NLP and Sport ‘England vs Germany’

When you look back at it the day England got trounced by Germany in the World Cup they’ll all be laughing it off and talking tactics and strategy and bad management. Yet, if you look a little closer and listen a little harder at what had been said, some other things begin to emerge.


Currently we’re enjoying the entertainment of major sporting fixtures on TV. The World Cup Football, Wimbledon Tennis and the F1 Grand Prix. Yet what is it that makes winners and losers?

The Art of War

Tsun Tsu would say in the art of war that it is the psychological triggers that make the difference. We see in the boxing world two champions ‘facing off’ at each other before the match. This comes too from the animal kingdom where two Grizzly bears that face each other off stand tall on both legs raising themselves high in the air. Two dogs that face each other off raise their heckles and in so doing increase their body size as their heads lift high above the normal standing position.

These acts of ‘face off’ are psychological tools to mentally beat the opponent into submission, therefore avoiding the need for confrontation and conflict.

We had this in the press conferences before the England Germany match. Each team parading their war feathers with words of the giants.

They say the games are won and lost off pitch before any match is played. These are the psychological games that change the spirit of the team. The times when the war feathers, words and face offs away from cameras lay back in the box.

The State of Play

How then do you change this? How do you in the face of mental adversity change the spirit and bring it back up?

Stephen Gerrard from the England team admitted as did some of the other players that on the pitch one of the deciding factors for the ‘change of game play’ was the lost goal which clearly we all saw was in the goal area, but dismissed by the referee and linesmen. England down by 2 goals to Germany had already begun to lose their ‘state’ as a team and individuals when this ‘lost goal’ happened.

They knew they needed this goal to keep in the game. What they needed is to have the spirit to fight on and feel like they had a fighting chance as a team. In fact the comment from the TV presenters was precisely this. They weren’t playing as a team they were a bunch of talented individual players on the field, they had lost their team spirit.

As the match progressed the loss of confidence of the English team was clearly visible as mistakes were made by leaving openings in the defence which Germany took clear advantage of with the use of counter attacks.

The final outcome – A team sent back with its feathers dragging on the floor.

The Real Game

You can see the state of game play change in other sporting fixtures too. The critical aspect of this is twofold when skills are of similar or equal value, then deciding factor is psychological.

These two fold critical aspects are;

Before the match – the state has to be congruent and high spirited, confident and relaxed. (A high performing state) with Zero doubt.

During the match – in the face of adversity it is how you come back from it that counts and makes the difference. England could not come back from the 2.0 lead and lost the match after the lost goal. If they had had the ‘before the match’ state the chances are the game would have seen a different light. Whether England would have won or not is not the question, but the answer is that they would not have had such a humiliating defeat. It would have been a much tighter and progressive match.

So how you come back from adversity is as much affected by the initial starting state as is the necessary strategies to come back.

It is from here that winners are made. The starting state and adversarial recovery state.

Before the match began, it was rumoured that England had had problems in the dressing room and that some of the other players to have played did not. So already, the starting state was at a low.

Outside of sport this is also true of any situation in which you require to have a high performance state. It is not just the starting state the will make the difference or how positive you feel, but also how you deal with adversity and come back to the high performance state. Whether this is in public speaking, singing performance, sales calls or management meetings. The behaviour you have and how well you perform is linked to how you are: Your Mental and Emotional State.

Only One Winner

So before you go into any performance. Clear the cobwebs, clean the cupboards of your mind and have strategies that bring you back to your high performance state if something happens. This is the state of winners. This is what we teach on our NLP Practitioner course. How to create the optimal performance states that happen on auto pilot where and whenever you need them.

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