Athlete’s Workshop in Kelowna

March 4, 2012

Denver Post Article on CoachBri

March 4, 2012


Avs’ Ryan O’Reilly finds success through creativity

POSTED:   02/15/2012 01:00:00 AM MST

By Adrian Dater
The Denver Post

Ryan O’Reilly, center, found consistent success after asking his father, Brian, for some life lessons. John Leyba, The Denver Post

When Ryan O’Reilly is performing his job as a hockey player, three tasks are foremost in his mind.

The first: Breathe, master the breath. Second: Think, master the thought. Third: Use the first two to master the “creative situation.”

If that sounds a little too touchy-feely, O’Reilly couldn’t care less. He is having too much success in this, his third NHL season, to doubt the mind-body methods his father, Brian — a “high performance” life coach — helped reinforce in him last summer.

O’Reilly, 21, is the Avalanche’s leading scorer (15 goals, 26 assists) and has been their best player this season. His performance has taken a quantum leap from his first two seasons, during which he had plenty of good moments but never found that consistent high level. Many in the game believe he will receive consideration for the Frank J. Selke Award honoring the best defensive forward.

O’Reilly credits his growth to last summer when he went to his father and asked, “What do I have to do to get a lot better?”

“I didn’t want to be known as just a defensive player, a third-line checking guy,” O’Reilly said. “I started to learn how to be more creative, to have that confidence in myself and to enjoy being creative with the puck and having the puck.”

To Brian O’Reilly, who works with people from all walks of life at his company, Human Potential Plus in Ontario, getting into the “creative zone” is contingent not just on the individual self. To really succeed, in any aspect of life and be truly happy, he said, a person must relate well to others.

“The No. 1 thing I believe in is relationships,” he said in a phone interview. “What I do is I create a group in the summer, and I show people how their relationships will determine their creative system. When you’re in the doghouse with your wife, your life becomes full of misery.

“What happens is, you are at the effect of being away from the person you love the most. What I do

is, I go in and I teach them that self-evaluation is one of the only tools we have that creates a level of effectiveness to be able to get into our creative system. What so many people who are miserable do is, they go and evaluate other people and make it worse.”

In other words, they pass the buck for failure.

The key, he said, is working harder with teammates, or your boss, or your spouse, to understand what you can do to make things better. In pro sports, Brian O’Reilly is frustrated by what he sees as too much of a finger-pointing culture in which players operate out of fear and coaches and general managers fail to create a culture of accountability so that growth can occur.

“It takes a very serious coach or GM to realize the environment is everything,” said Brian O’Reilly, 47. “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do what we do. When they see you have their best interests in mind, they will give what you want. You can’t buy their creativity and their passion. Coaches are shooting themselves in the foot all the time because there is less accountability in an adversarial relationship, because everyone is passing the buck.”

When player’s or other person’s needs are met — through caring teammates, friends, family — only then can he get into his true “creative zone” and prosper, he said.

Brian O’Reilly never wanted to be a pushy father, but when his son came asking for help last summer, his first command was: “Don’t give me what you’re good at. Find your weakness, and let’s exploit it. Then let’s make the mental and physical connections and be accountable for our weaknesses.”

Ryan said he learned how to calm down in the moment, especially when carrying the puck in traffic.

“Your breath becomes shallower. You’re more calm,” he said. “You learn that there’s a real knack for remaining calm. I think when I got the puck before, I would panic with it and make stupid mistakes.”

O’Reilly grew up with many foster kids at his house, as his parents worked in social care. Building relationships with others came easily to him as a result, and that explains why he is hugely popular with teammates and considered a likely captain someday.

“He’s still so young, but he’s way more mature than his years,” Avs center Paul Stastny said. “He’s just getting better and better, playing the way he wants to now.”

Brian O’Reilly said he watches most of his son’s games. An older son, Cal, plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brian remains reluctant to offer any life coaching help unless his sons ask.

“After a win is only when (Ryan) will call,” Brian said. “After a loss, he’s too mad. He’s hard on himself, but kind. I love that about my kids. They’re kind. I couldn’t care less about whether he plays hockey or not. When you hold them accountable with love, they realize what they do matters.”

Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or

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Boot Camp 2012

February 27, 2012



























Coaching (Motivation, Punishment and Rewards) – External Control and the Poisoning of Team Culture

October 17, 2011

I often receive calls from coaches who, after being exposed to a workshop I have given or coaching with me, come to a point where they are pulling their hair out trying to either motivate some athlete or they can’t understand how players can be so individualistic and self-centered and choose not to play as a team.  What we don’t understand as coaches is how deeply we and the players are entrenched in the world’s psychology of external control. This psychology is the psychology of having power over other people as a means to cover up one’s deep personal insecurity. All throughout history, having power over other people has put humankind in a perpetual state of conflict and war.  External psychology, the hub of human misery in coaching, damages the team culture by slowly or sometimes quickly eroding the relationships between coach and players or players and teammates.

In any successful endeavor that human beings tackle, the ease and effectiveness of learning and succeeding is based on how well the people doing this endeavor get along. Players learn how to play together in supportive, caring environments at a rate that is ten times greater than in environments where coaches play head games, power trips, punish for poor performance, or reward for good performance.  This sounds strange in any culture to people who are external psychology people. They are lost when you tell them that honesty is the best policy, something they have known and have heard instinctively but is seldom practiced in their life. The exception would be for relationships in their lives that are very important to them where they tend to be more honest with themselves and the other person. Punishment is so ingrained into our psychology that whenever we don’t achieve what we want from ourselves or another person, we punish. If punishment were a method to correct behavior, our criminal institutions would be empty. But in fact most are full of repeat offenders.

Coaches have always asked me, without “bag skating” or doing “suicides” or other forms of punishment, how do you get a team to cooperate and play together?  When I ask them what they are doing now, they say the same thing they have been doing for years – bag skating (a horrible term for skating people to exhaustion), suicides (a horrible term for getting players to run till exhaustion), taking away their playing time (taking away the thing they love) – it makes no sense whatsoever.

Most GMs, except for a few, practice nothing but external control psychology on the coach because the common practice to achieve quality is misunderstood by most people trying to develop it. So coaches are often rewarded with bonuses for wins, which means that most people love the reward but hate the rewarder. Motivation is often very low for people you dislike. An external control coaching style often dangles carrots or gives incentives that destroy team culture because they often pit people against each other creating external pressure.  Most people feel this external pressure any time you feel that someone is trying to get you to care about something you don’t care about or see the value in. Then things become adversarial and one or both people practice the habits of external psychology.  These habits are always in the forefront of our minds because they are so well learned and we think they are part of our human nature. But they aren’t.

Below are descriptions of the habits in order to show you what I mean. Often when people get frustrated by other people they do one of the following external psychology habits. Remember these are well learned, not our nature.

1. Criticism. When you criticize another person you harm the relationship. This is the main habit that kills team culture.

2. Humiliation. Coaches often use this to center a person out and use them as an example. When teams use hazing as a means to build a team and you hear other athletes say that it does no harm and everyone goes through it, or “I made it through it!”, obviously they didn’t. If you asked them, “Well, why not haze in your family then, to increase your family bonding?”, Children’s Aid would take the children and they wouldn’t be allowed to parent. No loving parent that I know would willingly want his or her child to be humiliated.

3. Guilting. Coaches and parents often use this as a means to control the athlete or child and the damage it does it sets in motion the process of head games and the cycle of doubt, which destroys players’ and children’s confidence in themselves and others, which is one of the building blocks of trust.

4. Punishing or rewarding to control. This habit more the any other confuses the issue of how to get people to self-evaluate. Punishing allows and excuses the undesirable behavior because the person punished thinks, “Now that I have been punished, things are over and I don’t have to look any deeper at my behavior or take any responsibility for my attitude and effect on the team”. When the person gets a reward the same effect is created in a different way. It still becomes all about me and achieving my short-term goals and less about the how I achieve them. Therefore the person rewarded thinks “I can do a lot of damage and hurt the culture but I get the reward so I did what you asked so we are even, so go work on someone else”. Any time we focus on the outcome without deepening our understanding of the process, we move away from strengthening the culture.

5. Blaming. This external psychology habit is so pervasive in our culture we often don’t catch ourselves doing it. This is the habit shown when shit happens and players look at others or external things in the environment to excuse their poor behavioral performance. Coaches often use this habit in ways that blame player or bad calls by referees and don’t see how blaming anyone but himself or herself is acceptable. Blame is always about evaluating something you have no control over and therefore futile. Blame is an action that takes the pressure off in a way that harms the relationships and kills trust and collective responsibility. For a team to be a team, blame must be removed and when shit happens we all must see our part in it through self-evaluation. Blame is about evaluating others therefore killing the process of learning. Players that can learn a lot can perform better as a team than players who can’t learn.

6. Threatening. This is a habit that forces people to become defensive and instills fear. Fear is a quick motivator but a cultural cancer. It will only last a short time then the coach or GM places the player or coach’s job on the line and greater damage is done because when you attack a person’s livelihood you are messing with their means to survive and therefore strengthening fear.  Fear based environments create aggressiveness – not towards the other team but the players, coaches, and GMs that turn on each other.

I challenge any team at any level to learn internal psychology, teach it to your whole organization and within four years you will have not only a winning program but a team that is a contender for the cup on a regular basis.


Sport Testing Hockey Combine

June 21, 2011

hockey combine sm

My name is Brian O’Reilly. I am a high performance coach.  I have been working with athletes and teams all over the world and I am sick of the travel so I have dropped Europe and Australia and have been working closer to home, the U.Ss and of course Varna in Huron County. What I have been establishing over the last five years in the GTHL, OHL and in Varna is developing the total athlete program from the physical side to the mental toughness side (focus, behavior under pressure and practice and game prep as well as recovery from injuries, mastering emotional states, visualization and training character development, which helps athletes take the lesson they learn in a sport and transfer them over to life lessons).

I am now at the point of working with the Alliance in developing a high performance identification program which shall be introduced this season. I am holding the first hockey combine in Goderich during the first week of my Hockey Boot Camp, which is made up of players from A to AAA, NCAA, ECHL, RHL, AHL, and NHL players. I have worked as a National team coach for five years on the world tour and am a NCCP Level 3 coach. Over the past five years I have worked for the National Coaching Institute, under the direction of Andy Higgins, teaching internal psychology and motivation to Level 4 and 5 coaches. This On Ice  Hockey Combine is the first step in getting kids tested in the strict elements specific to hockey, and to start a database to see how we compare provincially as well as nationally. Please look at the image above and let your kids know about it. I will make all the results available to you.

If we don’t measure ourselves we are just guessing.!

Register here:

Hope to see you there! Bri

Hockey Boot Camp

April 5, 2011




At the Draft

September 29, 2009

It was a gentle rain that grew more intense in the strong breeze. It was like seeing the wind as it moved. It came in waves and would crash against the large stone house and cars in its driveway. The birds would all be very quiet and would start up again as the wind subsided. It all seemed like a symphony – the wind, the rain beating down on the metal cars, the birds chattering, and noise of water rushing off the roof into the large puddles that formed around the house. The trees seem to delight in the shower of rain that washed all the dust of the past days, allowing them to breathe fresh again. The bounty of the earth’s lessons speaks to us if we listen to her. But few are interested! Like the rain that washes away the dirt I wonder what will allow man to wash away his self-interest. It is our self-interest that seems to destroy everything.

There were lot of people; the energy of excitement was there. This energy of excitement comes when we as human beings identify our self with the things of thinking. It is not the energy of human beings connecting or people coming together for a noble cause. In the Bell Center there was a full gamut of energy. The energy was of people that were happy about their son being chosen and the energy of nerves and worry about not being chosen. It seemed for most of the young men it was a series of tense moments collapsing into themselves in a feeling of rejection and hurt. Then, when their names were called, elation and congratulations of hugs and kisses. As the day went on people grew impatient and small conflicts arose that soured the event. The crowd attached to their sport team often booed and cat-called other teams, making it almost impossible to hear what was being said over the PA system. We are so well trained to be competitive to allow people from the outside to judge us and we compare our self to another. It this self-centered process that reinforces the images we have of our self and the other. All comparison leads to disconnection and conflict. To compare human beings is to set self-centered criteria in place and fulfill it demands to meet ones own idea or ideal.

Coach bri

Taking the Side of the Marriage

August 22, 2009

It was a cool summer evening, the clouds and the rain had moved on. The earth was fresh and had the poignant smell of freshly spread manure. The true strength of the smell was held back by the stillness of the gentle and inconsistent breeze. The earth was full of moisture by the heavy rains of the past few days. One’s footsteps felt the sponginess of the soaked ground. The little wood cabin held many shades of grey and brown as the last light of the day grazed it. We sat in silence for some time, watching the sun set through the small window. The cabin seemed to take on its own serenity as the evening sky appeared.

It is very quiet here, she began.

Her husband answered: Yes, the wood holds the sound out.

Well how do you know that? she replied abruptly. I am talking about the inside, in here and like always, you have answer to everything.

Well I am just trying to make conversation! This guy hasn’t asked us one question yet!

Well why don’t you ask him one then? she replied abruptly.

For Christ sake, Kay do we even have to fight here?

You see Brian, if it is not his way then it is a fight! I can’t do anything or say anything because I am wrong or his fibromyalgia starts acting up.

Oh so now we are on that again! I’m sorry I have an illness. I can’t figure it out and I am not using it to control you! Well now you see what we do to each other? She is angry all the time and I’m tired of fighting. I have never won a fight with her, ever, in our 16 years of marriage. I have many emotional scars.

This is 18 years dear, just so you know!!!

Okay, 18. Sorry I lost a couple; maybe I wish it was 16! Two years less hell.

Well I’m not keeping you here. You can leave anytime.

You see what I mean! She is such a bitch!!! Why don’t you jump in here? We are paying you to help us and you just sit there!

I’m helping you! And you’re helping me!

How are you helping us? And how are we helping you? I don’t get it.

Well you have been here for about how long now?

I would say about a half hour.

Okay and how long have you been criticizing and venting about each other?

About 30 minutes.

Okay I agree with you! 30 minutes at 80 dollars per hour, so I have made 40 dollars so far. And how do you feel now?

Well I feel better! He probably feels better too but he won’t admit it.

I do feel better but this kind of feels a little messed up.

What does?

Well us paying you for something we can do anyway.

Yes, good, and how is that working for you?

I know it’s not working and that is why I, I mean we, are here.
And how are you helping us!

I will tell you! When you guys are arguing what are you waiting for me to do, or what is your intention?

I want to show you how controlling he is!

And you Tom?

Well I guess for you to see her supreme bitch mode!

Right, I guessed that, so you want me to take sides? Okay I’m going to do that now! I’m going to take the side of your marriage. And so far I think neither of you have done that in some time.

That’s for sure! I know I haven’t. I think Kay has.

Great, then I was wrong and I’m glad I’m wrong! I would like to know when Tom thinks I have because I would agree with you – I don’t feel I have in a long time.

You just have. I know you put up with me a lot my illness and all. I’m a pain in the ass!

What do feel about that Kay?

I think he is playing me and you!

Kay, I asked you how you felt and you gave me how you think. Could you please answer how you feel about it!

About what?

About him being a pain and you putting up with him!

I feel sad, okay? (Tears flooded her eyes, Tom reached for her and she pulled away.)

Okay thank you, you feel sad. Can I ask why?

Can I think now? Or do I have to feel?

Whichever. It is up to you!

Ever since Tom’s father died and his brother took over the business, Tom got sick, our best friend moved away. Tom hasn’t been the same.

Just Tom?

Okay I haven’t been happy either. Tom is just worried all the time and his brother, who got the company because he is older, doesn’t know what the hell he is doing and Tom won’t stick up for himself.

What do you say to that Tom?

He is my older brother, he is family but he doesn’t know what he is doing. My Dad gave the company to him and me but my brother is, well he just…..

An asshole! Christ Tom, just say it! He and his wife lost their company and they are going to lose this one if they keep going in the same direction.

We won’t lose it!

Tom, can I ask you a question? When did your life start to fall apart?

About 14 months ago when my brother made some bad decisions and I realized he real doesn’t get the business.

No it wasn’t Tom. I can remember you being in pain after you found out that your father had changed the will before he died. Tom, remember you came home from the hospital all upset the next day and you couldn’t get out of bed? For the next two weeks you had the flu and you were throwing up daily.

Yes I forgot all that!

Well, when did you get the diagnosis of fibromyalgia?

That was 14 months ago and that was me taking him to the doctor because he couldn’t walk and was in pain all over. Everything hurt!

Tom, what if this illness is self-induced?

I would be happy because living this way is hell!

Tom, have you had any relief in the 14 months?

About three weeks, strange enough.

What happened in those three weeks?

Well the first week I changed my diet completely. We were away for about ten days and I ate a lot of fruit. The other time is when my brother was away on vacation.

Who was in charge when he was away?

It was a joke. He called a meeting and put his assistant in charge.

What’s the joke?

The assistant was my dad’s assistant and she just came to me and we did business as usual.

Can I ask you something? And I really need you to be exact. When he called you into the meeting and told you the assistant was in charge, what did you do?

Nothing. I was fine with it I think.

Bullshit Tom. You called me and you had another attack and I had to come and get you. You were throwing up in the bathroom.

I guess I forgot all that!

Tom, do you want to know what I think?

I see what you’re getting at! You may be right! But why would my body do that to me?

Because you’re now happy and improving but when you don’t listen to your unhappiness it goes under ground and can affect your whole nervous system.

So you’re telling Tom what I have been telling him – to stand up for himself with his brother and grow some balls here!

No Kay, I am suggesting to Tom that he may be choosing this illness because he is having difficulty dealing with his brother, the death of his father, and his troubled marriage.

So I’m not crazy?

No, I’d say more disappointed and hurt!

I have been seeing this shrink and he is telling me that I have a chemical problem and he wants me to go on drugs for depression. He thinks I may be bipolar.

Tom, most of these shrinks have very little idea as to what they are doing. There are some good ones but they don’t buy into their own profession.

You know, when I think of my brother I get so angry!

So angry you make yourself sick?

I think you’re right! Pretty dumb!

No! I think you feel powerless and your relationship with him is hurt too.

We used to be really good friends!

I’m sure you were and that’s why it hurts even more!
Can you come and see me again next week!

I will for sure!

Well how about our marriage? I’m not putting up with this much longer!

Kay, how do you feel about this session today?

I think it was good for Tom! But we have to fix our marriage.

I agree. Will you give me some time Kay? I feel your hunches about Tom are correct. He’s got a good wife here and I don’t think he wants to lose her!

We’ll be back.

Thanks. See you next week.

But what happens if he has another attack!

Just support him through it and be positive. Trust me!
He might not even have one!

Okay, okay.

Thanks Kay.

Coach bri

There is No Recipe for Winning

February 8, 2009

The coach had assembled the team in the small warm room. It was a place they met often. Today, because it was 38 degrees outside, the room was especially hot. Soon the air conditioner was put on and it quickly offered some relief from the heat.

The athletes arrived and we all began to debrief. The athletes first described the match and their thoughts on technical things of the game. The atmosphere in the room held many emotions and all were hiding what they really felt. They were in a space where self-deception was going to divert from the problem and render people ineffective. The chat went on for some time and everyone avoided the heart of the matter. It is amazing how clever people can avoid the real questions and what really is going on within a group of people who have no regard for their potential and living up to it.

Often athletes who have some success are the hardest to work with because they think they can win or have the recipe for winning. The fact is that there is no recipe and every journey must begin each day new and fresh and the level of commitment to what you are doing must be in place.

We put so much attention on the technical things, facilities, tools etc to get away from the fact of team building and the competitive edge. It is not natural to be competitive. It is something that is put into us. It is a ruthless thing that easily can become twisted in the sense of power over other people and situations that can breed a heightened level of superiority. This level of superiority invites fear because it forms an image of the player based on success. Any time you identify yourself with your performance in anything, you invite fear and it cripples the love of the game and destroys it. These athletes were masters at building all kinds of “off ramps” with each other and scared to really reach their potential.

The thing we fear the most is the work we must do to be an effective team. Excellence is learning all the factors that prevent you from giving your best effort. Many people dream of winning Olympic gold but only a handful have the heart to do the training to achieve it. Fewer have the insight that winning is a quest for excellence, the dismantling of their brainwashing to end all fear. Where there is fear, all love is not. Love and excellence is our natural state.

Coach bri

Coach, I’m Not Scoring!

December 3, 2008

Coach, I had to call. I’m not scoring. I am so pissed, I had a chance in the shootout and I shot wide. If I would have scored we would have won the game.

Yes you’re right – you might have!

No, I was the last shooter, the one who could of done it. But I didn’t. I let the team down! I stink! I don’t know why I play this game!

I thought you did because you love it!

I did. I am not fucking loving it now!

Before the game, how many times did you rehearse shooting or practice a shootout that week?

Why? What the hell is that going to do for me?

When you were given the opportunity to take the shootout, what was your thinking doing?

What kinda question is that? My thinking doing?

Yes, were you thinking?

Another stupid question. What does that mean?

Sorry, but can you give me a bit of your time now or do you want to call me later?

I was shitting my pants!!! OK?! I was scared, it was a hard game and I needed to score – I blew it.

Yes I see! Fear. What is fear?

Fuck I hate this, I can’t think right now! You give me questions I just want…?



Yes! Ok. Sorry, I thought I’d mistaken you for someone who loves the game rather than someone who defines themselves by it.

Thanks! Thanks a lot! You can be such a prick!

Yes! Still afraid to look are you? You make it about me! Maybe I can take the shootout for you!

Ok I get your point. Sorry! Sorry!

So you were shitting your pants were you?

No but I felt like it, my stomach was gassy and nervous. My arm felt uptight.

What happened the more you focused on the outcome of scoring? The tighter your arms and stomach felt, right?

Yes, that’s exactly it!

How was your breathing?

Shallow and short. But I have been doing what you said – focusing on the process.

No, you’ve being talking yourself into talking about process, to get an outcome, which is focusing on the outcome pretending, you’re not.

You know, I think you’re right, as crazy as that sounds. But how do you know that coach?

You said your breath was short and you had fear! If you want to score in tough situations you must be all about process. Process is mastering your breath, mastering yourself and then the situation.

How do you know I didn’t master myself?

Because you said your were shitting your pants, you were putting yourself under pressure therefore … fear. Fear is always the future! Future is outcome.
Therefore you couldn’t…

Master the situation! I get it coach. I see it!!! Now what do I do?

Nothing! Seeing is doing! If you’re really seeing!

How will I know if I really see?

That’s easy! You must come to terms with your self-centered approach to sport! You are, in those moments, an egomaniac, all about you, not the team.

Thanks coach – just say it as it is!

Deep breath in through your nose, out through you mouth. Breathe deep into your belly and as you exhale release with a sound hawwwww. Then clear your mind, positive thoughts, only on process, on what you are doing, love the pressure, love the game and shoot. What happens once you release the puck is gone forever.

You miss because:
1. The goalie is more focused that you.
2. You are identified with the outcome of your shot. You have made it personal.
3. Your breath is shallow, your thoughts bring fear, your body is tight and movement is out of rhythm, you are feeling pressure, not challenge, therefore you are at the effect of your stinking thinking.

Yes that is me! You’re right coach!

No, I’m not right – you see the truth in what I am saying, that is all. What is the purpose of your feelings?

I remember this coach – to tell me something is wrong! Right?

Partly. Feelings tell us if what we are doing now is effective or ineffective.

Oh yeah!

How do you feel now?

Better! Thanks Coach bri!

You do a sport! Never let it define you, your performance is but a mirror to see your own ego get in the way. When ego is not there you find discipline. Discipline is doing what you have to do when you have to do it.

Thanks coach!

Coach bri