A short psychological opinion about the KP and English cricket saga – Part One

A sad situation for English cricket where everyone involved or witnessing it is affected – there are simply no winners. Everyone loses. Perhaps an analogy can give some much needed insight:

This situation is not too dissimilar to a conflict between two 8 year old boys on the school playground. Here one boy says one thing while the other says the opposite and they lock horns in battle with no sign of resolution. Their spat draws in much wider attention and begins to involve a much larger number of other children. At this point, the Headmaster, along with some other teaches try unravel and unpick what is going on in order to make sense of it and return the playground to some sort of normality’. But they find there are no clear answers to this sorry tale and lots of unresolved issues get forgotten about til next time’.

This is what we have at the moment. With KP on one side, and the ECB on the other. A sad day. The media is now trying to dissect and analyse what the breakdown really means to all parties. There is no resolution between all involved. So, how can this be prevented in the future and what can be learnt?

  1. It is vital for any organisation to develop a deeper way of working to ensure staff alignment. Facilitating alignment between leaders, subordinates, peers and colleagues is an essential and continuous process that all CEO’s need to adopt. This ensures their organisation maintains satisfaction and stimulates staff morale. This process is similar to having anti-virus software on your PC, scanning and quarantining dangerous potential viruses from affecting your PC. This is a necessary health check that prevents problems from spiraling out of control. The leaders need to gain a deeper understanding of each staff member in order to prevent a conflict situations arising beyond their control. Here the leader is encouraged to develop a deeper, richer understanding of each individuals way of working (management, coaches and players alike) and what makes them “tick”, especially under pressure.
  1. Organisations need to develop an open system culture where the leadership from a strong command and control perspective is replaced by a culture of open communication and feedback. Here staff from all departments enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to share their hopes, concerns and threats because the culture has learnt that constructive controversy enables staff to grow and pull together in the same direction. Here egos are left at the door and nothing is left to chance in discussing how the organisation needs to develop. All uncomfortable truths are shared and learning is achieved. A supportive and nurturing environment is created and celebrated where all staff feel free to express themselves.
  1. Organisations need to understand the dangers of criticism. Any form of criticism is like a toxic chemical getting into our water supply. Just a single drop can make the mass population ill. We need to understand and appreciate that criticism says more about the person criticising than it does their victims. These individuals need support to gain a greater level of self discovery and insight in order to reveal and lose their self absorption, negativity and defensiveness. They need to work hard to increase their awareness about all internal battles. They need to work on how they interact with others in order to contribute more to relational depth. To do this, these individuals need an alternative way of thinking and being that opens up their true purpose for their gifts in life.
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Moeen Ali – Inspired By Faith

Aside from his cricketing abilities, Moeen’s brief international career has thus far shown us his remarkable temperament. To turn on match-winning performances of this nature whilst being in the media spotlight is highly impressive. So where does he obtain such a strong mental attitude from?

A recent interview with psychologist Steven Sylvester, who has been working with Moeen for the last 2 years provides some insight on the ‘withoutEGO’ philosophy which Moeen employs:

“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 ‘withoutEGO’ is what can you contribute back, what is your purpose here and what can you see beyond yourself.”

Sylvester said he was particularly impressed by Moeen’s ‘remarkable ability’ to nullify any negative judgement. It was however interesting to note that Sylvester seemed to explain Moeen’s strong mental attitude as a result of being from a family of cricketers; his brothers are also professional cricketers and his cousin has also represented England in the past.

However, Sylvester’s conclusion on Moeen’s temperament begs the question as to why Moeen in particular has superseded his brothers and cousins in his cricketing achievements? Surely this suggests that there must be another explanation?

An extract from the full article featured here: http://islamicate.co.uk/moeen-ali-inspired-by-faith/


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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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