top of page

The Three EBBs Of Sports Performance Within An Outdated Code Of Conduct

Written by: Denise Holland, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The ultimate glue for team cohesion is deep within the spiritual, beyond the conceptual mind.

boat racing team practicing

During my 30-year career in elite sports performance, I often sat back in order to get a sense of a team’s culture– those aspects that bind it together and make it an ultra-effective performance unit. The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team is one example that oozed this unique oneness: they presented themselves as a well-oiled machine made up of human beings who worked hard individually as well as harmoniously in total synchronicity. Each player took ownership of their job as a spoke in the wheel, significant and valued, yet no more important than the others. The spirit and soul at the heart of their Maori culture was woven into the fabric of their athletic journey. Love, compassion, respect and humility formed their ultimate team cohesion.

“Codes of conduct are great until players in the moment change their mind.” – Denise Holland

For years the sporting profession has adopted a code of conduct to hold each other accountable for behaviours. Establishing a code of conduct allows athletes and coaches to fall into goodwill for one another and to connect at a heart-to-heart level in sports performance. From this place of respect and understanding, they identify what’s expected and acceptable and what isn’t. Teams who explore a genuine sense of values critical to their journey also create a leak-proof lining for turbulent passage.

My first role leaping from county netball to England’s franchise and performance-level netball was as the Head Coach of the Brunel Hurricanes, then one of the nine England Netball Super Cup Franchises. It was while working with the Hurricanes that I began to fully appreciate the power and dynamics of teamwork. Together we established the team’s shared code of conduct from the outset including commitment, punctuality, attitudes and behaviours when things didn’t go as wanted. Respecting each player’s knowledge and experience ensured that everyone was heard with open and honest communication. We worked out how issues would be dealt with, especially when players fell short of the agreed upon conduct. The code provided a framework and a solid map to navigate; it became a constructive ‘agreement glue’ that demanded ownership from everyone operating within our elite training environment (ETE) and daily training environment (DTE).

The Brunel Hurricanes went on to win two bronze and one silver medal in their first three years. Searching for a gold, the team and I wondered what would take us over the line to victory. Therefore, we gathered once again with a slightly new squad for another authentic conversation about our agreed-upon code of conduct.

  • Great Britain’s Rowing Teams Chief Coach for Open Men, Jurgen Grobler OBE, who coached gold-medal crews from Great Britain in over seven Olympic games starting in 1992, set this value for team members: ‘Does it make the boat go faster?’

As the season got underway, the Brunel Hurricanes players and coaches felt a strong sense of security and professionalism within the group. We were dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a place in the semi-finals and finally a chance for the title. The atmosphere of excitement and dedication in the sports hall inspired the coaching team to leave no stone unturned; we created a perfect quality ‘performance clay’ that would shape our processes, lead us to greatness and lead us to a most precious team trophy. Yet, something happened to the Brunel Hurricanes at the gritty end of their fourth season; while the ultimate goal was within touching distance, something was off.

This was not our first rodeo. We expected the rush of adrenaline that comes with the excitement of a match that would decide our fate. Win, and we’d still be in; lose, and we go out! This wasn’t that. Elite athletes can generally shake off pre-match nerves and distractions as soon as the game starts. No, this felt different. Strangely the players were not gelling in training, and I helplessly watched a domino effect take place as one player’s body language showed signs of anxiety and frustration that then drew the rest of the team into concern. The coaching teams who were guided by our behavioural-based performance model did their best to restore team balance by assessing behaviours, reaching conclusions and offering support through interventions.

In spite of those efforts, in the final match of the rounds we felt beaten even before we left the dressing room. Our energy was low, and we needed a miracle to defeat the hungry opposition who was desperate to win a place in the semi-finals for the first time. That opposition duly sniffed out our discord, and not even sheer grit and determination could mask our dismantled team unity– a requirement of champions. For the first time in four years, the Brunel Hurricanes finished outside the top four with no chance to compete for the title.

Knowing what I know now about human design and athletic performance, my approach with the Brunel Hurricanes would be entirely different today. I’d ditch the outdated ‘Behavioural Performance Model’ for a revolutionary new ‘Consciousness Performance Model’ that identifies three critical aspects of human conditioning capable of corroding team cohesion like acid when not resolved. What such aspects would be capable of allowing structures to dissolve and rock-solid codes of conduct to dissipate within seconds? The critical three are known as the ‘EBBs’ of elite performance: Entitlement, Blame, and Belief.

Behavioural Performance Model (BPM)

Traditionally, sports adopt a Behavioural Performance Model, which focuses on assessing behaviours when underachievement or issues with player conduct occurs. Coaches reach conclusions about the reasons and causes for the behaviours, then interventions take various forms depending on those behaviours, as do outcomes. The problem with this outdated approach is that interventions happen after the fact, rather like dealing with the smoke instead of the fire:

  1. The behaviours, themselves, are actually not the problem.

  2. The actual causes of behaviours are not what one might first think; therefore, time is wasted fixing the wrong thing.

  3. The distraction of the conditioned mind thwarts the opportunity to truly understand a player’s innate creative potential.

Consciousness Performance Model (CPM)

Distinctly in the opposite direction, upstream of behaviours and responses, players have the potential to realise for themselves the source of problematic experiences. As those insights occur, consciousness levels rise and render obsolete previous patterns of thought that created the undesirable feelings and resulting behaviours. Innate wisdom also surfaces, providing more helpful thoughts from a clearer and quieter mind. This approach is what I call the Consciousness Performance Model.

As a National Coach I was always fascinated by the excellent practice of establishing a code of conduct early in the season. I appreciated shared values and collective agreement as a way to govern behaviours; yet, I was always curious when players unwittingly fell short. By examining the such instances in light of the critical three EBBs of performance flow– Entitlement, Blame and Belief, one can better understand how players and coaches can find themselves on opposing paths, depending on their adopted performance model. Let’s look at a few examples.

Entitlement (EBB)

Situation: A professional footballer, let's call him Carlos, fell out with his manager because he wasn’t being played as much as he felt he deserved, given his level of commitment, dedication and sacrifice of living away from home.

Behaviour Performance Model (BPM)

Assessment: The manager feels that Carlos wasn’t himself at training; his work rate was down, and he began to joke around, distracting the other players. His preparations were tardy and his time-keeping was poor.

Conclusion: The manager believes that Carlos doesn’t deserve to be in the starting line-up due to his poor attitude and lack of involvement, but he will be kept on the bench in the event of a player injury.

Intervention: When the manager has time he will speak to Carlos about his unacceptable and disruptive behaviours.

Consciousness Performance Model (CPM)

Reflection:The manager insightfully realises his own temporary, personal frustrations about Carlos' behaviours; in one thought as a result of this insight, the manager has a change of heart regarding Carlos’ low state of mind.

Sense: In his goodwill towards Carlos, the manager knows that he can help Carlos to see his experience of entitlement and insecurity for what it is: arbitrary, transitory and fluid.

Approach: The manager arranges to speak with Carlos the next day; they talk about their love of the game and their excitement about the team's potential. Carlos returns to balance and trains well, demonstrating that he is a reliable player, should the manager decide to play him.

Blame (EBB)

Situation: Liam, an academy youth footballer, physically collided with the referee following a referee’s decision. The referee insisted that Liam tripped him up purposefully and immediately called over the furious player who then bad-mouthed the official and displayed a one-handed insulting pejorative. Penalties were awarded to the opposition.

Behaviour Performance Model (BPM)

Assessment: The coaching team focuses on Liam’s inability to control himself when things don’t go the way that he wants and on his disrespect toward game officials.

Conclusion: The coaching team believes that Liam should be a better role model to other players. They conclude that Liam needs to learn to control his temper in such situations even when he feels that a decision is unjust and unfair.

Intervention: The coaching team sees to it that Liam gets a one-match ban and anger management support to help him understand that abusive behaviour toward officials is unacceptable in sports.

Consciousness Performance Model (CPM)

Reflection: From a quiet mind, the coaching team observes how Liam got caught up in unhelpful thinking when things didn’t go how he wanted.

Sense: The coaching team understands that Liam doesn’t realise that his experience comes from within him rather than from the referee’s decision. In one thought, Liam could have a change of heart for the referee and realise that the referee is doing his best. Liam could also realise that he holds the power to direct his own thinking and feeling, and from this clarity of mind more productive and wise thinking can arise for Liam.

Approach: The coaching team helps Liam to see how his experience works, how thoughts create feelings, and how nothing outside of himself does this. They also help Liam to see that no matter what an official’s decision is, Liam possesses wisdom, resilience and compassion as part of his design in being human.

Belief (EBB)

Situation: The CFX U14 Netball team lost a regional competition to a local rival in the county, KCNC, by two goals. The game had been within CFX’s grasp, but they didn’t take it, and KCNC won.

Behaviour Performance Model (BPM)

Assessment: The coaching team focuses on CFX behaviours like uncharacteristic passing mistakes, tightened bodies, not reading the spaces correctly, and off-timing.

Conclusion: The coaching team concludes that CFX lacks the necessary belief and confidence to close out matches, and as a result passing and attacking skills break down under pressure.

Intervention: The coaching team decides to instil belief by using mental techniques to help the players maintain concentration and focus when the scores are tight, and to improve ball management and decision-making with overload pressure to enhance their skills against solid opposition.

Consciousness Performance Model (CPM)

Reflection: The coaching team gets curious about what’s happened. They go upstream from behaviours and focus on the purely creative potential from which they played. From this clarity of mind the coaching team questions the extent to which the team played freely, accessing 100% of their skills and capabilities.

Sense: The coaching team recognizes that CFX players became caught up in a common misunderstanding about how the mind creates moment-to-moment experiences. This misconception caused CFX players to lose sight of their innate, creative and athletic genius and fail to act on openings that arose for them, which allowed KCNC to capitalise on mistakes.

Approach: The coaching team focuses on guiding CFX players inward toward their own spiritual nature where nothing is lacking or needs fixing. Realising that their skills are sound, they become free to play at their best. In this way, CFX can feel less pressured by an outcome, and the players can enjoy a natural freedom to explore what is possible via their body and mind connections. The coaching team teaches CFX players to be mindful of entertaining doubtful thought-clouds and to instead allow such thoughts to pass by and reveal the sun of resilience and creativity in their place. The coaching team converses with CFX players to demystify beliefs such as likely taking their thinking more seriously than KCNC did, which got in the way of playing with psychological freedom. Finally, the coaching team might also instruct CFX players to be mindful of their imaginations that can jump to assumptions (presumed thoughts) like believing that an opponent is stronger. Such thoughts, if entertained, can and will sabotage creative athletic expression and results.

We all play from the same divine source. The Consciousness Performance Model helps athletes to maximise performance through clarity of mind. All of my work is governed by the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, as uncovered by the late Sydney Banks, which you can learn more about here: Three Principles Papers—Published, Forthcoming, and Under Review in Peer-Reviewed Academic Journals (1988-2020)

In upcoming articles I will elaborate on the impact of sportspeople operating from higher levels of consciousness and the rabbit holes of outdated behaviour performance models. If this topic resonates with you and you’d like to learn more about this revolutionary new understanding of human consciousness in sports performance, feel free to use the e-mail link on my website, Play Freely™️ to connect with me. Get in touch, and we’ll arrange a time to speak.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube, or visit my website for more info!


Denise Holland, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Denise Holland is a leader in the spiritual nature of human psychology behind sports performance – the most undiscovered competitive advantage! She has competed at two World Championships and two Asian Championships in netball. Over fifty internationals and more than a hundred England Super-league matches have benefited from her services as a performance and national coach. Denise understands what it is to underachieve at a major competition and fail to maximise return on investment. She now dedicates her life to helping sportspeople playfreely™, highly aware, focused, and functioning optimally with 100% access to their skill capacity when it counts! Denise’s grounding in the spiritual nature of existence and human consciousness makes her highly specialised in leveraging state of mind. She works with sportspeople of all ages and levels local league to professional and national honours.



  • linkedin-brainz
  • facebook-brainz
  • instagram-04


bottom of page