Ben Hughes – a resillient realist

It was June 1st when I decided I wanted to have Ben on the podcast – he is charming, knowledgeble, and is work-driven to success. This being said, he doesn’t believe in competition. This was the exact quality I wanted to focus on, amongst our social media driven mindset we’ve been ingrained to believe… Ben is different.

We started off with our coffee and our phones – lockdown interviews are notoriously more boring than getting yourself and your guest around a table, but it would’ve been ironic if we had let covid-19 stop us. We began with the topic of Ben’s interest to psychology, and why he pursued this as a career. Ben reminded me that this isn’t a career choice for him – that his mother always encouraged him to believe in what he enjoyed and not what made him money. Ben opened up about his actual monetary gain from coaching in a sports environment, and he has only charged one client.

So, Ben, what drew your interest to psychology regarding sports instead of perhaps, being a nutritionist?

I didn’t actually do too well in sports… I thought what was my weakness? I threw away games with my own mentality/mindset. I didn’t have emotional regulation. I got angry because I didn’t know I was dyslexic. I couldn’t ride my bike, I can’t drive… I struggled with speaking. I used to think ‘what’s wrong with me?’  – having tantrums on the pitch. At 19 I found out I was dyslexic. I want people to reach their potentials to I want people to do the things I never did. I studied English language and didn’t like it – I couldn’t be creative. We’re moulded in education – we have to write in someone else’s style.

I’m not very good at processing information – I was in my armbands until I was 9/10 years old. I had 1-on-1 teaching, and did competition when I was 14. 

I was called ‘thick’ at 5 years old…Iwas continuously called ‘lazy’ and hated reading out loud in lessons – I detested it. It made me shake, I used to stutter. I’m so slow at reading, and I won’t remember what I read unless I practised it. I used to skip ahead and read it back. I learn better from people reading aloud. If it’s a topic I know, it’s okay – but if it’s new information it’s a nightmare.

It takes 5x the energy for a dyslexic person to read as opposed to somebody non-dyslexic.

Ben shared that throughout his years of learning, one phrase stuck with him.

“Practise makes permanent”

What motivated you to pursue psychology in sports?

I liked bad foods too much. Haha. I do try to stay healthy to be fair.My mum cooks a lot of healthy foods.

I think your brain and the foods you fuel it with – your outlook in life, and everything you do, is controlled by the central executive – your mind. I got bowler of the yar, and I took a massive step-up in my game. Not because I raised my skill level, I relaxed my mindset. When I failed, I’d beat myself up. You’ve got to change the decision making process, so instead of being angry understand your emotions. Control your emotions, and have a good relationship with the captain.

I got bowler of the year after upping my game. When I first played for Bentworth in 2020, I got knocked over badly. My mindset was angry, I was overthinking everything. It’s the past, so accept it and move on and carry on.

The difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is the mindset – psychology for me is the difference between winning and losing, really. It also means you’ll have a happy life after sport. Michael Phelps is the most decorated person in the olympics, and he is depressed. I assume he was challenged too much, and not supported enough. It’s a difficult balance. For me, he was too challenged and didn’t get enough psychological input.

There’s this perception in sport that you don’t need a psychologist because I’m good enough, you’re gonna have some fuck-ups. Psyche input is always necessary. You’ve got to maintain the performance. Psyche input is the difference that brings it all together. We’re the gel that brings together the nutritionist and the athlete’s other coaches.

Could you coach a person to the olympics?

I wouldn’t want them to become burned out, however they need ambition.

I got spoken to by Carl Steptoe, I said I wanna be the best in the world.He asked why I wanted to be the best.What about being one of the greats? He said. Being authentic and yourself is still possible, it puts me down a peg or two. What will be will be, I’ll carry on.

Only focus on the people that actually care about you and want you to do wel.. It’s embarrassing, people actually do that. Having a close-knit network, having good friends, family, course-mates.

Consistency is key and your values will drive you. There are gonna be people that are threatened by you – there are going to be people that support you.

We shouldn’t be controlled by what we eat – it’s about moderation and portion control. About my school life…

I did catering, did a few cooking posts on my page at the beginning. It didn’t work out. I did geography and history. You have 6 months to try something out, that’s our family motto.

P.E. I had an absolute mare on. I got an A in practical, but the others didn’t go so well. My mum encouraged me to do it. I got a U in my a-levels in P.E. and that was the subject i was banking on. I was considering being a personal trainer,  but I screwed int up. I got a d overall. I got an A in the following year, I taught myself. In my a-level psychology, I got a c. My mum always said do something you enjoy. I chose Preston for my undergrad. I did loads of different things, because I’m a yes-man. I didn’t have good people skills, I wasn’t very confident, so I thought to challenge myself.

I went with that, and it was good fun, I got a first-class degree,e an 87 in my dissertation, which made me believe in myself. Everyone’s always doubted me because i don’t sound very academic. This is because it takes me so long to process information.I always used to ring my dad for motivation, to keep me going. He sai ‘try your best, short term pain for long term gain’.

It’s gonna be horrible now, but in a good place for the years ahead. I like podcasts, I like Youtube, without being in this technical world I wouldn’t be an academic.

Ben’s school life…

How does dyslexia impact your learning and how have you found are the best ways to learn for you?

You have to utilize your senses. I got a C in maths, in October of year 10. I was confused at why I got a c, because I was good in maths. Back then, I never got extra time. I made silly mistakes, and then I’d rush. I retook it and got a B. That was because of YouTube – it’s basic maths and you don’t need it to be a sports psych.

I didn’t know I was dyslexic until I was 19, my friends were very academic and got high grades. They’d always get higher grades, even though I revised for months longer than them. I used to spend hours rewriting things, trying to figure it out.

I got laughed at by lecturers, and they pitied me. But I rubbed it in their faces. It Doesn’t have to be in the books, you need to have interpersonal skills. You need to understand what they want, and the vibe of the room – once you figure out your audience you can formulate your plan.

One size does not fit all – anyone’s boss in management shouldn’t talk to everyone the same. The thing is, everyone has feedback, everyone has needs. You’ve gotta find a happy medium and a common ground with everyone – figure out why they think you’re wrong.

Jurgen Klopp said, “the player if they complained about, they don’t understand what I’m talking about – and they make mistakes. That’s my fault. I haven’t directed them in the right way.” 

What would you say to people that didn’t have any idea what you did?

I call myself a ‘mental performance coach’ and i am also a cricket coach. If I call myself a ‘training sports psychologist’ however, it’s unethical. I say how they’re doing, I care about their life, it could be situational. You can’t just expect them to say ‘i’m interested, give me a go’. Get to know them on a human level. Be yourself, if you notice they like your content – if they view your story, then you’ve got them interested already.

What I try to tell people is that my approach is pretty relaxed,  I just wanna get to know you. I intend on charging in the future – I want it to be affordable though.

I want to aid people in controlling their anxiety, whilst getting that relationship built. It’s a professional relationship.

“My dyslexia causes me to struggle to process information so how I write I get it from conversations, human experience, podcasts, youtube and of course research papers but the latter is challenging for me. I get my clients to write about what they are good at, what they have achieved, write about their thoughts, feelings and behaviours and I very much think it can be used as handy reminders and as a therapeutic experience. Gets you to think about, past, present and future just from the power of your memory and how you contextualise and construct it into words. In Sport Psychology we write in research from interviews, we write notes during consultations and use words for presentations and resources. They are everywhere.”

Ben Hughes

Categories: Journalism, Personal Stories

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