There are many disciplines that make effective use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques, but perhaps one area in which NLP can be particularly effective is coaching. A coach can bring the necessary expertise to a performer and communicate strategies for increased performance without burdening the individual with having to understand the underlying principles, pre-suppositions and theory.
In this article, we will consider the technique used by Johnny Wilkinson to become such a great kicker. Perhaps, before we start, I should indicate that I have no inside information and this article is entirely my own interpretation and based on my own observations. However, if it turns out to be an incorrect interpretation, I should be very surprised. My hypothesis is that Johnny uses an NLP technique known as anchoring to induce a calm, positive and focussed state of mind prior to taking his kicks. Let’s consider what anchoring is, how it is effected and how it would be useful to a kicker in a game of rugby.
Anchoring works by associating the motor neurones used to manipulate a part of the body, typically the hands with the set of neurones responsible for producing a state of mind. Once the association is made by creating the anchor, the desired state of mind can then be subsequently induced by simply making the hand gesture (firing the anchor).
Now, simply by observing Johnny, I can see that before he takes each kick, he steadies himself, takes a few deep breaths – nothing unusual so far – and then he slightly crouches and simultaneously makes a very characteristic double-handed gesture. There have been many people who have postulated on why he makes this gesture and I even think that the English camp may have put a little misinformation about to protect this vital secret weapon. It seems obvious to me that he is firing an anchor designed to get him into the right state of mind to make a successful kick.
You don’t need to be an athlete to make use of this technique either. It can be very useful when you are going into any stressful situation. You first program the desired state of mind and then as you go into the stressful situation, you fire the anchor to induce the state of mind that is congruent with producing your best performance. Job interviews, sitting examinations, giving a presentation, attending important meetings etc – there are very many diverse situations in which this technique is valuable – can all become much more palatable experiences by making use of anchoring.
In recent years, it can be observed that Johnny has definitely gone off the boil a bit. Still a great player, naturally, but not the player he once was. Do you know something? It’s time he reinforced his anchoring. It worked incredibly well for him for a long period of time and there is no reason it cannot continue to work well for him in the future. I guess that now I have spilled the beans on Johnny’s secret technique, there will be many coaches who will make use of NLP in the future as this information becomes more and more widely known.
Just remember, you heard it here first. And, as I said earlier, if I am wrong about Johnny (which I don’t think I am, but you never know) it really doesn’t matter, because if you are a coach, you should definitely make this technique a weapon in your arsenal.