Golden Boomerang promises return to success

John Novak, the mental performance coach at top-of-the-NRL-table Canterbury, has more than enough laurels to stuff a mattress.

His pioneering work in the field of mental strength and awareness has excited many people, and Bulldogs coach Des Hasler is among his most ardent supporters.

His title as head of mind management at Canterbury may conjure images of a Soviet-era laboratory where players delve into psychokinesis to bend spoons and start fires with a blink of their eyes.

However, the reality is his "lab" is the player's mind and the catalyst for them to develop into what Novak calls ''thy best self'' is his Boomerang Effect, a program whose simplicity defies the fact it took a quarter of a century to formulate.

As he spoke about the "limitlessness" of the human spirit, Novak jotted down what he called the equation to an athlete producing their A-game.

"It took 20-years for me to work out the equation which is this: the Golden Rule plus the Boomerang Effect plus Best Choice equals a standard operational procedure multiplied by 24/7," he said.

"That's it! That's the mathematical equation for optimising and maximising myself.

"The Golden Rule – positive words, actions and thoughts, NO exceptions – [plus] my Boomerang Rule – what you put out there comes back – [plus] my Best Choice – decisions that help or hinder me – becomes the standard operational procedure 24/7. To live it takes an openness so we're not fixed in our ways, a willingness so there's a desire and an amazing hunger.

"It takes a moment-to-moment, day-to-day consciousness, a mindfulness that the quality of these things is good enough to live what I know. It's so simple. A James Magnussen, for example, will take a piece away, personalise it and write it in his journal.

"The holy grail is the consistent application to the little things. To do everything an athlete needs to do technically, tactically, strategically, mentally is here [points to his brain]. The whole program is to tick off on quality – an 8.5 in every key area.''

It was widely reported at the time that this was the philosophy members of the Hasler-coached Sea Eagles embraced when they won the 2011 premiership crown and the program Canterbury employed under Hasler when they made the 2012 grand final.

Other athletes, including Olympians Magnussen and Melissa Wu, were among an impressive list of devotees while Aussie golfer Wendy Doolan was exposed to the Boomerang Effect before she shocked the golf world and beat Anika Sorenstam, regarded as the greatest female golfer of all time.

The Boomerang Effect, which Novak's wife Theresa, an occupational therapist, had contributed significantly to, is being trialled in the Catholic school system.

"The simplicity of the program is you're aspiring to something," Novak said. "The kids [in the pilot] were looking at it and they understood the golden rule: 'words, thoughts and actions are always positive, every day, no exceptions.'

"The principle is energy; it's what you put out there and that's why it is called boomerang. If we accept every moment is free will we can consciously decide whether my free will is to either say things that are unhelpful or things that hinder or help me.

"The questions athletes – be they footballers, divers, golfers or swimmers – must answer are: 'Are we going to be positive? Do we have choices? Do we scream at referees and officials or do we say 'it is what it is' and move on?' "

Novak said over time positive principles would kick in when an athlete was under stress.

"Those principles becomes the default. Everything you do before an event is the imprint for, say, the 21 seconds of James Magnussen's 50 metres and the 18,000 seconds in the golfer's day. That's the common thread – it is all about the quality of the intention of each moment.

"The aim is to understand that if I keep practising a certain way my default becomes something that helps me and not hinder me.

"As a martial artist for three decades and as someone who competed at an elite level, I've learned this is how the visualisation and the mind thinks and [the importance of] programming oneself to act a certain way. You train yourself to act a certain way and you develop a 'go-to' in adversity.

"My aim is to help people devise systems that are repeatable because coaches are looking for predictability in performance, a player who can deal with whatever happens on the field. Two examples I used when I spoke to some children recently was how Jack Nicklaus would ask himself, 'What is the best I can do from this moment?', and how Tiger Woods, when he came up to the ball two fairways over, thought, 'Wow, what an opportunity.'

"In the face of adversity they showed a toughness and saw [a challenge] as an opportunity."

This story Golden Boomerang promises return to success first appeared on WA Today.