A former junior coach for Team New Zealand champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke believes the sailors’ performance psychology was a key ingredient behind last month’s America’s Cup success.
John Morgan, 55, of Snells Beach, has worked with 23 world champion sailors and 60 national champions.
“To win is not about sailing, it’s about performing under pressure and handling the intensity of the competition,” John says.
“I started that way of thinking in sailors like Peter and Blair when they were 10 years old.
“Any coach can teach good technique, but very few know how to consistently get the best out of an athlete.
“As a junior I loved sport, but never had the right mental advice, which is what got me interested in high performance psychology.”
John says it’s important for coaches and trainers to understand where people are mentally.
“Sometimes I would shout at them to create that intense competition environment and then other times give them a compliment quietly to keep them motivated.”
He worked with Burling, Tuke and other Olympic medallist sailors until they were about 16.
“With Peter and Blair, you could see potential immediately with the focus and intelligence they had.”
In 1984, John was assigned by Alan Coutts, Sir Russell Coutts’ father, to be Russell’s regatta partner and keep him calm before racing, as the two were friends at the University of Auckland.
“Russell was different to all the other boaties in the way he prepared, focused and could peak at the right time, which was a real eye-opener for me.”
Golf coach Gillian Bannan also mentored John and introduced him to subliminal tapes, where positive performance messages play behind music that only the subconscious mind can process.
He says his successful sailors all listened to subliminal tapes and highly rates their value.
Prior to working with Peter and Blair, John coached extensively in the United States.
He retired after the London Olympics in 2012, with seven of his past students going on to win a medal at the Rio Olympics.