tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:/posts Mike's Blog 2021-07-04T08:08:26Z Mike James tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1710338 2021-07-04T08:08:26Z 2021-07-04T08:08:26Z Episode 7 of the Curious Cows Podcast with Matt Rogan author of 'All To Play For - How Sport Can Reboot our Future' So pleased to speak with Matt Rogan on episode 7 of the Curious Cows podcast. Matt and I have a wide ranging conversation about sport & the business of sport in which he shares his extensive experience. We also talk about his newly launched book 'All To Play For - How Sport Can Reboot our Future' which already has had fantastic reviews and I very much recommend it goes to the top of your reading list in this amazing summer of sport!

If you are involved in sport at any level, be that as a parent supporting your child, a coach, an athlete/player, or involved in sports governance and administration whether in a professional or volunteer capacity or even finally just an armchair supporter this is a MUST read!

You can download the podcast on all your normal outlets including Apple & Spotify or on the link here:

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1704383 2021-06-17T13:20:39Z 2021-06-17T13:20:39Z Episode 6 of the Curious Cows podcast with former junior tennis star Matt Brown, now high performer on Wall Street

I'm delighted to announce episode 6 of the Curious Cows podcast is now available to listen to via your favourite podcast app or this link:

Matt Brown - the story of an international standard junior tennis player who shared the court and tour with the likes of Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal, but didn't make it....on the tennis court at least.  After a career ending injury whilst at Baylor University, Matt used his academic education and experience from sport to forge a hugely successful career on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs in New York City.  Hear his inspiring story in this new episode of the Curious Cows podcast.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1681371 2021-04-21T13:32:09Z 2021-04-22T15:20:25Z The story of the Curious Cow - episode 5 of the Curious Cows podcast

Here's episode 5 of the Curious Cows podcast in which I tell the story of....The Curious Cow!  (It's a 7 minute listen ;-)

A number of listeners to this podcast have asked, 'why Curious Cows?', so I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell the story of the 'Curious Cow' as a metaphor for the simple premise that we have a choice in life between being fenced in all our lives by herd wisdom or challenging it and its associated limits and barriers.  And that's the main thread of this podcast - talking to people who are approaching life with a 'curious cow' attitude, who are walking to the beat of a different drum, thinking differently and outside the box.


Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1667833 2021-03-19T12:48:58Z 2021-03-25T11:40:14Z Episode 4 of the Curious Cows Podcast with Dressage coach Ian Cast & his amazing journey with Charlotte Dujardin

Meet Ian Cast - Dressage coach, confidante, best friend, and mentor to Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin.  Hear his story from taking Charlotte on as a teenager and their journey together through to Gold at the London Olympics in 2012, Rio in 2016 and hopefully on to Tokyo this summer. Ian has some superb insights into coaching at both a recreational and high performance level, and his passion for his trade and sport shine through.

Please follow this link to listen and also look out shortly for the Curious Cows podcast via Apple & Spotify:


Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1660585 2021-03-02T08:06:32Z 2021-03-02T08:06:33Z Episode 3 of the Curious Cows Podcast with inspirational coach Jemima King

You may enjoy listening to the next episode of the Curious Cows podcast, a conversation with inspirational tennis coach Jemima King.

Jemima is the County Performance Officer for Buckinghamshire Junior Tennis.  She is an inspirational coach and role model for girls in sport whilst also being a huge advocate for the female coaching journey. 

As a player she played U.S College Tennis at Boise State, becoming their most decorated ever doubles player, but also was instrumental in leading Bucks Ladies to their first ever Division 1 'County Week' title. 

Listen to how she balances out motherhood and coaching, her Fed Cup Trip to Argentina with Judy Murray in 2012,  and what 'performance' means to her.  She concludes with her 3 key qualities/values that she seeks to live up to everyday.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1654873 2021-02-16T19:28:19Z 2021-02-16T19:28:19Z Curious Cows podcast episode 2 - a conversation with former member of the British Bobsleigh Team Scott Allaway
Hello friends,

Delighted to announce episode 2 of the Curious Cows podcast - a conversation with Scott Allaway. Scott is a former member of the TeamGB Bobsleigh Team and went on to become its Commercial Director between 2010 and 2014. His work in this role took the team to the Winter Olympics in Sochi where their 4 man crew finished 5th - later upgraded to an Olympic Bronze Medal after the Russian doping scandal which disqualified the two Russian sleds which finished ahead of GB.

Throughout this time Scott was, and continues to be, a very successful businessman applying lessons from sport into business and visa versa in equal measure. His enthusiasm, humour and ability to break through barriers (if he even sees them!) will no doubt inspire you as you listen to his story.

You can access the podcast via this link and hope you enjoy listening to it should you have the time and inclination!


Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1649558 2021-02-04T16:49:12Z 2021-02-04T16:50:37Z Our first Curious Cows podcast available now! The fall and rise of Halton Tennis Centre

Delighted to say our first 'Curious Cows' podcast is up and available now to listen.

Simply click on the link below.  I very much hope you can listen to it and enjoy what you hear.

My very best,



Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1648256 2021-02-01T20:00:57Z 2021-02-01T20:00:57Z Listen to our first 'Curious Cows' Podcast this Wednesday!

Hello friends of Everyball,

I am delighted to announce that we are releasing our first 'Curious Cows' podcast this Wednesday! 

The aim of the podcast is to inspire our listeners to ‘win’ through learning from each other via a series of talks with those with a 'story to tell' throughout the Chiltern area from a variety of different disciplines, most commonly with a sporting link.

Winning of course requires some definition and for us at ChILDS (The Chiltern Institute of Learning, Development and Sport) it is simply to develop ourselves, our organisations and people to ‘better our best’ on a daily basis through adopting the deep child-like curiosity to learn. In essence we seek to challenge 'herd wisdom' by becoming 'curious cows'!

ChiLDS itself has grown out of our work at Halton Tennis Centre where I am Director of Tennis, so it seems only fitting that our first podcast is an interview with Nick Leighton and John Walker - the architects of an amazing sporting and business recovery from nearly being boarded up and shut down in 2000, through growing into what now many call one of the finest examples of a tennis centre/club in Great Britain.  

Episode 1 'The fall and Rise of Halton Tennis Centre' will be released this Wednesday via our curiouscows website.

Many thanks,


Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1641392 2021-01-18T08:06:27Z 2021-01-18T10:05:45Z Everybody's got a plan until you're punched in the face

'Everybody's got a plan until you're punched in the face' - Mike Tyson (allegedly)

And we're gonna get punched in the face - perhaps not literally but the blows will come, of that there's no doubt.

So I guess it becomes all about how we take the punches and respond.

Roll with them.

Bend to them.

Like trees in a storm, bending but unbroken.

And build in some flexibility to your goals - the twists of nature, of fate, those things outside our influence and control inevitably come into play.

That is resilience.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1640302 2021-01-15T08:57:50Z 2021-01-15T08:57:50Z The opportunity will come

The opportunity will come.

Perhaps when you least expect it.

All the more reason to have your ducks in a row.

To be ready and prepared.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1640003 2021-01-14T10:01:45Z 2021-01-14T10:01:46Z Ambiguity is the enemy to developing so many (coaching) relationships

Define the standards.

Define the expectations.

Define the roles and responsibilities.

Then we know where we stand and can move forward.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1624233 2021-01-13T07:59:27Z 2021-01-13T07:59:27Z Determined versus desperate

There tends to be a calm calculation behind determined.  Roll the sleeves up and bear down on the problem.

A focused energy into a strategic plan where head and heart work together towards achieving the objective.

Desperate on the other hand is back against the wall stuff- emotional, fight or flight in a crisis. There can be power in desperation.

Sometimes situations require a determined response, sometimes desperate.  

But desperate is not sustainable over the longer-term.  Go to that well too often and you'll find it dry.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1639165 2021-01-12T14:42:13Z 2021-01-12T20:45:29Z Blame removes that ability to do anything about it!

That's the thing about taking responsibility.

It means you can still be part of the solution.

Blaming others, making excuses, finding fault removes this ability alongside any learning that could have taken place.

Taking 100% responsibility for the situation, regardless of it being in or out of our control, keeps us in on the action.  It keeps us in the fight, in the arena.

And of course in the arena is the subject of this fabulous quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1632742 2020-12-28T08:28:34Z 2020-12-28T08:28:34Z Wherever you go, you always take yourself with you!

Wherever you go, you always take yourself with you!

That's a fair old truth.

We can change our environment, move house, buy a new car, new clothes, whatever.

But we've never been anywhere we haven't been.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1630943 2020-12-23T07:01:20Z 2020-12-23T17:37:22Z Goal setting for 2021 and beyond

Perhaps this year of any year has told and taught us a heck of a lot.

Life will continue to do its thing...regardless of the goals we set, and the 'control-ables' we think we can control.

Perhaps it might just be more 'healthy' right now to not project ourselves into the future.   Not to set that S.M.A.R.T goal.

Because so often by doing that, we miss out on the 'present'.

And while the present is not as we wish it would be, it is still filled with opportunity and fascination.  Just not in the direction we might have been looking.

(Reference/ideas from Derren Brown's 'Happy')

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1630609 2020-12-22T07:34:35Z 2020-12-22T07:34:35Z Blind spots

Blind spots.

We all have them.  What is it we don't see?

As Schopenhauer wrote: 'Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.'

As coaches, we need to bear in mind what lens we see things through.  The lens of a 'technician', or a 'tactician', or do we see more of the 'performer', the mental and the physical.  When assessing a player/athlete we select, delete and generalise.  We can't take it all in at once so we tend to see what we want to see, what we are conditioned to see, and so often can miss the rest.

Know your blind spots...because it's there that we might miss something vital.

Bring another coach alongside you - ask them, 'what do you see here?'.  This is one of the reasons I'm so grateful to be involved in a team environment with a fantastic group of coaches who are all prepared to ask the question.

It's not a sign of a lack of knowledge or expertise.  Simply that we recognise our human condition and two sets of eyes are better than one!

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1630210 2020-12-21T08:17:21Z 2020-12-21T10:26:03Z The stories we tell ourselves

When you fail or feel like a failure.

When we think we're 'no good' in a particular situation, at a particularly subject or task.

Sometimes we're even told we're no good.

These then become the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. 

And we start to believe them and in turn develop a 'learned helplessness'.

We become skilled at living out these stories, acting out the 'helpless role' when we are faced with that situation again.

Until we give ourselves permission to change our story.

To act differently.

To act out of character.

(from Derren Brown's 'Happy')

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1629590 2020-12-19T14:33:21Z 2020-12-19T14:33:21Z You can't 'magic' a performance out of nowhere

Ok, we might get away with one now and again.

A performance out of the blue, when stars align and fortune is on your side.

When the work hasn't yet been done.

But it will serve you well if you treat this as a truth:

You can't magic a performance out of nowhere.

The work has to get done.

And this WILL take time.  

It means delaying gratification.

But of course we live in an instant world now, so where time investment was once seen as a precursor to success, now it appears just a curse.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1629177 2020-12-18T07:18:11Z 2020-12-18T07:18:11Z Positive avoidance

Positive avoidance basically suggests avoiding situations, places, events that could cause unnecessary worry, anxiety, or just be plain harmful.

It's smart for example for a recovering alcoholic to avoid the pub.

If there is positive avoidance I guess there must also be negative avoidance.  Avoiding situations that may cause a level of discomfort but by entering into them there is the potential to grow, to become more resilient, to ultimately flourish.

And sometimes it's just plain obvious. 

If you want to be a mountaineer, at some point you gotta start climbing mountains.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1625758 2020-12-17T07:52:33Z 2020-12-17T15:55:00Z Not the events that happen to you, but the interpretation of them

Same event, different interpretations.....

It's not the fact but how you react.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1628255 2020-12-15T20:47:04Z 2020-12-15T20:47:04Z The 3 pressures - do you know what they are?

The 3 pressures.

1.  The pressure of being the 'favourite'

2.  The pressure of a 'pop corn' match - you don't know which way it's gonna go

3.  The pressure of being the underdog

Most would agree the underdog is the least of these 3 pressures, the most when having the 'favourite' tag.

Yet, so much of what is desired in training is about 'hitting up' (tennis lingo for playing against stronger opposition), in essence practicing being the underdog.

How about developing the ability to play as the favourite....to practice your attacking skills, learning to boss the court, develop the appropriate coping skills to deal with the added expectation that you 'should' win.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1623410 2020-12-14T07:31:55Z 2020-12-14T07:31:55Z Economy of scale and skill - intensity without 'tensity'

Economy of scale is all about increasing production and lowering cost, as informed by my 16 year old son via his GCSE studies.

Reminds me of skill development.

If production is about increasing output or outcome (more power on the serve for example, more distance on the place kick etc) then cost is related to the input of 'effort', both physical and mental to achieve the desired goal.

The more skilled we become and the more 'effective' we are (output) the less effort we put in. We become more efficient. That's why a top athlete makes things look so 'easy' - the Federer movement as an example.

The contradiction is that we place a high value on 'effort' and external manifestations of this are applauded.  Trying hard.

But trying too hard can have adverse effects on production and effectiveness - we become less efficient.  There is too much 'tensity' in the intensity, when the goal should be 'intensity without tensity'*

Sometimes, simply the goal of 'make the task look easy' brings us out of effort and towards skill.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1627464 2020-12-13T17:30:45Z 2020-12-13T17:30:46Z Defining the opponent

The opponent can be defined in a number of ways.

As a threat, a foe, an enemy.

Or, purely as someone to push you and examine you, to test your skills on the day.

Anthony Joshua on Tyson Fury's claim he will be the unified champion of the world 'inside three rounds':

"He'll bring out the best in me"

Spot on.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1624234 2020-12-12T14:08:24Z 2020-12-12T14:08:24Z Magicians and mechanics

Magician's and mechanics.

That's how Paul Annacone (former American touring professional tennis player and then coach to Pete Sampras and Roger Federer who need no introduction of course!) categorises players.

Somewhere on the spectrum between a Magician and a Mechanic.

It's not a description or measure of 'talent'.

It's just the idea that the magician doesn't feel the need to hit so many balls to find their groove.

The mechanic, on the other hand, wants that volume of practice, particularly in preparation for match play.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1623409 2020-12-11T10:03:39Z 2020-12-11T10:03:39Z You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Interesting descriptions of happiness - outcome v process.

Outcome is the happiness generated by achieving the goal, winning the event, buying the new house/car/whatever.  Often fleeting and having no lasting nature.

I'm reminded of Boris Becker's response on winning his first Australian Open title in 1991 beating Ivan Lendll - he described an emptiness of sorts, almost a let-down in the achievement of the goal.  Jonny Wilkinson's joy in kicking the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final was momentary, or perhaps even momentary relief in his (at the time) pursuit of perfection.

Process happiness is the happiness/joy based more on the 'journey' and the 'getting there'.  In this way, happiness has been described as more of a 'verb' - a doing thing.  And so by definition 'happiness' must include failure, mistakes, let-down, struggles.

We're always in such a hurry to get 'there' - wherever there is.  But of course, we so often find the old maxim is true:

You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Make sure to enjoy the ride.  Today, in all that it brings, is part of that journey.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1626402 2020-12-10T08:18:03Z 2020-12-10T08:18:03Z The inner game definition of 'performance'

Tim Gallway's book 'The Inner game of Tennis' first published in 1975 still stands the test of time in and amongst all the modern thinking around sport psychology.

I often refer to his definition of 'performance':

Performance = potential - interference

'A tennis player first confronts in Inner Game when he discovers that there is an opponent inside his head more formidable that the one across the net.....The Inner Game is that which takes place in our mind, and is played against such elusive opponents as nervousness, self-doubt and lapses of concentration.  It is a game played by your mind against its own bad habits.  Replacing one pattern of mental behaviour with a new, more positive one is the purpose of the Inner Game.'

'It takes years to change behaviour if that's what you're looking for.  But behaviour comes out of how a player sees things.  If he sees a tennis ball as a threat, he swings as if he's defending himself, and he does 33 wrong things.  In this way, you can make radical changes in performance with only a few sentences on perception.  See what he sees before you start coaching.'

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1626058 2020-12-09T08:40:25Z 2020-12-09T08:40:25Z The 'rules of results' and the things you can positively influence today

What things can you positively influence today?

List them.

And pin them up.

Then articulate the things you can't positively influence today.

List them. 

And then bin them.

It's just that trying to influence things you have no influence over equals stress/anxiety/worry, and it makes sense in my own mind to positively avoid unnecessary disturbance (in the force if you're a Star Wars fan!)...

I love that concept, 'positive avoidance' - almost contradictory in nature, I'm sure there's a posh word for that!

I also choose to use the word 'influence' over 'control'.  Control holds too many pitfalls - it's so absolute, particularly when fortune and fate come into play.

This all reminds me of the rules of results (results can be defined as any 'outcome') that I was introduced to many years ago:

1.  The results you are getting are the results you should be getting - fact.  Let's take responsibility for them, no excuses, no blame.  Whether at home, relationships, school, business, or sport.

2.  You can't control your results, only influence them.  I can have a 'say' in the result by focusing on the things that will help me give my best performance - hence why so many athletes constantly talk about 'my processes'. 

3.  If you want to improve your results, first try doing what you are already doing, but 10% better.  Then consider doing something differently. 

The old definition of insanity comes into play here: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.


Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1623418 2020-12-08T07:23:08Z 2020-12-08T07:23:08Z The difference between banter, zingers, and humour

Banter is exclusive.  You have to be on the 'inside' and when you are not 'in on it' you are pushed out and onto the back foot.

A 'zinger' is designed to elevate the deliverer and demean, belittle the receiver.  Often disguised as banter, but you know when you've been on the end of a zinger - it hurts a little, but we tend to swallow it, smile and keep going.

Humour on the other hand is inclusive.  Everyone is in on the joke.

Choose humour, it promotes a great culture.

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1623419 2020-12-07T09:25:30Z 2020-12-07T15:20:40Z What's your energy source today?

What's your energy 'source' today?

What can you tap into to bring about the motivation to turn what might be another normal day into something more - particularly on a rather cold, grey, misty December morning!

I only pose the questions.

No answers, not for you at least.

Because your 'source' will be different to mine.

But in asking the question, at least we have to consider it.

For me, today, first and foremost it's that I reflect on the things for which I am most grateful.  My family, friends, health, work to name a few.  In just spending a few minutes with a world class 'attitude of gratitude' can bring a shift in mood and energy.

I've also spent some over the weekend re-connecting to the 'why' I do the work that I do, and when we re-connect with our deeper values and purpose this also shifts energy.

Not doing what I do out of desperation, because I 'have to'.

Not doing what I do out of rationalisation, because I 'should do it'.

But doing what I do out of inspiration, because I 'want' to do it.

In re-connecting with the 'why' I reviewed and tweaked the 'everyball' ethos, for perhaps the 20th time in as many years:

'We are committed to fight for everyball, to run down everyball and to play everyball with courageous purpose. We see everyball as an opportunity to explore, with curiosity and creativity, our potential to become all we can. We know that everyball extends beyond our sport as we learn the fundamental life skills & values of respect, responsibility, reflection and resilience that enable us to thrive in an ever-changing world' 

Fight for today, not yesterday or for tomorrow, just for today.

Make it a courageous fight, not seeking to be fear-less, but by overcoming our fears, particularly the four fatal fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of emotional discomfort

Be curious and creative (going as far as you can using all you have got) as you seek to become all you can.

And when it all comes down to it, respect yourself by taking responsibility for 'every ball' that comes your way, and some time to reflect on the things that will help you to harness the energy to continue to 'bounce forward' and make today a masterpiece.

Have a good one ;-)

Mike James
tag:coachingbymike.uk,2013:Post/1624241 2020-12-06T08:59:45Z 2020-12-06T10:43:01Z Leeds Captain Liam Cooper takes 'responsibility' head on as Chelsea go top of the league

Sir Chris Hoy's 3 non-negotiables (as described in his interview on the High Performance podcast).

1. Be on time

2.  Never refer to yourself in the third person

3.  No excuses - take responsibility

On the subject of no excuses and taking responsibility, I enjoyed listening to Leeds Captain Liam Cooper in his post match interview after their 3-1 loss to Chelsea yesterday.

Speaking after the game, Cooper said: “It was difficult and fair result in the end I would say.

“In the second half we weren’t at our best, we will go away and analyse that and improve in the next game.

“Chelsea are a good team, they will be up there at the end of the season.

“We are disappointed, I don’t think we got into the game as much as we should have and as much as we have.

“As a group we’ll stick together and look to improve next game.

The Whites did not manage to enforce their pressing game onto Chelsea as much as they would like.

When asked if he was unhappy with that part of the display, Cooper gave his thoughts.

“That’s something we will work on,” the captain explained.

“Chelsea have got very good players on the ball and sometimes it’s hard, they wait for you to come and drag you out then pop it off to the free man.

“We struggled with that and when we’re not getting there to anticipate the ball it’s always going to be difficult, because we put a lot into that, that’s a massive part of our game.

“They’re world class players, I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again, we’re learning on the job.

“We’re an honest team who will run and run, go to the last second but sometimes these teams have that extra bit of quality and Chelsea certainly had that.

“We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to be better and we know that.”

Mike James