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 Winning is fun

Simon Clist
Forest Green Rovers

 

Phil Johnson

 

 Winning is fun

Mark Beesley now York City & Michael Brough FGR

Welcome to Sport & Performance Psychology


Thank you for visiting sport and performance psychology. Please scroll through the menu to find a range of information, which I hope will answer some of your questions. I pride myself in being a pioneer in my work; always learning, and being a good listener, developing new approaches, and training. Through this I am able to assist and facilitate my clients to not just return to previous levels of performance, but beyond.

What I have discovered through my practice is that the ‘sporting arena’ is often where people perform under ‘pressure’ of expectation from spectators; team-mates, coaches, parents, friends, opponents, teachers, and even the media. In such circumstances or in psychological terms ‘context’, vulnerabilities are likely to show. This can and does lead to what we know as ‘performance anxiety’. Almost without exception, the origin of loss of performance and indeed signs of vulnerability are from outside of sport, and within the person. So my philosophy is that you are a ‘person first’ and ‘performer’ second, and the cause and solutions often emerge from outside of the sport, but impact upon it! As a clinical sport psychologist I am able to deal with most mental health issues, and to provide the knowledge and expertise of the sporting context to effect a return to performance especially after injury.

In the last 4 years my role has broadened into ‘performance’ in many other contexts, not just sport, but in ‘performing arts’; music, acting, dance, broadcasting, and writing. I am now a member of the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine BAPAM. In business I have created a separate communications and business strategy company, which utilizes sport performance approaches to human resources, CEO’s, executives, and entrepreneurs.

An important part of my work over the last few years has been with the “Athlete Parent” ©2016 and I intend to publish soon specialist information for this wide group of parents who find themselves managing an elite athlete son or daughter. This takes place perhaps without knowledge of the sport, the communication issues with coaches, and teachers, sport agents, coping with success and failure of their kids from age 8 upwards, and at points of career transitions into professional sport. Over the years I have made it conditional of my support of young athletes under the age of 18, that the parents are also the ‘client’! I just happen to a Systemic Family Therapist SFT too!

On the topic of young people I would like to say something specific about bullying at school and in sport. “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.” Stop Bullying.gov

I discovered amongst injured equestrians who developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD they had almost with exception been bullied at school, not just by other children, but by teachers, who are along with sport coaches are a significant source of this behavior, often unknowingly. I have witnessed this at every level of sport; in all the sports I have worked in, but seems to be particularly evident in football. Rugby seems to be one notable exception! Bullying in the form of physical or emotional abuse is ‘traumatic’ for young people, and sadly often stays with them into adulthood, is a precursor to depression, chronic anxiety, and not surprisingly a loss of performance. Fortunately, I have trained in and developed an approach called ‘Brainspotting’, which successfully removes and desensitizes this directly from the physical body, and the brain.

 

Sport Trauma

In 2012 a collaboration with Dr David Grand, and Dr Alan Goldberg in the USA resulted in us creating the concept of the ‘Sport Trauma Model’ © 2012, and the resolution of this through ‘Brainspotting’. Bullying, and sport trauma often result with the same presentation as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD. Hyper Arousal (adrenalin and hormonal release, cognitive overload), Numbing (suppression of unwanted emotions, depression), Intrusion (unwanted negative thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares), Avoidance (people, places, situations). Whilst these are the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, or Prolonged Duress PDSD, they also emerge simply from personal disappointment, embarrassment, or humiliation. It is these last three experiences, which are so damaging, and appear to be resistant to parental love, counseling, and can and do also traumatise parents in their lack of power to influence either their child, an abusive child, coach or teacher. Bullying has now been recognized as potentially resulting in PTSD. (DSM V 2013). Using this approach Phil is able to remove concussions from the brain, with a proven track record, even remotely.

 

Where Do I work ?

I have three points of reference, Bristol, London, Monte Carlo. I work across Europe and have for example tennis players in Barcelona, Lausanne, Malta & Nice with whom I work directly and remotely through Skype. Approximately 60% of my work is in England. I work with academy and professional footballers at every level including English Premier League, and did so alongside the now celebrated Claudio Ranieri when at AS Monaco FC.

I have been working through Skype for 7 years and can conduct all my interventions this way, though physical face to face has advantages! As such clients stretch from Bali, Indonesia, Los Angeles, to Liverpool, and indeed Everton, where I have worked at both!!

 

What Now ? !!

Below is some background information about my work, and some of my successes. Confidentiality prevents me naming many of the sportsmen and women I have supported to high levels of achievement you may recognise, but some are now in the public domain!

Send me an email through the ‘Contact’ menu and I answer these as quickly as I am able. I will discuss with you the presenting issues and indicate how these may be resolved, and will send you an agreement. I speak French but work almost exclusively in English.
 

Academic Background and Credentials

Phil Johnson has been in sport as a psychologist since 2002 and prior to that he worked as clinical psychologist both inside psychiatric units, and outside in community support.
He is one of the few Clinical Sport Psychologists in Britain, qualified as a Clinical Psychologist, as well as a Sport & Exercise Psychologist, has taught nutrition & exercise physiology.

Phil has worked with England & Team GB footballers, and in 2012 became the first psychologist in 90 years with Association Sportive (AS) Monaco FC, working alongside the now celebrated English Premier League Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri.

In 2014, Phil supported Jenny Jones to become Britain's first ever Olympic Medallist on snow, joining British Ski & Snowboard Association and British Olympic Association. In the last few years Phil has worked across Europe with emerging tennis players, gymnasts, squash players, rugby players, fencers, and runners and their families. He has been involved in swimming, and gymnastics for almost 10 years, and a source for overtraining athletes and burnout.

While working as a sport psychologist Phil has demonstrated how an intervention called Brainspotting has the ability to remove trauma from the brain, and desensitise (release) from the body's Sympathetic Nervous System SNS, a physical trauma history, allowing blocked messaging between the two sides (hemispheres) of the brain to reconnect, and reprocess. This approach has demonstrated to be highly successful for individuals and those influencing organizations looking to enhance their profitability and achieve breakthroughs in business performance.

Applying clinical sport psychology, Phil worked a great deal in sport medical teams with the recovery of injury, and the emotional and psychological issues that emerge, including head injury. His mental health background enables him to work with depression, competition and other anxieties (panic attack), Post Traumatic Stress, addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex and exercise, eating disorders, and indeed more recently to electronic gaming.

Phil has been interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 4, over a dozen local radio stations and has made a number of television appearances including Sky News, ITV and BBC South West.

 

Services

Career transitions take place constantly and yet we are not always aware of the need to support this. Phil's research into Comfort Zones showed a lack of understanding of this concept of being in and out of the ‘zone of familiarity and routine’. Even defining a comfort zone had not been clearly done, and he discovered the need to create a new lexicon, a more expressive language to truly describe it. The key is to support the second phase of development out of the comfort zone, and success is more likely to take place.

Mental Toughness is described by Jones et al 2008

The ability to recover from Setback
The ability to Perform Under pressure
Sustaining robust self-belief
Determination to succeed

Which is the most important .... Determination, the others can be learned. If you mark each of the four elements 1-10, and score below 6 there is a problem!

 

Coaching and Coaches

It may come as a surprise but there are coaches all over the world, and in every sport who fail to adequately communicate with their athletes and players. They were never coached in a way where they were given a ‘voice’, and so it takes them extra effort, knowledge and insight to want to be different and better. At the highest levels of sport, coaches are frustrated because of their inability to engage with their athletes as people, and deny hearing their perspectives; often because they feel 'threatened' such is the considered power-relationship between coach and athletes, especially in teams.

Phil is a UEFA, Executive & Life coach, but his focus is with the thinking of the athlete and how they translate their thoughts into actions, or in some cases they simply are unable to because they don't know how to, and nor does the coach! He have witnessed hundreds of coaches in action, and too high a proportion bully, demean, and overpower the young athletes, to sustain their own sense of position. They can and do traumatise young people, and sometimes for the rest of their lives, emotionally and socially embarrassing them; and worst humiliating them, there is sadly endless evidence for this.

Phil's Philosophy comes out of Person Centred Counselling, the person first and athlete second, such that you avoid the athlete developing a sole identity as an athlete, and their sense of self, and their esteem and confidence becomes attached to performance, great when it's good, and miserable when it's not.

Working with parents of young elite athletes Phil believes something that has been a ‘game changer’ that other sport psychologists and coaches need to embrace. He developed the concept of the *'Athlete Parent', something you become as a result of your child's opportunistic development and indeed passion for elite performance. Parents take on a great responsibility to support their children succeed in sport, but they can also become the problem, and like coaches may not realise what they are doing or not doing. They feel out of their depth, in power struggles with coaches, and acting out their own lost opportunities though their children. Phil supports parents in a way they begin to feel confident in knowing what to say and when, and indeed how. It's a win / win scenario, and part of that is through education, indeed giving them feedback and in some cases working with their own trauma.! * © Phil Johnson 2012

 

World Class Performance

Phil have been working in this environment specifically for 10 years, but athletes rarely win a gold medal and say I need your help; it’s often when they lose performance or they get silver! Al Pacino in the film ‘Any Given Sunday’ may well be public face for the sport concept of ‘game inches’ “are everywhere, in every step of the game”, and it is this desire to make small changes become bigger that is the secret to success. Phil helps athletes develop game inches, but for the majority he helps them gain feet, yards and metres!!

“Brainspotting is a powerful, focused approach which works by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional / body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other challenging symptoms.” David Grand 2011

Since meeting David Grand in 2011, Phil's work has been transformed, using eye positioning to desensitize trauma histories from athletes and non-athletes, which in essence removes ‘the barriers to performance’. Once this phase of interventions have taken place, the 5-kilo rucksack weighing you down is removed, the athlete or player feels ‘lighter’, different, because their brain has changed. These feelings can be a unique experience not just allowing older ones to return, but require support in transition. This second phase requires building self-value and self-esteem developed from many years' experience in clinical mental health work, and psychotherapy, into ‘assertiveness’ our ability to represent ourselves positively in the world. Once this has been achieved, and demonstrating progressive improvements, the final phase results in ‘performance enhancement’ beyond their best level. The message to coaches is that they must learn to communicate in a ‘meaningful way’ with their athletes, players and support staff, and this requires a major overhaul worldwide.

You can’t convince the protectors of the old paradigm with better arguments (Thomas Kuhn)

The Prince: by Nicolo Machiavelli Chapter VI says:

“And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such ways that the prince is endangered along with them.”

Phil has been a lifelong pioneer in all of his chosen careers, he can be limited in time to express many of these things, but feel assured he has a completeness to his knowledge and experience that allows him to help athletes and others in a unique way that for the majority is not only successfully, but beyond expectations.

 

References

Phil has worked alongside:

James Rodriguez: sold to Real Madrid. €100 Million
Anthony Martial: sold to Manchester United €80 Million
Radamel Falcao: on loan to Manchester United & Chelsea €60 Million
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco: sold to Atletico Madrid €35 Million
Geoffrey Kondogbia: sold to Inter Milan €37.5 Million
Layvin Kurzawa: sold to Paris Saint Germain €25 Million
Sergio Ramero: sold to Manchester United (undisclosed)
Lucas Occampus: sold to Marseille €10 Million
Emmanuel Riviere: sold to Newcastle United €12 Million
Eric Abidal: back to Barcelona…Priceless ! 8 players Valued at €360 Million Euros Whilst at… AS Monaco FC ‘Like No Other Place”
 

Talking a Good Game. The Language of Sport Psychology Phil Johnson (Sport Psychologist) and Dr Steve Peters (Psychiatrist)