A guest in the talkSport studio discussing England & India

Last night Steven was a guest in the talkSport studio with Andrew McKenna and ex England Batsman Mark Butcher.  Steven was asked about his work with Moeen Ali and how he would help India deal with their recent defeat.  Steven talks about how operating withoutEGO can benefit both individuals and teams and that working with Australian batsman Chris Rogers shows how psychology is a vital and ongoing process for anyone in elite business or sport.

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Hear the clips here:

Part 1 :  https://audioboo.fm/boos/2386639-steven-sylvester-is-the-guest-of-talksport-radio-the-psychology-and-insight-of-england-v-india?playlist_direction=reversed

Part 2: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2386678-talksport-interview-part-2-steven-talks-more-in-depth-about-the-use-of-psychology-in-sport

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BBC Radio5 Live Test Match Special

Listening to Alison Mitchell’s commentary on the 3rd day of the Fourth Test as England win against India, it was great to hear the withoutEGO philosophy mentioned along with Moeen Ali becoming the bowler to reach 20 test match wickets faster than any other English bowler. Well done to Moeen Ali and to the whole England team.


Moeen Ali BBC Radio5 Live Extra


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Steven Sylvester talks to Rob Bonnet on the Today Programme BBC Radio4

Hear Rob and Steven’s discussions about Moeen Ali operating withoutEGO



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James Anderson has been told he does not need to get so angry to success in Test cricket.

by Dean Wilson of  The Mirror


The England bowler’s aggression could land him in trouble again if he does not learn to curb his verbal outbursts.

Umpires seem powerless to stop players snarling at each other, as seen by Bruce Oxenford’s ineffective attempt to stop Anderson at Trent Bridge.

Anderson calling MS Dhoni a “f***ing c**t” will shock many fans, but players abuse each other routinely in international cricket.

Mirror Sport understands the ICC has been embarrassed by this latest episode – which is often their main motivator to take action.

While coaches and captains have backed his fiery approach, a top sports psychologist reckons Anderson would be better off without the ultra aggressive approach in the middle.

He is mild-mannered off the field and cricketer turned psychologist Steven Sylvester is adamant that this is the person who should be taking wickets.

“Jimmy doesn’t need to be so aggressive,” said Sylvester. “He would be better off being true to himself and playing with a smile.”

“He is such a good bowler that his skill speaks for itself and it should allow him to play without ego.”

“He is using up a lot of his energy being angry and aggressive. Instead of trying to be different when you cross the ropes, you should embrace your nature and let that flourish because it is true.”

“When you’re true to yourself that is when you should be able to produce your best performances. The win-at-all-costs approach is harmful for the individual and the team.”

Sylvester counts fellow England man Moeen Ali amongst his clients and believes he has embraced the ‘Without ego’ concept.”

“It is about authenticity, truth and purpose,” added Sylvester. “Moeen understands what his life and the bigger picture is about. That gives him the freedom to play openly.”

Anderson’s aggression has become more pronounced down the years. But after 371 Test wickets, he could argue his approach works.

Sylvester added: “I would say motivation would come from within, therefore it shouldn’t be a need to pick a fight or abuse another player.”

But unless action is taken, how can Test stars’ behaviour improve?

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England all-rounder Moeen Ali follows ‘withoutEGO’ philosophy to keep feet on ground

Top sports psychologist Steven Sylvester says Moeen Ali’s ability to nullify negative judgment is “absolutely remarkable” for a 27-year-old – The Telegraph

england moeen ali bowls

Moeen Ali has been an international cricketer for only a matter of weeks, but he is already well versed in the hysteria and hyperbole that provides a soundtrack to the life of an international sportsman.
In that time, Moeen has been drooled over for his defiant hundred in the Headingley Test against Sri Lanka; pitched into a storm of controversy over his public display of support for Gaza; and, most recently, hailed as the natural heir to Graeme Swann, following his match-winning performance against India at the Ageas Bowl.
Thankfully for him, and for England, there is little chance of the man himself becoming swept away on that emotional riptide.

According to Steven Sylvester, a chartered sports psychologist who has worked closely with Moeen for the past two years, the Worcestershire all-rounder is the antithesis of the typical modern- day sportsman and will be unaffected by the praise that followed his six for 67 in India’s second innings at the Rose Bowl.  Moeen’s religion — he is a devout Muslim — has shaped his life but the work he has done with Sylvester, who played county cricket for Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, has also had a profound impact on his cricket.

“He’s worked with my concept called ‘withoutEGO’, Sylvester said. “He plays a lot without ego. It’s not just about him and runs, being result-driven and success. It’s about what he can do to be the best possible role model in his sport to showcase what’s important for young people in terms of work ethic, commitment and standards.

“His faith gives him a greater perspective where it’s not about bigger, bolder, stronger, more money, more success, staying hungry, the typical things that a lot of successful sports people are about.  “It’s about being humble and having gratitude. The programme we have worked through is about understanding selfishness on one end of the continuum and selflessness at the other end. The idea of ‘Without Ego’ is what can you contribute back, what is your purpose here and what can you see beyond yourself.  “What’s amazing about Mo is his commitment to think broader about his impact using cricket as that vehicle.”

Sylvester’s focus on performance rather than results helped Moeen at Headingley in June, where he batted through the final day for his maiden Test century in a courageous attempt to save England from defeat by Sri Lanka.

“The religious and spiritual undertones help him. You combine that with the psychology of ‘Without Ego’ stuff which is not about scoring runs, it’s about the way you bat,” Sylvester said. “It’s not about taking wickets, it’s about how you bowl and how you are developing that bowling. What lines, what lengths, how many revs are you putting on the ball – it’s a slightly different approach.

“The typical ‘get runs and get wickets’ approach is moved to: I have no hope of getting a run or getting a wicket but what I want to do is bat with total commitment to mastery of my skills. It’s an absolute commitment to understanding and cherishing the moment you are in by just batting. It takes a lot of self-regard not to want to just go and smash the ball and get runs.”

Despite his efforts at Headingley, questions were raised about Moeen’s effectiveness as a bowler, and despite his century against Sri Lanka, his England place appeared in doubt when Lancashire’s slow left-armer Simon Kerrigan was added to the squad for the second Test against India at Lord’s.
But England stuck with Moeen and, after some helpful advice from team-mate Ian Bell, their faith was rewarded with a match-winning contribution at Southampton.

Sylvester will continue to play his part in Moeen’s career development but he is the first to admit that he has a rare talent to work with. “I have worked with world champions in snooker, I have worked in football, with golfers and with world-class athletes for the last 10 to 15 years but I have to say that Mo’s ability to nullify any negative judgment is absolutely remarkable for a man aged 27,” Sylvester said.
“I’m not just saying that for effect. I am surprised at his ability to deal with any negativity. His strength of character and resolve are unbelievable. That can’t just be put down to his religion. That’s just his character coming from a cricketing family and understanding the greater impact of what he can do by playing cricket.”

To read the article in the Telegraph click here




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England must manage Moeen Ali properly to protect his development

England must manage Moeen Ali properly to protect his development

By Andy Wilson of The Guardian

england moeen ali bowls

It sounds ridiculous for a team who have just ended a wretched run of 10 Tests without a win, but England might now be facing a fresh problem – much more welcome, but with its own headaches nonetheless – of controlling hyperbole, and managing expectations.

“I’m hoping the public are getting excited about some new faces and the development of a new team,” he says at a refreshingly feelgood Ageas Bowl on Thursday afternoon. “But that might mean it is a bit up and down.” That is why he was especially wary of accepting invitations to crown Moeen Ali as the answer to England’s search for a spin successor to Graeme Swann. Of all the new faces – Jos Butler sweeping and ‘keeping, Chris Jordan slip-catching and grinning, and Ben Stokes hopefully to return to swashbuckling – it is Moeen who could be the most significant, both as a cricketer but also as England’s first British Asian superstar.

But Moores, England, and Moeen recognise the dangers of getting too excited too early. He has played five Tests, even if they have included two major and unforgettable contributions – his unbeaten century against Sri Lanka at Headingley, and now his six-for against India in Hampshire – as well as several other endearing cameos.

Steven Sylvester, a former first-class cricketer who now works with his former county Middlesex as a psychologist and has also teamed up with Moeen since being taken on by Worcestershire last year, struggles to contain his excitement about the 27-year-old. “Normally I keep all my stuff kind of under the radar,” he says. “But I think now’s the time to be a bit more open about what this chap is all about.

“It isn’t just about a different religion and whatever, but his whole approach. Just to be open, happy, smiling, and having good standards in the high-octane world of professional sport. I find it absolutely fascinating as a psychologist, I’m thinking ‘Is it for real?’ I don’t think there’s enough being made of his ambassadorial role in the game.”

To which Moores, and England, would say: “Whoa there.” Moeen has already had a couple of potentially bruising experiences in the media, the first having answered questions about his religion with refreshing openness before his debut at Lord’s, and then this week having worn wristbands showing his support for his fellow Muslims suffering in Gaza without first seeking permission from the management.

He has dealt with them both admirably. “I’ve worked with four world champions, and in professional football, golf, snooker and cricket – hard-edged sports,” adds Sylvester. “I have never seen a world-class performer be so phlegmatic with negative judgment and criticism as this young man.”

Perhaps England also deserve a little credit, too, for encouraging their players to deal more openly with the media, and for recognising the strength of Moeen’s feelings about Gaza. “Mo has his own personality,” adds Moores. “I love people who have their own brain and style.”

But he also stressed that Moeen is “a level-headed bloke” and “a sensible lad”. England know they have a potential superstar on their hands, who could be the best thing to happen to English cricket for decades. But far better to let him develop steadily, rather than thrusting him forward too soon

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BBC Radio Leeds asks ‘how come siblings do so well?’ Commonwealth Games 2014

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Commonwealth Games 2014: Sibling rivalry spurs athletes on to new levels of success

Sibling rivalry spurs athletes on to new levels of success 

by Jonathan Brown of The Independent


It is a unique bond they share: both fierce opponent and closest confidante. Yet forget the tragic curse of Cain and Abel, sibling rivalry appears to be spurring athletes on to new levels of success at the Commonwealth Games.

According to experts it is not their urge to fight that has seen repeated podium finishes for brothers and sisters in Glasgow 2014 but instead the ability to work together which is giving them the edge over their opponents.

More than a dozen family pairings are competing in this summer’s Games from swimming to athletics, cycling to gymnastics, badminton to bowls. Some – England’s Brownlee brothers, the Renicks sisters from Scotland and Australia’s pair of wonder siblings Cate and Bronte Campbell and Alex and Annette Edmondson – have already struck gold.

Others include identical Scots wrestling twins Donna and Fiona Robertson, Julene and Aimee van Rooyen in the rhythmic gymnastics and Zane and Jake Robertson, another set of twins who competed together for New Zealand in the final of the 5000m.

Sport and business psychologist Steven Sylvester said these pairs can have a unique advantage over their rivals.

“If you are both from the same family unit you have a deeper resolve and greater sense of commitment to the task. This joint shared purpose fosters a greater level of togetherness and collective excellence that stimulates each sibling to go even further in their pursuit of becoming the best in the world,” he explained.

Athletes benefit from what psychologists call the “power of two” which allows them to share the high pressures associated with top-level sport. A younger sibling can also rise dizzyingly fast in the slipstream of their trailblazing elder. But not all families reap the dividends.

“In most families sibling rivalry is so high it is difficult to make collective excellence possible. However, if siblings are raised in a strong family structure they can learn to give more to each other and as a result they become less egotistical and more giving towards each other,” Mr Sylvester added. 

Dr Keith Brownlee has described the unique way that the triathlon brothers work as a team, living and training together for much of their career despite an intense competitiveness which extended from everything from boyhood Monopoly competitions to who could empty the dishwasher the fastest

But the relationships are complex. The Campbell sisters have described how despite their closeness, which extends to sharing a headset in the marshaling area, once they get poolside the other “ceases to exist”.

“I don’t love her any less, but she just becomes another competitor that I have to beat,” explained the older Cate – who like Alistair Brownlee – remains the dominant athlete of the pair. Bronte insists that repeatedly losing to her sister does not make her a failure. “I think it’s always a really stupid thing to base your achievement on someone else,” she said recently.

Marie Bamber, 31, sister of England wrestlers Michael and Sarah Grundy, said their relationship had been central to their development as athletes.

“They are so close. Michael has done it from a very young age and can show Sarah all his technique and give her support. He has travelled a lot and could encourage and show her what to eat and how to train,” she said.

Often, as if the case of the Renicks or the Grundys, children choose a sport already excelled in by their parents who already have the contacts and knowhow to give their offspring a headstart.

In the case of the Edmondson family it was the appliance of science by South Australian Institute of Sport testers which found the right sport for Annette and when she excelled decided to sign up her brother too.

But Dr Camilla Knight of the University of Swansea said success does not always follow in the genes although physical prowess can play its part.

“It would be great to say that if you have one person in the family that is successful it guarantees that the next one is going to be too. But we know that is not the case. You have to get into the right sport you need the support from the family, the right coaches and to enter the right competitions.”

“It is often said there is more chance of being struck by lightning than being an elite athlete so having two in the same family you are looking at pretty impressive odds.”

 Five great double acts

1 Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, aged 26 and 24

England’s triathlon brothers took gold and silver in the individual race before adding a team gold to the nation’s medal tally.

2 Kimberley and Louise Renicks, aged 26 and 31

The Coatbridge judokos both won gold on the opening day of Glasgow 2014, sealing a triumphant start to the Games for the host nation.

3 Bronte and Cate Campbell, aged 20 and 22

They took one-two for Australia in the 100m freestyle when the elder sister pipped her younger sibling.

4 Annette and Alex  Edmondson, aged 22 and 20

Sister and brother from South Australia both won gold and silver in Commonwealth cycling at the velodrome.

5 Zane and Jake Robertson, aged 24

The New Zealand twins worked together to challenge the might of the Kenyans in the final of the 5,000m, helping Zane to a bronze medal.

Link to Article 

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Sky News interview with Jeremy Thompson

In the wake of the Luiz Suarez biting incident at the World Cup, Steven Sylvester was asked into the Sky News studio to give his views on what drove him to act in such a destructive manner.  Interview conducted by Jeremy Thompson.


JT (Jeremy Thompson): “What makes some one behave like this on a pitch? Let’s get the thoughts of Steven Sylvester who is a sport  psychologist who works with footballers and joins us from our central London studios. Mr Sylvester, a curious case and seemingly not the first time Mr Suarez has set about an opponent like this on the field of play. What goes through your mind when you hear about such things”?

SS (Steven Sylvester): “Well an enormous level of stress, a catastrophic level of stress. This has clearly led Suarez to destructive levels of behaviour because of the enormity of what he’s in. The World Cup, having an adrenaline rush, having to get his team through, being the star player and trying to have the performance on the one hand with his background on the other hand. The whole mix just led to that level of counterproductive behaviour”.

JT: “But a lot of sportspeople would probably express than tension and stress in some way or another, lashing out with hands or kicking an opponent or whatever, or verbally abusing them but the use of teeth to bite an opponent seems pretty feral doesn’t it?”

SS: “Yeah absolutely. We heard Brendan Rodgers his Liverpool Manager speak about his background and the fact he needed to survive. So this is someone who has grown up where perhaps having destructive behaviour, showing your anger, violence and rage is normal”.

JT: “But everyone talks about him being a nice decent lad, a family man, light and relatively retiring off the field, what leads to these changes? This metamorphosis from off the park and then onto the park. How is that explained?”

SS “Well I think you’ve got to look at the culture of football. We have a game that the world is watching and the win at all costs perspective that the players play with means that winning is the only thing. So they push and push and push to the edge and that means that they have no room for losing so they have to win. When you get to that point of emotional burden where winning is your only option, you have no alternative to seek other things to do in order to win. Now if you look at the context for this match, it was in the 79th minute and it was nil nil and the teams were looking like Uruguay were going out. There was an absolute need from Suarez to showcase his skill. He’s the best player in the team, the one that’s going to take the country into the next round. All of a sudden it’s nil nil in the 79th minute and he’s reacting to all the built up frustration.

I’m not condoning his behaviour because it’s obviously wrong, but in terms of understanding why someone at that level would make and create that level of reaction is important because he needs to understand that reaction. In my clinic, I deal with a lot of high performing sports people where their confidence and their self-esteem gets eroded by the nature of the game and it’s millisecond speed. It flickers in and that battle, that war mentality comes in and the rage button is hit and here we see episodes of destructive behaviour like this”.

JT: “But he’s the one person to have done something like this amongst the several hundreds of players involved in the World Cup, so it’s hard to imagine that there’s just one of them that reacts in such a way, presumably he needs some kind of treatment doesn’t he?”

SS: “You know, this might anger a lot of people because he’s a serial offender. We tend to have little patience for people that serially offend so for the population at large, we want actions, we want sanctions and we want some form of penalty imposed on him which is right but whilst that’s happening we also need to look below the surface at his profile and what makes him mix his background with his need to win and the need to get his team to the finals that leads to this level of destruction.

In my clinic we work with a lot of elite athletes to help try and walk them through what they’re avoiding. What do they need to listen to about their background? What is their normal pattern of behaviour under stress? How can they make better choices when the intensity of high performing sport pushes them into wanting to achieve more and go beyond the realms of normality?”

JT: “On a personal note, you’re a big Liverpool fan. I want to know how you’re going to deal with this, would you still want him in your side?”

SS “Well yeah it’s a difficult one. I’d still want him in my side if he could get the support and help and he could make a statement regardless of what FIFA does, I think the Uruguayan Federation should come out and make a statement that’s truthful and transparent about what’s really happened here. So the world can see that this is a man who is sorry for his actions because we can’t have our children watching such destructive behaviour. He needs to be a role model for Liverpool. I mean, it saddened me with the racism incident with Evra and you know he needs the support to understand the importance of his ambassadorial role in the game of football because the world is watching.

What we need to do as professional psychologists is to get round him and find a way for him to really look in the mirror, listen to his responses under stress, work out where they’re from so that he can link them all up and find a better solution so that he can self-correct when he’s under the intensity of the microscope and trying to produce the result that the club or country want. So from my point of view, and in answer to your question – Yes, if he can get help and therapy and he can be open and willing to commit to change, because he’s done it three times now and every time it’s been at a critical moment in the context of the match situation so what’s stopping him doing it in the future and then there’s kids watching this. The World Cup has been a magnificent showcase for the world and everybody’s enjoyed it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m deeply saddened that he’s made this choice under this level of stress”.  

JT: “Mr Sylvester, Thank you very much indeed, it sounds like you need to volunteer your services to Liverpool Football Club they’ve got a job on their hands there. Thank you very much”.

SS: “Oh I’d love to, thank you very much”.

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Steven Sylvester speaks to Derek Pringle of The Daily Telegraph on Alistair Cook’s Leadership.

Alastair Cook must change deeply ingrained habits if he is to succeed as captain

imagesThe hard work and discipline that Alastair Cook has displayed in his successful batting career are the very qualities which are hindering him as England captain

Alastair Cook needs urgently to become more adventurous as England captain if he is to make the success of leadership that he has made of his batting. But how he does that when all evidence points to a past that has embraced certainty and eschewed chance is the challenge facing him and England’s management during the Test series against India, which starts at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.

Change of that nature is never easy when habits appear ingrained. In 2003, Cook captained Bedford School in a match against an Oakham team that contained Stuart Broad. Cook made an unbeaten double hundred, a score almost unheard of in schools cricket. But in reaching that milestone he essentially sacrificed the game, leaving Oakham fewer overs to make the 300 plus runs needed for victory than he and his team had taken in getting them.  In his two years as captain of Bedford, Cook made 2,014 runs in 29 innings. Despite his dominance Bedford drew 16 of their 34 matches under him (they won 13), which suggests he was not a bold captain even then.  Incredibly, Cook’s batting success and the hard work and discipline he used to achieve it is probably why his captaincy is so staid and measured.

According to Steven Sylvester, a sports and business psychologist used by many cricketers, Cook would have gained positive reinforcement from an early age after seeing how his effortful and process-driven methods bore fruit with his batting, but is struggling now to see why it cannot work for his captaincy.

“It is like the salesman who hits his targets and goals for fun and then gets promotion to be a manager,” said Sylvester on Monday. “Suddenly, he has to manage people and get them to reach the same targets, which isn’t as easy especially, as in Cook’s case, if there is this toxic brew of the team losing and his own poor run of form with the bat.”

 Since England began their run of Test defeats in Brisbane last November, Cook has received a deluge of advice, not all of it constructive. Much has been about him toughening up.

“Cook needs support and care in developing mental softness, not toughness, if he is going to be a successful leader,” said Sylvester. “Mental toughness, the traditional approach, is limited. Teaching people to be tougher, ie going harder, stronger and faster, is old-fashioned. What we need instead is to teach people to be softer under stress, to become more flexible and easier to shape.”

For someone such as Cook, a leading chorister before his voice broke then England’s most prolific Test batsman in terms of centuries, the Ashes whitewash was probably the most traumatic event in his sporting life.  Certainly, few people have skins thick enough to cope with the constant carping Cook has had to endure now that England’s brave new world has been shown not to contain “beauteous mankind” but the same old failings.

 “Cook is in a major role transition,” said Sylvester. “From being a single-minded prolific run-scorer he now has to shift to become an inspirational captain. It will take time. Getting runs again will help him but there is still that preference of his for not taking any risks that needs to be addressed.

 “Understanding why he makes the choices he does under pressure and why he has developed a preference for risk aversion will help him develop greater mental strength. Only then is he likely to become the adventurous leader who achieves more with his team and helps them to play with imagination and not fear.”

To read it on-line Steven Sylvester on Alistair Cook-Daily Telegraph

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