Denise Holland is a pioneer and leader in linking the spiritual nature of life with enhancing sports performance. For over 35 years, Denise has worked with thousands of athletes, having competed at two World Championships and two Asian Championships in netball. More than fifty internationals and over one hundred England Super-league matches have benefited from her services as a performance and national coach. Denise understands the experience of underachieving at a major competition and failing to maximize return on investment. She now dedicates her life to helping sportspeople Playfreely™, enabling them to be highly aware, focused, and functioning optimally with 100% access to their skill capacity when it truly matters! Her exciting upcoming sports-specific app, "PlayFreely™ in Sports – Get into My Zone and Perform with Freedom of Mind," is poised to transform sporting experiences and deliver exceptional results.
Denise Holland, Human Performance Consultant | Transformative Coach | Speaker
Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.
I am Denise Holland, also known as the Mind Lady, a nickname that brought a smile to my face when I heard it at a business networking meeting. I was born in Rochester, Kent, in the UK, and I am fortunate to live in this picturesque green county, just 200 meters away from my wonderful ex-husband and his lovely girlfriend. That has probably been one of the greatest gifts of my life; understanding the source of my psychology has allowed me to overcome personal setbacks with grace and to get over myself when things haven’t gone the way that I would have hoped. I am blessed with two beautiful children, Lydia and James, whom we adopted as babies from Hong Kong in the early nineties when the process was relatively straightforward due to British colonial ties. My appreciation for differences in cultures and attitudes has also been greatly shaped by my eight-year tenure as a young woman working and living in Asia, as well as my two years in Vancouver, Canada. Sports have always been my passion. As a child I excelled in running and enjoyed the thrill of competition. Fortunately, I followed my inspiration for gymnastics, which provided a strong foundation and prepared me well for success as a county and international netball athlete.
Can you tell us the inspiration behind creating your current transformative coaching business for sportspeople?
In 2013, after four and a half years of weekly travel from London to Glasgow in preparation for the Commonwealth Games of 2014, I made the decision to step down as the National Coach for Scotland Netball. It was a challenging period for me as I found myself thrust into the unknown and filled with uncertainty about my future. However, something extraordinary unfolded during that time. I stumbled upon a profound understanding of the human mind and experienced an epiphany that completely transformed my life. In a single moment of realization with just one thought, all of my anxieties and symptoms of burnout vanished, leaving me with a sense of peace, gratitude, and clarity. From that point forward, I knew deep within me that I wanted to share this revolutionary understanding of the human mind with people all around the world, for the rest of my life.
How is your work different from traditional sports psychology?
Over the course of 35 years, being deeply involved in elite sports performance, I diligently explored various methods to manage, manipulate, and control my thinking when under pressure. As both an athlete and a national coach, I utilized tools and techniques such as positive self-talk, affirmations, visualization, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and even Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Yet, I couldn't help but wonder why it often felt difficult to implement those strategies when they also tended to amplify the chatter in my mind. Moreover, deep down I knew that my peak performance occurred when my mind was completely clear– when I had absolutely nothing else on my mind.
The mind-management techniques of the past had their purpose, but in the present day we have access to superior technology that enables us to transcend unhelpful and unproductive thinking and to elevate levels of consciousness. We now have the ability to perceive the world through a renewed inner lens that connects us with our true nature where compassion, peace, creativity, resilience, and well-being flourish. Such a profound experience is attainable simply by gaining a deeper understanding of how our minds operate.
How do you stay up-to-date with your industry's latest technologies and developments?
For many years my work extended beyond sports to include the business realm, where I helped people to maximize occupational enjoyment, performance and results. However, my greatest passion lies in collaborating with talented, elite and professional athletes, coaches, managers, and officials, empowering them to PlayFreely™. This approach involves delving into what is possible through the seamless integration of body and mind, and through breaking free from the limitations imposed by the conceptual mind, judgment, need, and entitlement.
I engage with clients both individually and in groups, offering my services in person as well as through online platforms. I am currently in the process of developing a groundbreaking app called, "PlayFreely™ in Sports - Get into My Zone and Perform with Freedom of Mind." This innovative tool enables sportspeople to listen, reflect, nurture their curiosity, and learn independently in their own time. Although we cannot predict when transformative shifts or insights will occur, utilizing the app during moments of quiet contemplation significantly enhances the likelihood of experiencing such breakthroughs.
What and who is your work inspired by?
My inspiration stems from the late Sydney Banks (1931-2009), the author of The Missing Link: Reflections on Philosophy and Spirit, which was first published in 1998 and which unveiled The Three Principles of Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness and Universal Thought. These principles serve as a means to explain and describe the intricacies of our moment-to-moment life experience. Banks' work uncovers a profound simplicity beneath the complex workings of the human mind. Gaining insight into how our experiences operate and into psychology that does or doesn't serve us becomes a transformative game-changer. Such knowledge allows us to bring out the best of ourselves and to make the most of every precious, living moment. Once I awaken to the realization that I have the power to choose which thoughts I entertain, and to recognize that thoughts are not obligatory nor inevitable given the circumstances, my mind clears. In just one moment of profound understanding and with just one thought, everything takes on a different hue. Such insight carries far-reaching implications.
Tell us about your most significant career achievement so far.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure as a sports coach, assisting countless athletes in realizing their full potential and in finding lasting fulfillment in their journeys. Still, what I consider to be my most outstanding accomplishment thus far is guiding hundreds of individuals– both young and adult, from diverse backgrounds and roles in life, business, and sports– through remarkable transformations of their realities. I’m talking about life-changing transitions from lives steeped in limitation, blame, stress, and judgment to states of psychological freedom, peace, love, compassion, and resilience, where boundless possibilities reside.
If you could change one thing about the sports industry, what would it be and why?
Undoubtedly, my intention is to inspire the world of sports to transcend the confines of the physical and psychological realms and to leverage the spiritual nature of life. By harnessing this untapped performance variable, we can gain a profound understanding of our true essence and innate capabilities. Through exploration, sportspeople can uncover the depths of their authentic selves and comprehend how their minds create and shape their moment-to-moment experiences.
Imagine living with the realization that assigning blame to others for one’s own emotional states no longer holds any logic or power. Envision being able to swiftly recover from a defeat, processing it in a matter of seconds rather than in agonizing hours, days, or even weeks. Consider the immense amount of time that athletes and coaches would reclaim, no longer lost to disappointment and anxiety. The prevalence of mental health challenges among elite athletes who relentlessly push themselves due to performance insecurity remains a genuine concern in the competitive sports world.
The work that I engage in embodies a revolutionary psychological paradigm that is rooted in a profound spiritual understanding of our existence. The change that I wish to make is to provide a transformative solution that will revolutionize sports performance, elevate it to exhilarating levels of enjoyment, and firmly support the well-being of all who participate in athletics and the thrill of competition.