Hawksbee & Jacobs Show Monday 4th March 2019 with Paul Hawksbee & Charlie Baker
Featuring Chartered Sports Psychologist Steven Sylvester
Paul Hawksbee: “We welcome Chartered Sports Psychologist Steven Sylvester who works in cricket and football and is Author of the self help book DETOX YOUR EGO. We thought we’d get him on today because he’s worked in many sports but he’s also worked for a number of County Championship teams as well but I thought we’d get him on today because the pressure is on certain things and not just in the Premier League and I’m sure the sport psychologists who work for the clubs are going to be busy over the next couple of weeks. So let’s get some insight from as we said, Author of DETOX YOUR EGO and a former professional cricketer – Steven Sylvester. Hi Steven”.
Steven Sylvester “Hi Guys, how you doing”?
Paul Hawksbee: “Very good thank you. Now coping with pressure at this sort of stage of the a season and I’m sure you’ve been at this stage of a season, I know you worked with Middlesex before they were going for the County Championship. Thankfully from my point of you and yours we got it and when you’re in that situation you’re under bit of pressure and you’ve got to deliver. Do you work collectively with the group or do you single out the individuals that seem to be struggling the most?”.
Steven Sylvester: “I think you dip and weave into both so I might do some group work, I might do individual work but it’s hugely complex because there’s a lot going on and when this kind of pressure starts, people tend to get selfish and when they get selfish, problems occur.”
Paul Hawsbee: “Hmmmm. Yeah. We’ve got this situation now at the top of the Premier League with Liverpool and Manchester City and with Jurgen Klopp saying ‘I don’t mind chasing, who wants to be top in March?’ I mean that’s probably quite good sport psychology in itself but is it better to chase or be on top?”.
Steven Sylvester: “Well I think it’s good to chase if you haven’t got an expectation because the killer here in all these sort of run-in’s in football, cricket, golf – down the final fairway or whatever it might be. The final run-in produces an expectation within an individual and a team and that expectation eats away at the rhythm of play.
So we saw yesterday Liverpool trying their best to free themselves and get back to their rhythm and we saw Salah not be able to make that. We saw Klopp trying not to show his emotions on the touchline but actually revealing quite a lot. The post match press conference again, revealing a lot! So he’s feeling the pressure and unfortunately by feeling that pressure he’s transmitting it to the players and what I saw yesterday with yesterday’s performance was a lack of rhythm from the very best players in the Liverpool team. We haven’t seen Salah miss opportunities like that since he’s been in England.
Paul Hawksbee: “So you mean snatching at stuff where they would have given themselves an extra touch? Having an extra touch when they maybe should have hit it the first time? You mean that kind of thing?”.
Steven Sylvester: ‘Yeah absolutely. I mean his first touch was really poor. Throughout the match, he sensed the pressure. It’s on me to deliver for the team.You know his first touch going towards goalkeeper when he tried to open up the body and put it into the side corner. He’s feeling the pressure. Klopp feels the pressure and all of a sudden everyone moves away from the performance zone that you should be in to one where there’s no pressure. We’re here to have fun and we’re just going to have a good time, we’re not worried about the League, we’re just going to perform at our best with freedom but that goes out the window. What comes in is a MUST WIN attitude. We must win this game and what comes with MUST WIN is a survival trigger and when that’s triggered we don’t perform at our best. Our rhythm is affected by our brain”.
Charlie Baker: “So people start to… their first thing is to think rather than do? So they’ll think about the first touch rather than just taking the first touch?”
Steven Sylvester: “Probably not even thinking about the first touch, it’s just that the body’s not in enough of a relaxed state. So a relaxed but concentrated state. So when you’re free and you’re on it and you know your purpose is to do it for the team and a club and your community. And given where Liverpool are an the opportunity that they’ve afforded themselves, they need to be free but unfortunately the context puts a pressure on the physicality and the mental and what we see with their first touch and the rhythm of play is that Liverpool looked a little bit disjointed from their early season form. You can only put that down to a change in the way they’re thinking as a group and as a team of individuals and so what I would do is, I would go in and I might talk to individual players and I might then going to have some more small group discussions with the back four or the forward line. I’d definitely be talking to the Leader, to Klopp to say ‘we need to find a way to manage this situation and there is an elephant in the room and we need to talk about ‘what if we don’t win?’. ‘Is it the end of the world?’ and let’s get it out. Let’s get our fears on the table, let’s get what we are avoiding out on the table and let’s try our best to move forward and in a very clear way. Yes there’s pressure and you can’t avoid it but let’s try to reinterpret it and understand what we’re doing with the shirt. I would definitely try and help in that way”.
Charlie Baker: “I mean it’s definitely a fascinating side of it. I think we saw it with Aubameyang with the penalty as well. I don’t think he had been on long enough for him to be relaxed enough to take that penalty and you could see him taking big deep breaths just as he was about to take it. When you say pressure makes people selfish, what’s the difference with getting selfish and between saying I’m going to do this for myself an be the person”.
Steven Sylvester: Well that’s a great question. In that penalty kick that I saw too and you could see it’s the context. The context and the time he had to put the ball down and think about the kick, brings in thinking and that, if you don’t understand what to do with thinking, you end up thinking ‘I’ve got to survive this’. As soon as you start to think ‘survive’, you kind of scuff your kick which he did. He didn’t hit it cleanly, he didn’t stick to process”.
Charlie Baker: “He thought about it”.
Steven Sylvester: “He thought about it. If you think about it but you think ‘I’m here to serve this great club and it’s two minutes or a minute to the end and we’re in extra time and this could win it for the team and it’s my job to do what the team needs. It’s not about me, just execute the task and I remove myself from it. I must serve. What I’ve found is that when you get high level sports people who are very attuned and very skillful to think about serving their community, they seem to go above their own anxiety and execute their skill with precision”.
Paul Hawksbee: “Interesting stuff, thank you Steven. Steven Sylvester Sports Psychologist and Author of DETOX YOUR EGO.’