Foreword by Rory Best
Ulster and Ireland
It is a privilege to write the Foreword to Mark’s book. Mark is one of the best sport psychologists around and has been instrumental in my rise through the ranks of professional rugby union. It is not an exaggeration to say that my progress was dramatic
Within weeks of my first meeting with Mark, in June 2005, I had progressed from being back-up hooker with Ulster to holding down a regular place in the team. What’s more, in November that year, I won my first international cap for Ireland! It was at Lansdowne Road against the All Blacks, no less, and was the realisation of a boyhood dream. It was a truly special occasion, one that I never expected to come round so soon. But when you’re mentally tough, anything is possible. I have since gone on to represent Ireland 47 times, including playing in the 2007 World Cup, and have captained Ulster for the past four seasons.
Without doubt, working with Mark was the turning point in my career. I consulted him because of his strong reputation as a no-nonsense, yet warm individual who had achieved amazing results with athletes and teams. He was also the leading psychologist with the Sports Institute Northern Ireland.
My main goal in engaging Mark’s services was to become psychologically tougher. Despite being relatively new to the world of professional rugby, I realised that the top players in the sport were not necessarily the most technically skilful.
However, they were always the most mentally tough. They were in control of their thinking and their emotions, had solid self-belief, exceptional focus and responded to critical moments in matches with brilliance. In other words, they had learned to master their inner opponent. With their inner game under control, their outer game flourished.
A major part of Mark’s teachings is to blow apart a host of human illusions. He explains that we have learned to see the world in ways that are far from helpful and particularly destructive in performance settings. One of these myths is to see external events, such as making a mistake during a match, as thecause of a negative emotional reaction or a loss of focus.
This insight changed everything. It was incredibly empowering. It meant that I was creating my own stress and was therefore my own worst enemy. It also meant that I held the reins to my emotional and mental state at any one moment.
To whet my competitive juices, Mark suggested I saw my negative thoughts, feelings, images etc. as the weaponry of a nasty internal saboteur who wanted me to fail. We called this internal parasite my mental monster in reference to the way Frankenstein created his monster, only for it to turn on him. I liked this analogy as it provided an easy-to-understand and motivating rationale for the mental training I had to do.
I successfully followed Mark’s Six Pathways to Mental Toughness programme, which is tailor-made to overcome this Frankenstein Factor.
Facing Frankenstein is a terrific book that goes right to the heart of the mental game by making you accountable for your own emotional state and readiness to perform.
Part One of the book explains how and why you get in your own way and then in Part Two you have theoutstanding Six Pathways to Mental Toughness programme. This training will help strengthen your resolve and self-belief. You will begin to think more clearly and constructively, while also learning to silence your mind when the situation requires it. You will discover some incredible mental game secrets and have at your disposal numerous practical tips and techniques. Real examples from the world of elite sport are used to illustrate the many learning points in the book.
I cannot emphasise enough the value of Facing Frankenstein. You need to read it. Mark’s insight into how athletes sabotage their preparation and performances is unique. His words inspire and educate in equal measure and his training is second to none. And I should know. Thanks to Mark and his methods, I am now playing and performing on the world stage. You too can reach your sporting potential by following the advice and learning the techniques in his book.
I can assure you that before long you’ll be mentally tough and performing at your peak on a regular basis!
Ulster and Ireland