I am behind again and have amassed further material to write about such as Mount Keen and an OW Swim Coaching CPD but first here is my short piece on
Earlier this month I had a trip down to Manchester for an Advanced Chimp Management course. This course was open to coaches who had attended at least 2 out of a series of 4 chimp management courses which were run at the back end of 2015. They covered such subjects such as the understanding the teenage brain, improving athlete performance through mental skills and communicating effectively with others.
Chimp Management is a sports psychology system developed by Steve Peters who helped the British Cycling team to success including cyclists such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. Steve’s book The Chimp Paradox is an international bestseller and often quoted by athletes in terms of managing their chimp and getting more out of themselves.
The courses were based on the book and would help gain a greater understanding of it. The latest course I was on gave me a much greater understanding of the whole concept especially around the area of managing the chimp.
After coming off the course I had a feeling that a lot of people misunderstand the book to a degree and how to deal with the chimp. The feeling you get from people is that they want to supress it. Victoria Pendleton’s initial response was that she actually wanted to kill it. Unfortunately – or fortunately – we actually need it.
The Chimp Paradox talks about 3 parts to the brain: The Human, the computer and the chimp. In very simple terms the human is the logical, rational part, the computer stores automatic processes and memories and the chimp is our emotional part and thus often irrational. The chimp is key to our survival as that is its main objective. The reason for calling it chimp is that a chimp lives in the jungle and thus uses its survival instincts to stay alive.
So the chimp is what makes us feel anxious, afraid and in similar ways uncomfortable. The reason it does this is because it either has memories stored in the computer related to this that it doesn’t like or it has no memories related to this and thus doesn’t like it.
Take for example a race start which makes you nervous anxious to the degree that you can’t perform to your best. Every time the experience is a bad one this gets stored in the computer as a memory. In all likelihood every time you think about a race start you get anxious due to previous bad experiences and store that away as a bad memory too. It would appear that just telling oneself to think more positively about this experience is not going to make the required change. Instead you need to immerse yourself into what a good, positive race start would feel like. Literally put yourself into that emotion with all your senses and then store those away. When you see downhill skiers seemingly working their way through the course mentally minutes before they leave the starting get then this is the final moment they store that good memory. They will have spent many hours doing this while not wearing skis.
So ask yourself what would a good race start feel like; what words would you associate with that feeling. For other sport examples what words would you associate with the feeling of a confident descending on a bike or running well.
Put yourself into that feeling on a regular basis to store those memories away for the event you need them for – the race start, the descent, the run. This can of course apply to non sport experiences too. It is all about fears that will make the chimp freak. Good memories will alleviate those fears.
The better you feel about the given situation the better the memories will be that you will fall back on when the situation arises again and the better you will master that situation thus storing another good, even great, memory.
It is often said that a lot of sports success is in the head and this isn’t just about winning but also about mastering a skill and just about doing well and achieving ones goals. In my own this along with skill and technique development are the most important things I want to distil in my athletes allowing them to fulfil their dreams and be happy (with a happy chimp).