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Stories of sporting change

‘Words affect performance’
Sometimes people find it hard to believe that words are powerful doing things, that words actually affect our brain and by doing so affect how we think, feel and behave. Occasionally, before I could help them, I’ve been obliged to prove this to sportsmen and women by talking to them in ways that have demonstrably weakened their physical performance.

For example, a martial arts instructor found that, after a brief chat, he couldn’t lift his foot off the floor to kick. A basketball captain listened to me for a few minutes and then struggled to make a series of free throws with anything like his normal accuracy.

In both cases the experience really got their attention. It increased when their skill level returned as soon as I changed the words I was using. They became very interested in learning how words can be used to improve sporting performance. And, of course, they really can. As they both discovered when we worked together.

‘Making the target seem bigger and closer’
I was able to spend a couple of hours teaching an elite archer how to make the target, particularly the inner most ring, seem larger and closer. I’ve also taught several golfers how to similarly change their perspective of the hole when putting. It’s not surprising that accuracy and then confidence increase once this happens. 

‘Managing beliefs’
A rugby team was preparing for the most important game of the season. The problem was most of the individuals didn’t truly believe they could beat their opposition. Not only were they reinforcing this belief amongst themselves, they thought they were powerless to change it. As a result even the quality of their training began to suffer.

The starting point was to help them realise that we create our own beliefs and can, therefore, change them. I taught them how. Consequently attitudes and then performance improved. On the day of the big game the team rose to the occasion, playing better than they could have previously imagined.

Overcoming the “yips”
Sometimes, for no apparent reason, experienced sportsmen and women suffer a loss of fine motor skills. It’s known as the yips. In my experience it’s a problem that often occurs when individuals have lots of time to think. Then the voice in their head introduces seemingly unstoppable thoughts of consequence and memories of poor past performance with inevitable negative results. We really can talk ourselves out of doing well. Which also means we can do the opposite.

I’ve had the privilege of addressing this issue with several people. It isn’t just a matter of changing the words. It can also involve changing their internal voice, changing or forgetting certain memories, and learning the value of silence.   

Stories of professional change
These stories show how i used the Power of Words so that better things happen in the workplace.


Chris Parker

The Power of Words

Stories of personal change

Here are some stories about how I have used the power of words to create personal change.


Stories of professional change
Here are some stories about how I have used the power of words to create professional change.