Craig Bellamy has recently begun to see a sports psychologist to help him deal with various issues in his life, with the catalyst being the death of his close friend Gary Speed. Ask football fans for words to describe Bellamy and the ones that spring to mind tend to include; aggressive, narky, belligerent and capable of causing a row in an empty house.
Bellamy found his first meeting with Steve Peters, the Sports Psychologist, to be transformational giving him a calm and fresh perspective on situations. There has been a distinct impact on his performance on the field with 6 goals in his last 7 Premier League games. He’s also not been booked in his last 9 games.
Bellamy puts the change down to his work with Peters which has helped relieve him of the tension he felt in games, where he was driven by a fear of failure. Instead he is learning to take a different perspective on situations and this is helping with life away from football as well;
“‘Ten minutes into the first meeting it registered,’ Bellamy says. ‘This is not about me becoming a better footballer, I’m not interested in that. If it helps my football, then great. If it helps me after football, that’s more important.
If it helps me deal with not being able to fall back on football, to enjoy my life, my wife, my kids, stop stressing over things that I don’t have…
I’ve spent too much of my career believing that I’m only judged on what I win or the impact I’ve had crazy thought that I have to win something, otherwise my career’s a complete failure. It’s ridiculous. Will a trophy change me as a person? No. Will it make me a better player? No. So what the hell am I worried about?’
He adds: ‘If I’d carried on the way I was going… I was just torturing myself day in, day out. What happens when I finish, thinking everything I’ve done in football is just a waste of time? ‘No-one else is believing this. I am.’
It is interesting that Peters rates ‘fear of failure’ as one of the psychological states that must be eliminated before a team or an individual can be successful.
“Everyone is different, but there are some common conditions that athletes suffer from,” Peters says. “Anxiety is one, and reducing it is vital for performance. Anxiety is brought on by fear of failure, which can stem from fear of letting people down or being overwhelmed by the significance of an event. It can arise when expectations of you are high. It’s important to recognise it and reduce it. Fear of failure has no place in high level sport.”
So how does Steve Peters think you can do this?
“First of all you spend time getting to know a player and understand how his mind is working. Players have to learn to get inside their own heads and work out what’s going on in there.
“They need to work out what’s happening in their heads now, and work out what needs to happen, then we identify the barriers that are stopping their minds from working as effectively as possible, and remove them. Why is there fear of failure? Why is there anxiety or nervousness? When we know, we can remove it. We can switch off the part of the brain that’s causing it.”
On match days, he says it is crucial for players to have a “strict mental warm-up plan” that prevents them from falling into old negative habits.
Peters is insistent that anyone can control their mind. “You don’t have to let it lead you. You can reconstruct your personality and tap into the strengths within your own brain to contain the bits that have been hijacking you without you realising it.
“I ask people to see in themselves what they need to be doing and help them get there. If you said ‘I want to get fit’ and you went to a gym, you could go there and train yourself and do really well, but you would probably be better going there with a strength and conditioning coach who can work with you. It’s the same with the mind.”
The methods used by Peters don’t just apply to people in the world of sports. Everyone in all walks of life face similar situations and a coach can help you identify the factors that are preventing you moving forward and achieving the goals you have. Self limiting beliefs are very common and as Peters explains having someone by your side to help you through the process can aide you in understanding the changes you need to make to improve in the areas that are of importance to you.
What is holding you back?
Who do you have to help you beat the fear of failure?