Nam Baldwin is a coach unlike any other. That’s a huge statement to make from a publication that lives and breathes through working with unique trainers, specialized experts, and pioneers in the health and fitness industry. But it’s one that we’re happy to back ourselves on in this case.
He’s a self-described highly qualified emotional and stress management specialist, mentor and motivational life coach. His approach to stress management in sport has seen Baldwin work with World Champions including Mick Fanning, Steph Gilmore, Pat Rafter and other Olympic Gold Medalists. His client base is also most likely made up of future medalists thanks to his recent appointment by the Australian Surfing Olympic Team as their Elite Performance Specialist.
Thanks to RedBull, MH were afforded a rare behind the scenes insight into Baldwin’s unconventional training techniques with Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak and 3 x World Champion surfer Mick Fanning ahead of this years AFL season, and Fannings last outing as a professional surfer.
“There’s day’s I don’t even want to go to the club, or go kick a footy,” explains Boak on why he finds coming to train with Nam so appealing. Fanning echoes his sentiments, explaining how on some days he hates surfing, and finds training with Baldwin a necessary escape.
Watching Baldwin in action with his athletes, it’s clear that his priority in training is cognitive response, coaching elite athletes on the power of blocking out external stresses and focusing on the task at hand.
“We’re looking outside the box. You can train your body, you can train your skill, but you can train your mind. Why not train them all together,” says Baldwin.
His holistic approach to training has meant that he’s been able to assist clients and patients beyond the conventional medical fraternity, and achieve results other coaches only dream of. Baldwin’s method centres around changing the hard-wired fight or flight response, and developing a central state.
"I incorporate both deep discussion and challenging activities to discover unhelpful behaviours and the best process & practices to take performance to higher levels. This usually includes developing a clear ‘road map’ for dealing with stress or high pressure moments. Every high performer is at a different stage of their journey and every session is tailored from a mental, physical and emotional perspective to meet those needs," explains Baldwin in an Instagram post on his session with Boak and Fanning.
Essentially, Nam works with his athletes on transcending that place of physical pain, and staying calm under pressure. Controlling the controllables. Skills that are essential to World Champions and AFL Captains.
“For me it’s about development as a leader. Understanding situations in games and being calm in those situations. As being captain that’s where I want to lead the best and I guess training with Nam was an area I could work there,” says 29 year old Boak. “Things like breathing, where my attention is, how my emotions affect performance.”
By training athletes in cognitive measures, Nam is able to apply the sciences of both psychology and physiology to assist athletes in a range of sports, supplementing their sport specific programs perfectly and providing them with an elite competitive edge.
When reflecting on training with an AFL great, Fanning adds “seeing how different athletes move inspires you to move better”.
Baldwins drills are designed to stress his athletes, through the use of altitude rooms, intellectual quizzes while under physical exhaustion, and underwater training, increasing CO2 and lactate levels.
“What we choose to focus on is largely responsible for the outcomes we achieve. One of the very persuasive factors that dictates where your focus goes are the ‘voices’ that are talking in your head. Not only do they influence your thoughts and actions but also your emotional feelings and emotional stability,” explains Baldwin.
With a huge weekend ahead for both Fanning and Boak (Fanning surfs his final WSL event at Bells Beach and Boak’s Port Adelaide take on the Sydney Swans), they will no doubt be drawing on their mental strength, and will have one man to thank; Baldwin.