Episode #1061: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, Nathan Biddulph, an Executive Coach, Occupational Therapist, and Neuro Skills Coach for competitive athletes, actors, and business owners, shares the importance of neuro skills and their impact in finding your “flow.” Also discussed are the importance of quick reaction times, decision making, and pattern recognition for both athletes and business leaders. Continue reading for an inside look at the influence occupational therapy and neurocognitive skills have in achieving optimal performance in business and sports.
About Nathan Biddulph
Nathan Biddulph is an Executive Coach, Occupational Therapist, and owner of Neuro Skills Coach where he provides elite neuro skills training for athletes, actors, and business owners. In his practice, Nathan helps clients build their neurocognitive skills, leading them to long-term success in their lives and businesses. Nathan has worked with athletes such as Alex Nedeljkovic, an NHL 2021 Calder Trophy finalist, Jameson Taillon, the July 2021 American League Pitcher of the Month, and Josh Bell, the Major League Baseball All-Star First Baseman.
Before Neuro Skills Coach, Nathan was the Director of Rehabilitation and the Lead Occupational Therapist for various companies where he developed, designed, and implemented neurological skills training, administered neurocognitive classes, and created individualized programs for clients.
In 2014, Nathan received his master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Nathan has a passion for helping others succeed by improving their neuro skills through his coaching practice.
The connection between sports psychology and coaching
To kickoff the podcast episode, Severin Sorensen, host and curator of the Arete Coach Podcast, shares insight from the American Psychological Association (APA) on how NFL teams hire psychologists to care for players and deliver mental skills training. The NFL and NFLPA (National Football League Players’ Association) have standardized the care that each NFL team receives by “creating a culture of prevention across the league.” Now, each NFL team has a licensed behavioral health clinician, and about 75% have psychologists who spend 8 to 12 hours a week at the team’s facility. Some are even now saying that it is essential for these mental health providers to obtain “specialized training in sports psychology.”
Severin also shares that the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) defines “sport and exercise” psychology as “extending theory and research into the field to educate coaches, athletes, parents, exercisers, fitness professionals, and athletic trainers about the psychological aspects of their sport or activity. A primary goal of professionals in applied sport and exercise psychology is to facilitate optimal evolvement performance and enjoyment in sport and exercise.” Severin then describes the origin of sports psychology.
He closes by stating that sports performance psychology, in some ways, is like executive coaching in that it is “designed to help people learn how to become the best they are capable of becoming in their performance endeavors” and that performance psychologists help “people reach their potential rather than” focus on improving mental health issues.
Neuro skills and all-star athletes
Nathan shares that he has been working in the neuro field for the majority of his career. Before starting Neuro Skills Coach, Nathan created individualized programs and classes for those with neurological disabilities. While doing this, he heard that Steph Curry was undergoing neuro skills development to better his professional basketball career. Soon, Tom Brady and Michael Jordan also announced that they were working on their neuro skills to further develop their athletic ability. Nathan saw the connection between the skills he was helping others develop and the benefit that it can provide sports professionals and started his business, Neuro Skills Coach. Today, he helps professional athletes, actors, and business leaders develop their neuro skills. When working with athletes specifically, Nathan helps his clients build up their “processing speed.”
Another neuro skill that Nathan helps his clients develop is “pattern recognition.” This neuro skill is important not only in sports but in business as well. Nathan describes pattern recognition as “being able to pick out…what’s going on and what no one else is seeing, and getting there before everyone else…” Pattern recognition involves being innovative and can be a “huge win for executives,” business leaders, and sports professionals.
Transitioning from occupational therapy to coaching
Nathan’s official transition from occupational therapy to Neuro Skills Coaching was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Nathan managed a full-time occupational therapy job while also helping high school athletes build their neuro skills. His side-hustle continued to grow from clients in high school to all-star athletes. Nathan shares that his business “spread like wildfire because it was working.” When the COVID-19 pandemic came, Nathan’s work with adults who have neurological disorders was put on hold. From this, Nathan turned to his Neuro Skills Coaching full-time.
Getting into the state of “flow”
Nathan explains that his neuro skills coaching “goes hand-in-hand” with other pitching, hitting, and mechanical coaching. By helping his clients develop their neuro skills, he is helping his clients “be a sponge” and “get in that flow state and how to be explosive.” Nathan shares that while a mental skills coach would instruct a golf player on what to think about and visualize while playing golf, he would instead teach them about recognizing patterns on the golf course and how to get into the state of flow, so they don’t get “caught up in their mind.”
Severin comments on the importance of discipline in the lives of those who are leaders and asks if there are any neuro skills that could be considered “discipline.” Nathan shares that in his coaching, he helps his clients form habits and “form those pathways” neurologically. He will also share with his clients the difference between motivation and follow-through. Although his clients are highly motivated, Nathan helps them take the next step by teaching consistency and how they can set themselves up for success.
Building “that Schwarzenegger bicep of a brain”
Nathan works with his clients on varying schedules based on their availability. A common practice for his clients is taking the weekends off so they can give their “brain a break.” He explains that doing neuro skills work is like “going to the gym for your brain… so that you can have that Schwarzenegger bicep of the brain.” In order to help his clients stay motivated while doing this work, he makes the exercises that he prescribes fun for each individual client. This helps the neuro skills drills have a greater impact and helps the client continue to practice them. He also encourages his clients by sharing with them what they are good at doing and reminding them of their progress.
Setting clients up for success
Sometimes, Nathan will work with a client for 30 minutes because of their busy schedule. In order to get the most out of these 30 minutes, Nathan recommends “a little cardio” because “it primes your brain” and gets the blood flowing. He shares that for business professionals, “the best time to do exercise… is in the morning” before the workday begins.
Failure as a stepping stone
Nathan shares that one of the “biggest failures of [his] life” is when he failed an internship for his occupational therapy degree. Because of this, he had to move to Florida where he met his wife and was able to put together an album for his music. Nathan views this failure as a stepping stone to his success and shares that “all this stuff… opened up in my life because of failure. So, I think, one thing I learned from this is… there’s a reason and when we fail at something, we learn to do other things better… it’s definitely made me not afraid to fail in the future.”
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