound from a innings a 209 run defeat inside three days at Edgbaston.

Holder says the players have been working with the team’s sports psychologist, Steve Sylvester, as they try to bounce back in the face of the poor perforamnce and scathing criticism which followed their humiliating defeat in the first test.

Meanwhile, all-rounder Chris Woakes, who has not played international cricket since June after struggling with a side strain, will return to the England team, replacing fellow pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones, who took four wickets in Edgbaston.

West Indies have not won a test in England since 2000 and have not won a series away from home against a team other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since 1995.


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Jason Holder urges West Indies to ignore critics and unite for revival

4970For Jason Holder, the short first Test has made for a long last few days. He and his team have been stewing on their defeat at Edgbaston for the best part of a week now, and Holder has the careworn air of a man who has spent a lot of time in team meetings.

“It’s not easy, but I don’t think life is meant to be easy,” Holder said at Headingley on Wednesday. “It’s a young group, we’re trying to learn as best as we possibly can under the circumstance we’re faced with.”

Holder says he has not paid any attention to the stinging criticisms made by the team’s former bowling coach, Curtly Ambrose, who said that West Indies were “pathetic” and “embarrassing”, or any of the other critics, for that matter.

“I can’t change it or control so I ignore it,” Holder said. “It’s a waste of time thinking about it. We’ve taken a fair bit of criticism from the English and the West Indians, and everyone to be honest.

“That’s something that inspires or motivates some people and breaks some people. But we’ve got to stay together as a side, for the people who might not necessarily be able to handle it. And for the people it motivates, it must drive them to get the best out of themselves.”

His own approach was to disregard it all. “My job is to keep motivating the team,” he said. “It is hard, it’s not impossible, but I accept the challenge.”

Holder did not want to talk about Geoffrey Boycott’s idiotic comments, either. During the first Test, Boycott complained that he would have a better chance of winning a knighthood if he wore black face-paint, because they had been “handed out like confetti” to former West Indies players. He has since apologised.

“I don’t get sucked into it, I don’t listen to it,” Holder said, “so I really don’t know what Geoffrey Boycott has been saying or if he’s been saying anything to be honest.”

It was the last question Holder took, since the press conference was shut down immediately after he answered. It seemed a shame that the West Indies captain felt it best to hold his tongue.

He is an eloquent, intelligent man, and, you guess, would have plenty to say about all this in private. Instead, he stuck to talking about what had gone wrong at Edgbaston, and what he hoped would go right at Headingley.

“As a bowling unit I don’t think we were as patient as we would like to be, we lacked consistency and it was difficult to set fields as the England players scored both sides of the wicket,” he said. “As a batting unit we’ve got to know where our off stump is and be a lot more selective in our stroke play.” He also said he did not want “to make it too complicated”.

Joe Root spoke, too. There are only 11 months between Root and Holder, these two young captains, but they make a contrasting pair. Holder carries himself like a great leader off the field, but does not often perform like one on it.

Root is the reverse of that. He is a nervous talker, constantly tugging at his sleeves and tripping himself because he is trying so hard to say just the right thing. Chris Woakes had come into the team ahead of Toby Roland-Jones, the Yorkshireman explained, because England felt it was important that he “gets some game time”.

As for the batsmen: “I think the only message for those guys is to go out there and take this opportunity. It’s another week of hard Test cricket, where of course guys are under different pressures wherever they bat in the batting order. And if they want to nail down those spots they have to deal with that and if they get in make it really count.”

Steve SylvesterHow Holder must wish his own challenges were so simple. West Indies, have, he said, been doing a lot of good work with the sports psychologist Steve Sylvester. It is, he conceded, still “a work in progress”.

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Cricket West Indies (CWI) today can announce that Chartered Psychologist Steven Sylvester has been brought in as the Team Psychologist to the Windies team during their two month tour of the UK.

Steve SylvesterThe renowned Sport Psychologist was approached by Cricket West Indies to support the players, coaches and support staff.

Sylvester’s eye-catching CV includes playing his part behind the scenes in Middlesex County Cricket Club winning the County Championships after 23 years last summer.

He’s also had success with bringing teams together in football, having helped AFC Wimbledon gain promotion into League One in 2016 and Sheffield United ending their six-year exile from the Championship in May.

Jimmy Adams, CWI’s Director of Cricket, welcomed Sylvester’s expertise to aid the young side.

The historic first Test, the first ever international Test match to be played under lights, starts at Headingley on Thursday and Adams said: “The genesis of Steven’s appointment was a request from the Test and ODI captain Jason Holder along with Head Coach Stuart Law.

“Both believed that our squad needed someone possessing the appropriate skill set to address areas of team building, and psych support. Steven completed the application process out of which our panel considered him the strongest candidate for the role.”

Cricket - Essex  and West IndiesSylvester, as a lifelong West Indies supporter, admits his role in the backroom team has helped fulfil a lifelong ambition.

“This is a dream come true to be involved in West Indies cricket and I’m excited to be a part of their preparation for this tour,” he said.

“I have been a lifelong fan of West Indies cricket as a kid growing up with my Father from St. Vincent and then as a player and a Psychologist.

“I’ve often referred to my cricketing hero’s from the West Indies when I’ve been working within other sports. I’ve always admired their courage and spirit and it’s an honour to be involved.”

Johnny Grave, CEO of Cricket West Indies added: “Steven has a great track record of working with successful teams and we are looking forward to him helping our young players improve their performances on the field.”

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Premier League EXCLUSIVE: Steve Sylvester reveals how life behind the bravado can be murky

BEHIND the bravado, the super-stardom and the money-no-object lifestyle there remains a stigma, a taboo subject that footballers struggle with just the same as the man on the street.

Aaron-Lennon-837664As the glitz and glamour of the new football season whisked fans off their feet this weekend, so depression and anxiety will remain as rife as it has done for years, plaguing the millionaire footballer just as much as the person who works six days a week to pay for a match ticket.

But there is a ray of hope. Steven Sylvester is a sports psychologist who has been credited with possessing the Midas touch behind the scenes.

The pressure of performing in front of thousands is no longer just restricted to the pitch. With the growing exposure of social media, it means what you do is scrutinised 24/7.

“Sportsmen are human and they also need support,” said Sylvester. “People will say what have they got to worry about as they have a dream job with a great salary. But that’s not a justification of being happy.

“Clubs need to have a bigger duty of care for the modern sportsman. Gone are the days when players bottled things up and just got on with it as it doesn’t help your performance. So much is played out in your mind. If you are content and happy off the pitch, then you are on it.

“You need to support those feeling vulnerable, fragile and exposed. Knowing I’m there is good for the players. They are finding it’s OK to talk about things.

“I think playing the game helps. I will stay back for shooting practice with a player or simply have some throw downs before the start of a day’s play.

“I will work in between the lines and when things are not quite right I will flag them up with the manager and the player also goes away feeling better.”

During Sylvester’s first season with AFC Wimbledon in 2014-15, an unlikely promotion from League Two followed.

Recruited by Sheffield United after four straight defeats at the start of last season, the Blades have taken their place back in the Championship.

And to complete the list, Sylvester helped old county Middlesex end their 23-year wait to win the County Championship last season.

“Performing as an entertainer in front of the masses comes with high pressure,” said Sylvester. “But you can’t get away from it as your game is analysed by everyone.”

Think of sportsmen with mental health issues and the list is vast. Most recently, Aaron Lennon, of Everton, was sectioned under the mental health act during last season. He has since returned to training and thanked the people around him for their help.

Former German goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide at the age of 32 in 2009. His widow later revealed he had been fighting depression since the death of his daughter.

And the problem is wider than football; former cricketers Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott have both suffered from mental health issues, former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton wrote in her memoirs about self-harming.

Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s director of cricket, said: “The world is a tougher place now than when I played. Players need support on the physical and mental side and Steven plays a big part in that.

“Cricket especially can be a lonely, from travelling and away from the family, to practicing in the nets for hours. It’s a team game, but as a batsman or bowler you are on your own so you need that level of support.”

Neal Ardley, the AFC Wimbledon manager, revealed Sylvester acts more than just a 12th man or as a cheerleader.

He said: “He’s a vital cog in our engine. Straight away I made sure he was involved in the changing room and in the dugout.

“He acts as a sounding board and we bounce ideas off each other. Steven is brilliant at picking up any potential issues affecting a player that I wouldn’t have seen.

“That can be the difference between the player having no impact on a game and a man-of-the-match performance to help us win.”

There has been a culture shift in recent years. While some old school sceptics still might claim a player is mentally weak for seeking help, the modern forward-thinking manager will now reach out and embrace a support mechanism.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said: “Group ethic is vital and the work with players frustrated at being out of the team is just as important as the ones in it.

“Steve is very talented at what he does as he will never force a player to speak. They come to him as they feel comfortable in his company and he has their trust.”

If this ethic can spread throughout sport and to the wider world, the harrowing stories might soon become a thing of the past.

Article written by Darren Witcoop for The Daily Express (7th August 2017) Read it here:


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The Hazard’s and Ronaldo’s of English Cricket

by Nick Hoult:

Imagine the situation. It is the last over of the Champions Trophy final. You have 14 runs to defend, six balls to bowl. Land six balls in the right place and you will be be a hero.
At the other end is Jos Buttler. You know he hits 30.59 percent of deliveries in the last 10 overs for a boundary because the team statistician has told you so. In fact – with a strike rate of 199.5 – no other batsman in the world is so effective at the end of a one-day international.

So what to do? Length is a no-no. You know those balls disappear into the night sky. Do you bowl yorkers? Wide yorkers? Slower balls, or slower ball bouncers?
This is what makes the art of ‘death’ bowling cricket’s ultimate examination of character and nerve. Ben Stokes failed his test in in the World Twenty20 final when he had 18 runs to defend but was clobbered for four sixes by Carlos Braithwaite. “It was like the whole world had come down on me,” he said. Over the next week in England’s one-day series against South Africa, and then in June’s Champions Trophy, other bowlers will feel that same choking pressure, where their skills will be subjected to the most forensic examination. Some will be heroes, others failures.

Sports psychologist Steve Sylvester, who works with Middlesex and football managers, compares the job to taking a penalty in football. He knows an England international, who was at the top of his game, who could never take a penalty despite his talent. “He knew his emotional world could not tolerate missing a penalty even though he knew he was a world class player,” he explained.

There will be bowlers who are the same. But Sylvester, and people like him, are paid to try and help them overcome those emotional obstacles so they can perform under the most stressful of circumstances.
“I try and understand a player’s tolerance to negativity from the crowd, the media and other cricketers,” he said. “I make them understand the context. You say it is pantomime. It is not you personally, it is the role you are fulfilling. You can either be a hero or a villain. Either way if you are being cheered or booed you have to accept you are there to fulfil a role. One day it could be great and you are a hero. Another you could be a booed and be the villain. That is why you have to have a special character to cope with either of those roles because eventually if you do you job long enough you will end up experiencing both those roles.”

The death overs of course are about more than the final six balls. The last 10 overs of an innings these days are when a total can rocket into the stratosphere with captains allowed only five fielders outside the 30-yard inner circle. When England made their world record 444-3 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last summer they were 289 for three at the start of the 40th over.
Since the last World Cup in 2015, when England were an embarrassment, they have been reborn and it is in the final stages of an innings they are so dangerous, hitting more boundaries and at a better strike rate than any other team in the world.

th-4Sylvester believes the death bowlers, those who can stop the likes of Stokes and Buttler, will be the superstars of the future. He thinks they will be the “Hazards or Ronaldos” of cricket – in other words, those players most wanted by franchise owners.

Malinga is the master, training his muscles by bowling at a boot placed on the length he is aiming for. England’s bowling coach Ottis Gibson lays out three different coloured cones as targets for his bowlers: a red one wide of off stump, a yellow one aiming at the stumps, and a green one down the leg side. As the bowler enters his delivery stride Gibson calls out a colour. It is designed to replicate a batsman moving around his crease and makes his bowlers learn to think and change their plan at the last moment.
Another drill is to place a bar on two bricks and get the bowlers to try and send the ball underneath it to learn the right length to bowl.
Unorthodox bowlers like Malinga and Bumrah have a natural advantage. Malinga’s release point is about 11 o’clock, so if he is short with his length the ball does not bounce so high, leaving the batsmen with little elevation to use to his advantage. If a bowler has an upright arm like Chris Woakes and bowls short by a couple of inches, the batsman can get underneath the ball. th-9
Australia are the best team in the world at bowling yorkers, according to the numbers. Hastings is part of their Champions Trophy squad and recently produced a death bowling performance in the Big Bash that Kevin Pietersen described as the best he had ever seen.

“If you are nailing a really good yorker not many batsmen around the world, possibly only three or four, can hit it. Nine out of ten times the batsman will only get one run or a dot off it. A dot ball is almost as important as a wicket,” Hastings said.

“Bowling a yorker is a massive effort ball. It has to be the fastest ball you bowl because if you do miss your length and it becomes a low full toss instead the pace will mean the batsmen is not ready to hit it. When I was younger I spent a lot of time working on it. If I am going into a white ball tournament I will do a lot of work on it.
“You need to be able to know your skills in training and have confidence in them. When you are under pressure at the end a lot of different things run through your mind, you need to slow down. You have a think about what is going on.”
Stokes was criticised for sticking to his gameplan and bowling leg stump yorkers, but when the stakes are so high, is it not inevitable a bowler will fall back on what he does best? “Good death bowlers for me are like world class chess players,” says Sylvester. “They are working out exactly what the batsman is doing and they are making a plan to disrupt what the batsman thinks they are going to receive.

“He needs to plan for contingency. If the yorker is going out of the ground in the non-emotional world it is easy. You just change the delivery. But when you get the adrenaline rush and the pressure that is when the work needs to be done to get him to pause and consider what to do. Slow the over down.”

th-14Of course coaches do not want the same drama as the rest of us. They want their team to have done the job before the death overs. “Everyone talks about death bowling but no team has mastered the art of death bowling, most teams are travelling at the back end so if you can pick up wickets and up front, your death bowling is always going to be good,” said Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach. “If the opposition is only two or three down with eight overs to go, your death bowling is always going to be poor. So picking up wickets in the middle overs is crucial.”
Domingo stands and falls by winning matches – and is currently having to reapply for his job – but the rest of us want entertainment. We want close finishes. We want to see bowlers like Adam Milne of New Zealand having the balance of the match in their, probably sweaty, palm as they bowl the last six balls of a final.
Milne has the lowest economy rate in the final 10 overs since the last World Cup but modestly points out that is an anomaly caused by missing matches through injury. But he has played all around the world in the IPL and for New Zealand, and been captained by two of the best batsmen around, Kane Williamson and De Villiers. Communication is key.

“I try and tell myself to just put a smile on people’s faces, get to the top of your mark and be confident about what you do. AB De Villiers at mid-off would say to me: ‘Decide what you bowl and be confident’. If you have any doubts that is when it might go wrong. If I stand at the top of my mark and decide on a yorker then I back myself 100 percent.

th-11“It can be hard when a batsman is moving around and getting into different positions. But you have to be calm and make sure you have a ball in your mind. Most of the time when you change your mind at the last second of delivery it can go wrong. Sometimes you can change the direction but not the style of ball. If you are going to bowl a yorker and the batsman steps away you can follow him. That is a lot easier to change than switching to a totally different delivery.”
“We are not talking cricket skills,’ added Sylvester. “My view would be how can you blend your emotional world into your ability to execute the skills that are well honed at the death. The work to be done with death bowlers is when it is not going right and drilling down into their mindset. Normally they close off when it goes wrong. The consequences of not speaking about it are huge. You want them to say ‘it does not stop me as I have a big role to play as a death bowler.’”
Possibly the biggest role of all over the next few weeks.


Article by Nick Hoult of The Telegraph


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The Togetherness & Success of Sheffield United FC

Sheffield v Bradford City - English League One - Bramall Lane StadiumBig celebrations on the pitch at Bramall Lane today. It’s been a great season and i’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at SUFC.   For Chris Wilder & his team to see the season out not only as Champions but on 100 points too, the first club since York in the region to ever achieve this, what an awesome acheivement.

Well done to Sheffield United & the brilliant and faithful Fans – they have been amazing.  I hope you get a sense of their energy from the video below.  Our marketing office are hoping to put together a more comprehensive post on the season shortly.


“Yes, this club has played in higher divisions and including the Premier League. But the togetherness of this group is there to be seen in every aspect. The same goes for the points tally and the goals too.” – Chris Wilder


For more updates and all the behind the scenes footage you can visit the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSportPsychologist/Northampton Town v Sheffield Utd - League One - Sixfields Stadium

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Middlesex CCC Skipper on winning the County Championships

“It was about trying to buy into a culture where we have each other’s backs when times are tough” says Middlesex skipper James Franklin on the work Middlesex did with team Psychologist Steven Sylvester ahead of their Championship win.

Franklin with Steven

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Is a big ego crucial to achieving sporting greatness?

unnamedPrince Naseem Hamed was the world’s best featherweight boxer between 1997 and 2000. But one wonders how much more he could have achieved had he not become lost in the fog of his own hype and cut corners in training, resulting in the only defeat of his career to Marco Antonio Barrera in 2001 and subsequent retirement, aged just 28, in 2002.

Sport psychologist Steven Sylvester, who has worked with England cricketer Moeen Ali, two world champion snooker players and a major-winning golfer, among numerous other athletes, cites the problems caused when a sportsman or sportswoman adopts a selfish approach.

“That mindset is a catastrophe for me,” said Sylvester. “We want athletes to make the right decisions on the pitch under pressure and think how they might benefit their team-mates rather than just themselves. ”

By Alec Fenn Football writer BBC SPORT

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Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game?

15672684_1810958985844098_8484670838494988549_n-2Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game? Steven Sylvester, psychologist of county champions Middlesex, thinks not. If you want to get the best out of yourself, rather than give into selfish drives, simply detox that ego.

Realise that ego is not belief Ego is your natural defence system, triggered when strong emotions such as anxiety and fear sweep through you. It is a concentration on self-interest so it’s thinking about yourself. Am I good at this? Will I do well here? Whereas self belief is a lateral deep understanding that you can choose – a level of confidence that you can do well at what you do just for the sheer desire. Ego or selfishness is more of an arrogance, there is no belief in it, just a desire to do well. It’s about protecting what we think we are good at or not good at.

That ego covers up lack of belief Often, when you scratch the surface, belief in your competence is not as high as it seems. Someone with high levels of belief has high levels of perceived competence, so they relax. Someone with a lower level of belief is more egotistical because they are worried about their performance.

Master your skills From a very early age we are taught that life is about winning and losing, and we focus on results. Something that we cannot control. This creates stress and can lead to poor mental health as well as poor performance. Instead, we should focus on what we can actually do – our skills. Focus on what we can do differently so we can master our craft

Learn from your mistakes Rather than seeing errors as failures, we must learn from them. Do not resist, or try to cover them up. Drill down into that, examine them and work out what they are telling you, rather than covering up mistakes.

Set wider goals When we think about ourselves we tend to get nervous and worry about what could go wrong. But when we play for others, when the focus is outwards rather than inward, we become more creative and resolved, more effective. If you have a reason beyond yourself for performing, you seem to play better. Moeen Ali, who I have worked with, has a deep religious perspective on life. He feels there is something more to his performance than just him, which means he is more selfless in what he’s doing. Playing cricket is how he is serving others, and his God, and as a result, he is much freer as a performer than someone who is quite self-obsessed or quite self-centred about what they do today. What their performance will be tomorrow – that kind of approach.

Be consistent If we feel one thing and do another, it causes problems. To be authentic and have integrity, what you feel and what you say and do, need to be the same.

Have fun If you are having fun, you are free – and if you are free, you will have a far greater sense of well being.

Have clarity in life Are you clear on what your purpose and contribution to the team, the club or the community that you live in or serve? There is more to life than just work or just our play, and we need to ask what the ultimate legacy is that we wish leave behind.

Interview by Crispin Andrews for The Cricketer January 2017 Edition

Steven Sylvester is a Chartered Psychologist working in elite level Sport and Business. He is a sought after key note speaker and the author of the psychology self-help book – ‘DETOX YOUR EGO’ available on Amazon worldwide.

Contact Claudia@withoutego.com for enquires on keynote addresses/talks or psychology consultations with Steven Sylvester. http://www.withoutego.com


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An organisation cannot be more effective than its people



Does your organisation need some help with identifying its DNA ?Are you ready for some dynamic cultural change?



We run a unique organisational audit (the withoutEGO audit for high performance) and tailored assesments for companies looking for real sustainable change in a very short time frame.

Whether you’re a company going through rapid growth, getting ready to sell or merge or simply trying to keep sales on track in a challenging marketplace, your people are your greatest assets and the culture they work in is critical to their well being and ultimate performance.
Creating a work environment that both nurtures and facilitates high performance under pressure is key. It is possible to have both success and wellbeing in the workplace. It’s all about creating the right culture so that your staff feel both valued and motivated and importantly, free to perform. The withoutEGO cultural audit is based on 15 years of research with both World Champions and global leaders of business – on what makes them tick and perform under pressure and what makes the ideal environment for sustained high performance.

This excerpt below is taken from the article ‘How Middlesex won the Championships’.

The story began behind close doors on a rainy April day in Oxford with a frank assessment of Middlesex’s chances. During an abandoned university game the squad talked with psychologist Steven Sylvester.
“We thought people suspected we were a bit soft at times”, Ollie Rayner recalls. “A lot of our focus in pre-season was about how to build a team atmosphere and not think individually. The guys bought into that ethos and we were a really tight unit all year”.

Skipper James Franklin cites Sylvester as an unsung hero: “It was about trying to buy into a culture where we have each other’s backs when times are tough. Middlesex has maybe been perceived as a club that’s had a lot of talented individuals, but there’s always been an underlying ambition to play for England. We’re trying to change that. Playing for Middlesex and doing well for Middlesex will result in those other things just happening

To read the full article on ‘How Middlesex won the Championship’ after a long 23 year wait in front of a packed crowd at Lords, log onto The Cricketer Magazine’s website for the full issue

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