The Story So Far
The collaboration which has become Sports Principles happened through happy accident, or fate if you prefer.
It was December 2014. I had been invited to a coaching workshop at a smart London hotel by my friends and mentors Garret Kramer and Jamie Smart.
I had arrived early. I poured myself a coffee and was chatting to a couple of the other delegates when the light from the doorway dimmed as a very large human being ambled into the room.
He wandered over and introduced himself as Adam Ashe, a rugby player from Glasgow. We got chatting, and it became clear he wasn’t any old rugby player. I was coaching golfers at the time and was keen to find out how the understanding that I was exploring with Garret might transfer to other sports.
Adam, when he wasn’t playing for Glasgow Warriors or Scotland, played a bit of golf. We immediately hit it off and that day became the start of an ongoing conversation and enduring friendship.
A shared curiosity about well-being and performance is the common factor which has drawn the group together from a number of different backgrounds and cultures. New Zealander Grayson Hart was a team mate of Adam’s at Glasgow, and the two of them had become friends and started a podcast to share what they were learning from Garret and Jamie.
They invited me to join them on one episode. It became clear we were all looking in the same direction, so when Grayson moved down to London from Glasgow, it made sense for us to collaborate and work together.
We started running little workshops and speaking to players and coaches at local sports clubs.
It quickly became apparent that our message was resonating. People were seeing that what they were being told about mental health and performance in sport didn’t make sense.
The further these conversations went we saw that there was an opportunity to share the understanding which had helped us so much, more widely.
We started getting invitations to speak to schools and businesses about our ideas. Sports Principles has become our vehicle for carrying this message.
The basic misunderstanding, that our wellbeing and happiness is causally linked to the situation of our lives is a strong one. It is constantly reinforced by our society and culture. Sport is no different. We are told that success brings happiness, and that our state of mind can be negatively affected by a poor performance, not getting selected or by something a team mate or coach says to us.
Our aim is to help athletes and coaches to understand that neither of these things are true.
By pointing athletes and coaches to the true source of their wellbeing, this illusion can be overcome.
By helping them explore their sporting experiences as we have explored ours, they can learn that neither success or failure defines or affects who they really are.
By explaining that the reasons we fell in love with sport in the first place haven’t changed, just our beliefs and thinking about it has, we can help people to get back to playing with the freedom and enjoyment they did as children.
We are fortunate to have the backing and experience of two highly qualified psychologists to help us in our work.
Rich Hudson is a sports psychologist who has worked for Northamptonshire Cricket Academy and is now Managing Director at The Buckinghamshire Cricket Board.
Dr Lee Adair Stantiall is a clinical psychologist, lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, runner and mum to two sporty boys.
We often get asked whether what we do is ‘sports psychology’. The answer is probably no, although there are areas where there might be similarities. I would describe the understanding we point to as ‘sports philosophy’, as it derives from the values which every player, athlete, coach and spectator appreciates most about the games in which they participate:
Love, enjoyment, enthusiasm, connection, creativity and freedom are the feelings which brought us into the sports we play, and are what we experience when we are at our best.
Our goal is to help the teams and players we work with experience these feelings more often, and understand what is really going on when those feelings disappear.