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Gavin Gough - Q&A

Gavin Gough: When I talk to a driver I say: 'All I do is open doors in your mind and let you see what's inside...'
Sports psychologist Gavin Gough talks to Simon Stiel about how karters can turn their form around by mental coaching and how drivers up to and including F1 could benefit from driver coaching...


Crash.net:
When and why did you get interested in the psychological aspect of motorsport?

Gavin Gough:
A lifelong interest in motorsport started when I was a child and the bug was in me from a very early age. I became very, very interested in Ayrton Senna watching him. I began to wonder why is this guy that much better than anybody else out there. I picked up a book on motorsport psychology and then I began to see where the answers lay. It was his application of his mental strength and his skills that produced a difference in him. At that time my son Phil was running a kart team and I begun to think about this a bit deeper in relation to his own drivers. That spurred me on to get myself qualified as a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Sports Practitioner and Sports Hypnosis practitioner.

Crash.net:
How did AlphaSport come about?

Gavin Gough:
AlphaSport is the child of that thought process and it came about in 2007 when I qualified. The A and the S are from Ayrton Senna. The Alpha comes from the alpha waves of the mind which are predominant during hypnosis and the Psychology comes from the application of the mind to the sport essentially. We just developed it from there.

Our first great success was with Alex Magee. Alex came to Phil and I as a thirteen year-old having never raced karts at MSA level. Three years later, he's club champion and one of the quickest drivers in the UK. Phil took him out to Spain in 2009 and he qualified fifth having never been there before. He won one heat having never ever seen the circuit before in his life. We just develop certain interventions and certain methods of driver training that give the driver the edge.

Crash.net:
You have a particularly powerful influence since you're dealing with children who are still dependent on their parents and you're impacting on their lives outside motorsport. How do you deal with those obstacles?

Gavin Gough:
I don't see them as obstacles. It can be challenging and the reason for that is every son is his father's son and every son picks up certain characteristic traits of the parents. At times you are working with a parent. At times, the most challenging thing is working with a parent rather than with a child. Generally speaking, we've always found that when we work with kids and we're usually talking about ten to fifteen year olds, we find that what we teach them in mental skills for racing, they transfer into the rest of the kid's life. When the parent sees what's happening and see the benefits of what we teach, I think it gives them a reassurance that what we're doing is of help. It can help outside of the seat as well. My view is that the earlier race drivers learn these skills then the better they'll be not only as race drivers, the better they'll be as human beings.

Crash.net:
One technique you specialise in is visualisation of the circuit before they visit it...

Gavin Gough:
Yeah, that's why Alex was so good when he went to Spain. We teach visualisation and mental rehearsal skills. What we do is in my view better than driving a simulator. The reason I say that is with visualisation and mental rehearsal, we're working with the unconscious mind. That's where the driver is working. When a driver is totally in the zone, he's working purely at the unconscious level. We work with the unconscious mind to create that relaxed state and that functioning of the unconscious. Let me illustrate it this way, if you walk into a darkened room in your own home and you reach out your arm to find the light switch, generally, without looking for it, your arm finds the light switch. It's imprinted into your unconscious and you know exactly where it is. We use the same technique in teaching a race driver mental rehearsal of a circuit he's never been to or a circuit he has been to. He gets there and he knows it intimately.

Crash.net:
One talent of the racing driver is to use as little of the brain as possible, is that the object of mental rehearsal?

Gavin Gough:
Pretty much in terms of the conscious brain - the conscious mind is the driver's enemy really. Let me give an example. The driver is driving quite well, but he needs to find some more pace. If he begins to think about that consciously, and thinks push harder, push harder, push harder, he will begin to interrupt the unconscious processes. There is a tendency to outbrake himself or to leave his braking too late. We kind of imprint the circuit in the unconscious and allow the unconscious to do the job for him.

Crash.net:
On the subject of simulators, there's iZone at Silverstone. They use them to reawaken memories of circuits, do you think that's the right approach?

Gavin Gough:


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Gavin Gough of Alphasports Psychology with Jann Mardenborough [Pic credit: Patrick Gosling]
Samuel Oram-Jones. Millennium Motorsport. PF International. 2012 CIK-FIA European KF3 Championship [Pic credit: Chris Walker - www.kartpix.net]
Samuel Oram-Jones. Millennium Motorsport. PF International. 2012 CIK-FIA European KF3 Championship [Pic credit: Chris Walker - www.kartpix.net]
Gavin Gough of Alphasports Psychology with Jann Mardenborough [Pic credit: Patrick Gosling]
Nyck de Vries and Matthew Graham [Pic credit: FIA]
Beitske Visser CIK-FIA European KZ2 Championship, Varennes
Beitske Visser CIK-FIA European KZ2 Championship, Varennes
Beitske Visser CIK-FIA European KZ2 Championship, Varennes
Harry Williams leads Connor Jupp and Tom Harvey, Cadet Comer, Welsh Karting Championships, Llandow [Pic Credit Hardy Rodde]

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