Leaders: Chris Henry is right on cue
Chris Henry isn’t an electrician but his success at ‘rewiring’ sporting stars to spark winning performances means today he is in high demand across the globe.
Chris, who coached both winner Mark Selby and runner-up Shaun Murphy at this year’s World Snooker Championship, says his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the gripping Crucible final, watched by an international TV audience of hundreds of millions of fans.
And it’s not just snooker players seeking his services. The 55-year-old, who is from Lancashire but based in Belgium, where he lives with his wife and family, is well-versed at sharing his techniques with business leaders.
Over the past two decades Chris has conducted coaching sessions for a range of international corporations and organisations including MasterCard Europe and the First Group in the United Arab Emirates.
They have tapped into his way of rewiring the sub-conscious to change levels of self-belief and increase confidence. Chris says: “It’s all about better performance, whether that’s in sport or in business.”
“Neural rewiring”, as Chris calls it, is central to his coaching method. He explains it is about training the brain to deal with situations in a “neutral and calm way”, casting off the response of ‘flight, fight or freeze’ in a pressure situation.
Operating from his “office”, the aptly named ‘Snooker Palace’ – a snooker hall in the centre of the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges - he currently has nine players on his books. In the past he has worked with legends such as Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry.
I look to prepare the brain to avoid that 'flight, fight or freeze' response we naturally have when in danger or under pressure
His impressive past client list also includes top golfers Lee Westwood, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Peter Uihlein.
Henry, who was born in Accrington, was on the pro snooker circuit as a player before turning his attention to coaching, which has taken him around the world. As a teenager he beat future multi-world champion Stephen Hendry in the British under-21 tournament.
He picked up his first cue as a nine-year-old playing in the same club where snooker greats Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Dennis Taylor practised. He can still remember watching them in action.
Legendary Blackpool-based snooker coach Frank Callan took him under his wing. However, despite playing success on the continent, it was coaching that really interested him, and specifically the role psychology and neuroscience could play in delivering success.
Chris travelled to America to learn more. He says: “I started to explore what happens in the brain that makes people feel anxious, what stops them performing.”
From that came the concept of neural rewiring, which has played a massive part in both Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy’s recent success.
Chris says: “Every senior player on the tour can play the same shots, make century breaks and play at a fantastically high level.
“What makes the difference is how they feel emotionally, the confidence and self-belief they have. It’s that certainty to know that they have the wherewithal to do what they are attempting to do. It is a huge area, not just in snooker but in any sport; football, tennis, golf, and of course in the world of business.”
Chris talks about creating “memory files” in the sub-conscious. He says: “Most techniques you hear about are about how to deal with something when it goes wrong. I’m more about stopping it from going wrong in the first place.
“When things do go wrong you are not in the right state of mind, you’re anxious and doubtful. I look to prepare the brain to avoid that ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response we naturally have when in danger or under pressure.”
Chris explains how he worked with Shaun Murphy to overcome the fear that was preventing him from achieving the maximum 147-break on television.
He continually put the player in the scenario he dreaded, until he had the ‘memory file’ to cope with the pressure. He went on to deliver three in the same season in front of the cameras.
The same scenario-creating techniques were used to ensure Ryder Cup rookie Rafa Cabrera-Bello was prepared for the unbelievable pressure of standing on the first tee after he made the European team.
As well as working with more businesses, Chris is keen to get back on the pro golf circuit as the coronavirus lockdown is eased. He also sees great potential for his techniques in the world of football.
He says: “It is a team sport, but that team is made up of individuals and the better they are mentally the stronger the team is going to be.
“Certainly, in dead ball situations the mental side is huge – again there is no place for self-doubt as you look to hit home from the penalty spot.”
As well as businesses, Chris is currently talking with a number of football clubs as well as receiving inquiries from top golf pros.
They are all eager to tap into the techniques used by the snooker supercoach to help propel Selby and Murphy to the Crucible showcase in May.
And looking back at snooker’s big World Championship final clash, he says: “It wasn’t easy emotionally, knowing one of them was going to lose such a massive game.”
He was also making history as the first coach to have both players in the final. He says: “I didn’t realise what a big thing it was until someone said to me ‘you’re going to be the answer in a pub quiz question from now on!"
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