By: Tim Bennett, MGCP
The holiday season is upon us. It is a great time to reflect on this past year and look forward to the coming one! As part of my reflection, I look at all the great people we lost this year who have influenced my life. One of them was Trevor Moawad. Trevor was a renowned mental conditioning expert and strategic advisor to some of the most elite athletes and teams in the world. His client list include such names at Russell Wilson, Nick Sabin, Michael Johnson, Jozy Altidore, and many more. He worked with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, US Soccer, Navy Seals and many championship teams. He left a lasting legacy on all of those he crossed paths with over the course of his young career. Trevor is most recognized as a pioneer in the advancement of neutral thinking to increase elite athletic performance.
His passing got me thinking (no pun intended.) This is the time of year when Trevor’s neutral thinking is more important than ever to review. Our soccer seasons are escalating in consequences with high stake games, college showcases, and playoffs on the horizon. Along with these tangibles come heightened emotions. And this is where Trevor’s neutral thinking (NT) allows coaches, athletes, and teams to push aside these emotional biases and feelings to clearly focus on our performance cues. NT operates on a simple premise that success is a product of our behaviors, mentality, and language. Stressful situations especially in a competitive environment create intense feelings that cloud our ability to do what is necessary to succeed.
“The more we pay attention to our feelings, the more we move away from our capabilities and our training.”
By training to separate our emotions from our behavior, mentality, and language, we will make better decisions which will lead to a higher level of performance. Just think about this for a minute. If a player makes a tactical error during the run of play, realizes what the immediate consequences of that are like causing a teammate to adjust their shape to cover, or a GK having to make a great save, or the team misses out on a great scoring opportunity, etc…. Or worse yet, predicting the reaction of the coach. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just let that go and get on with it without judgments or expectations and just play? That is NT.
The key with NT is the acceptance of the past and how it will not predict the future but allows for development. The future is independent of the past. Nothing is a loss but only growth. Wow! That is some kind of a sentence. In high pressure athletic moments, overly negative or positive thinking prevents the athlete or coach from truly understanding the moment and more importantly learning or progressing from it into the next. NT strips a moment to its fundamental essence which then allows for a clear focus where the body/mind is operating from muscle/mental memory.
A few key NT strategies:
1. STOP the NEGATIVITY – Negativity has much more effect on us than positivity, somewhere between 4 – 7 times as much. You must cut off the negative inner destructive dialogue.
2. GO into NEUTRAL – Accept the mistake for what it is, and move on without judgment or emotion.
3. RELEASE your MUSCLE MEMORY – Now with the mind clear of confusing and contradicting emotions, your mind and body are free to perform from your trained behaviors that you have spent a lifetime building, creating, and executing.
4. TALK – For Trevor, language is the carrier to success especially when speaking out loud. It is 10x more powerful than simply speaking to ourselves internally. Self-talk is important but is not as important when compared to how we communicate with our teammates or others. Sometimes, you can’t control your inner voice but you have full control of what you choose to say out loud which naturally has a unique sense of accountability. 5. KNOW – Simply put, you must know the necessary behaviors required to achieve high performance. These are your action steps, your performance cues, or your process goals. As Trevor often states, “behavior precedes our success.”
This is a quick simple overview of NT. Like most things in our competitive world, NT looks good on paper. And like most things, NT requires daily training. The more one practices NT, the more success one will achieve. “It takes what it takes.”
Thank you, Trevor Moawad and rest in peace.