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Performance - 80% in the Mind?

Dame Kelly Holmes says that performance is 80% in the mind* – I’m not so sure.

Far be it from me to doubt a double Olympic Gold medallist and sporting icon but I think it’s worth exploring the relative importance of our mindset to performance.

I’m a Mindset Coach, so you might think that Dame Kelly’s focus on her mental approach is music to my ears. If she’s right, then athletes - young and old - should be spending much more time developing their mindset.

But I also remember watching another superb British athlete, Alistair Brownlee, being interviewed shortly after he won his second Olympic Gold Medal. When he was asked about the importance of sports psychology to his success he dismissed it. All he did was swim, bike, run as fast as he could!

Who’s right then?

So we have two hugely successful athletes – both double Olympic Gold Medallists – with completely views. When it comes to deciding who’s right any self-respecting sports psychologist would tell you, they both are! What works for Dame Kelly probably won’t work for Alistair and vice versa. They’ve come up with their own approach and it’s fair to say that they’ve both worked.

What about me you may ask?

The importance of mindset for you depends, of course, on you! There are three ways that we can improve our performance, in any field. You can practice your technical skills or craft, develop your physical capabilities and improve your mindset.

Whichever is most important depends on where you are now. You may well have a strong suit that requires care and maintenance at the moment. If you’re lucky, you may have natural assets in a couple of areas. In my experience, though, few athletes tick all three boxes without a lot of hard work in each.

So why does mindset get the least attention?

When I ask young athletes the same ‘percentage question’ that Kelly Holmes answered, most are closer to Dame Kelly than Alistair Brownlee. When I ask how much of their training is spent developing their mindset, the answer is usually less than 5%.

It’s not that they share the views of Alistair Brownlee. It’s generally down to one of the following:

1. They are not sure how to train the mind

2. They don’t know who can help them

3. Or if they do, getting help might seen be a sign of weakness.

The Mindset Hub aims to help with the first two points through our videos, online guides and coaching sessions. As for the third, I believe attitudes are slowly shifting. The number of elite sportsmen and women who shout out the benefits of improving their mindset is growing all the time.

It’s not about sorting out problems. It’s about exploring how you can get better and flourish, in sport and beyond. That doesn’t mean following Kelly Holmes, Alistair Brownlee or anyone else for that matter. It means finding your way. The Mindset Hub is here to help you do that.


* At least she did on The High Performance Podcast which I’d highly recommend. The episode with Dame Kelly Holmes can be found at

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