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Exclusive: The Value In Sports Executive Mental Training

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head of the virtual event, Mental Gold – Driving High Performance through Mental Training, on 20 October, The Coaching Room co-founder and managing partner, Jay Hedley, spoke with Ministry of Sport.

The event, which will be held over Zoom in support of October’s mental health month, is set to feature Hedley, Netball Queensland high performance director, Demelza Fellowes, Fiji Rugby 7s Olympic head coach, Gareth Baber, Queensland Firebirds co-captain, Gabi Simpson, and will be hosted by Gotcha4Life founder, Gus Worland.

Speaking about the importance of mental development training in high performance sport, Hedley said The Coaching Room provides a unique approach to traditional sports psychologists.

“The Coaching Room is an organisation with a public face and a corporate face, and high performance sport fits in that corporate space,” Hedley told Ministry of Sport.

“We help people do four things, wake up, grow up, clean up, and show up…

“We work with executive teams at the top of the organisation and help them develop on behalf of the organisation.

“I decided I was going to make the move into sport with an intention and started that with Waratahs Rugby, Wallabies Rugby and it expanded from there.

“In the public side of our business, we get a lot of high performance strength and conditioning coaches coming in, and lots of those pull me into their organisations because they see how relevant this is for the mental side of sport…

“In more recent times, we’ve been working with Fiji Rugby Sevens helping them win the gold medal (at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games).

“I’ve been working with them for three and a half years, and Demelza (Fellowes) moved from Fiji Rugby to Netball Queensland, and she pulled me into there, so we work with the Firebirds netball now.

“One of the strength and condition coaches of Max Verstappen pulled me in to do some work with Red Bull.

“We’re quite a different organisation, we’re not your run of the mill kind of sports psychologists, we look at things not from a psychology perspective, but from a developmental perspective, which is very different.

“It’s about growing the human being up inside for them to begin to really unleash their individual and collective potential by getting themselves and the ego out of the way, releasing themselves from past experiences so they can really start showing up,” he said.

Expanding further on the role of high performance coaches and the value of mental training, Hedley said there are a lot of factors to consider with approach to communication.

“There’s a lot of stigmatisms in the industry that as a head coach particularly, you’re supposed to have it all together and know everything and how to get the best out of your players,” Hedley said.

“For a lot of coaches, to admit that you could bring in someone external is kind of admitting you need help, and there’s a big stigmatism around that from a lot of head coaches, although that’s changing.

“Particularly with waking up to the language the coach is using and what is pre-supposed in their language which is perceived as unintentional by the coach…

“All these high performance athletes are at different stages of maturity and development, so the language needs to be translated for each of those stages to engage each of those players.

“If you don’t understand stages of maturity, you’re going to use language from your stage of development, not translating for their stage of development, so they will do the translating and that’s really dangerous because now you don’t have any ownership or control over your message.

“What we do is help people realise how important all that is so they can start to translate.

“Gareth Baber did this beautifully, translating late-stage messages into early stages for what is a really early maturity group, not only because they’re young, but also because they are very connected with their religion.

“Everything needs to be translated into that way of thinking and Gareth did a fabulous job, once he saw what he needed to do, we would work together to craft the message and he would deliver it and it would engage and wake them up and ended up growing them up,” he said.