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How can our 'superstars' inspire society?

Interviewers Eamonn Holmes and Tania Bryer

Studio Guest: Chartered Sport Psychologist & Author, Steven Sylvester

Live Transcript:

Eamonn Holmes (EH): We’re now going to go to Steven Sylvester is a sport psychologist and author of DETOX YOUR EGO. The reason I’m interested in talking to you Steven, is that sportsman and I’m talking particularly cricketers, there is a habit, there is a pattern, there is a tendency for high profile cricketers to misbehave. Why we’re surprised by all of that is, it’s regarded as such a gentlemen’s sports Steven.


Steven Sylvester (SS): Absolutely. It is a gentleman’s sport and you have to appreciate the context of cricket. You’re all together; a group of lads and you’re in a goldfish bowl under a lot of pressure to perform at your best and for your country. And there’s a lot of media attention, there’s a lot of judgement and there’s a lot of people that are probing you and pushing you to stress and it’s your decision how you react to that and it’s great to see that Ben’s pressure cooker of a situation he has learnt that the cricket is the most important thing. And because he’s a custodian of the game, he can make the self-correction to understand that society needs a community and they need him to be patient, to have the right attitude to have the right endeavour to be a role model for this country.



EH: Not necessarily talking about Ben here, but talking about Sports people in general. When they’re pumped up as much as they are and testosterone filled, they have got to learn what you are saying here, they’re not the big ‘I AM’ off the park, off the pitch, away from the snooker table or whatever it happens to be, they have got to learn in many ways to supress their Ego’s for which they are lauded.

SS: Yeah absolutely. The only thing I would change in that is it’s not about supressing, it’s embracing the Ego. Ego is about selfishness, it’s about me, it’s what I want to do, and this is why I want to do it. Nothing else is important, I’m the greatest here and I’m on show. That comes with an awful lot of pressure and if you haven’t got the right people around you to create a systems response where you think everything you do is more ambassadorial. It’s giving back to my community, it’s learning from your mistakes. It’s about being able to embrace what you’re here for. If you’ve got a gift to play cricket on an International stage, you must realise that comes with an enormous amount of support and privilege and you’ve got to learn to use that privilege in the right way and that’s the important thing when in a goldfish bowl of professional sport.

Now I think Footballers have a greater understanding of that. The footballers that I work with understand you can’t just go out late at night and do whatever, out side the system. There has to be a great support around you as you always have the call of the public. Basically, you’re on show 24/7 and when you’re on show 24/7 someone’s waiting to make you trip over and you’ve got to use all your experience to know that that the price of being in that position in society comes with a huge price of being able to hold yourself in the right way..

Tania Bryer (TB): Steven, Do you think then that certain sportsmen and women don’t have that right people around them? Because if they do explode and the pressure does become too much does that mean they don’t’ have the right support?


SS: Well that’s a great question. I think, my role as a Psychologist is to help systems understand what systems of support you need to put around our young elite sportsmen so they can become custodians of the sport. They iron out the psychology, they deal with the demands of the elite sport, they deal with the demands of the public and importantly they take good care of their mental wellbeing. If that’s done in the right way the extremes of behaviour we want them to execute on the pitch, become less extreme off the pitch.

That’s where you look for example at Manchester United and with Sir Alex Ferguson working with players both on and off the park so they understand their positions in the team and in society. There seemed over those years, less incidences like this so what I would say is the whole system behind a player is just as important as a players playing as an individual and in my work in my clinic I get players to understand they have a bigger purpose than just playing for themselves. Even if you’re an individual world class golfer or an individual world class snooker player, you still have a system and you have a responsibility to society which needs the sport to say what they are doing in the right way in order that you actually help society move young people in the right direction .


EH: Steven thanks very much. I appreciate your take on things there. Steven Sylvester is a sport psychologist and author of DETOX YOUR EGO and we were just talking about it in the context of the England cricketer Ben Stokes who has been found not guilty of affray where he was involved in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub so we were just speaking generally there about other sports people being pumped up and the way they are and the ego’s and Steven was talking about the responsibility they have not just to themselves and he mentioned Sir Alex Ferguson there at Manchester United and the thing that really annoyed Fergie was that he often talked about how people represented this Club when they wore he blazer, when they wore the tie and when they were on show they were not just representing themselves as individuals, they were representing Manchester United Football Club for which he thought there was no bigger honour than doing that.



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