Our History

Sporting Bodymind – SyCon – TransitionExpertise

Working with cross-domain expertise has characterised our work over the last 35 years and has enabled us to understand the challenges and opportunities facing elite performers, leaders, and teams. We draw upon the best knowledge, expertise and practice from all high performance domains and how it can be transferred and applied across a wide variety of fields.

The following history and timeline offers some insight into how we have worked and how we have continued to grow and evolve at the forefront of expert performance, leadership, and teamwork. For a fuller list of who we have worked with, see our client list.

1979-1983: Leading the Field in Applied Sports Psychology

Sporting Bodymind was founded in 1979 by Christopher Connolly and John Syer. Their experience of participation and coaching at international level, allied to their professional skills as psychologists, brought a new approach to sports training. Emphasising the inter-relatedness of mind and body, they redefined sport psychology as ‘mental training’ and pioneered the field of team development.

We begin working with elite athletes such as Tony Jacklin (Golf), Mark Blencarne (Olympic archery), Barbara Lynch (Olympic trap shooting), Alex Ferguson (football).

We start a five-year period of work at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club under the management of Keith Burkinshaw and Peter Shreeves. During this time Spurs win the FA Cup twice, the UEFA Cup and never finish lower than 4th in League.

We are invited to work with a number of national teams and associations including: British Amateur Gymnastics Association, Royal Yachting Association, British Horse Society, English Volleyball Association, Professional Golf Association, Netherlands Hockey Association, Netherlands Swimming Association, Lawn Tennis Association, and others.

1984: We Publish the First Book on Applied Sport Psychology

Sporting Body, Sporting Mind, (John Syer and Christopher Connolly, 1984, Cambridge University Press). It is adopted as a basic text for sports science degrees in the UK and the DDR. Translated into 8 different languages. ‘This book shows that modern sport psychology is not the sole province of scientists and computers’ Peter Ackroyd, The Times.

1985-1986: Our Work with British Cycling Starts and 2 More Books Published

First year of work with the British Cycling team and Chris Boardman (then 17 years old) and the team pursuit team. We travel with the team to all major events for the next 12 years.

Team Spirit (John Syer, 1986, Heinemann) is addressed primarily to the sports coach and also draws on examples from business and the theatre.

The Fitness Jungle by Christopher Connolly and Hetty Einzig (1986, Century Hutchinson). This book provides the first comprehensive comparative examination of the complete range of approaches to physical training and development from martial arts to dance to sport.

1987-1991: Our Organisational Work Begins

The widespread interest in the work of Sporting Bodymind with elite athletes and teams produces an unexpected result: business managers want us to transfer our winning approach to sports training into the corporate environment. Sporting Bodymind begins to work with a wide range of national and multi-national organisations, in both public and private sectors.

Scandinavian Airline Services, our first business client, invites us to help develop their long-haul flight crews into cohesive teams. The programme includes early interactive video techniques.

Bank of America, our second business contract, asks us to design and conduct team building programme.

Head of Training and Development at Ford Europe, invites us to help redesign Ford’s existing global Team Oriented Problem Solving programme. Our job is to integrate team development ‘people skills’ with the technical and engineering input. This initiates a radical change in their approach to teaching technical skills.

BP Oil invites us to work with all the major product teams at the Sunbury Research Facility. We help strengthen shared identity and purpose in teams with famously intelligent and independent membership, bolstering knowledge exchange between teams.

Business Matters (BBC) shows how our interventions for Culture Change and Team Development within a large corporation parallels our work with the British cycling team pursuit team.

Team Building: a Team Leaders Guide (Christopher Connolly and John Syer, 1989, Ford Motor Company) distils ten years of work into a manual to support Ford’s fast track leadership programme.

Think to Win (1991, Simon & Schuster) translates our individual work with elite athletes and corporate executives into a pragmatic, applied approach to personal development.

We collaborate in the development of Ford Motor Company’s Engineering Quality Improvement Programme: a three year integrated skills programme incorporating all major technical and people skills. It is acclaimed as a major innovative approach to engineering development.

1992-1996: Olympics, Successful Organisational Cultures, Work Across Domains

At the Barcelona Olympics, Chris Boardman wins individual pursuit cycling Gold Medal and the team pursuit team rise from 15th to 4th, John Syer working as their sport psychologist.

Validated research carried out on our work at Nottingham University on the integrated use of people skills in combination with technical skills shows marked improvement in overall performance across a range of measures.

We lead team mental training sessions for Netherlands Men’s Volleyball team which subsequently wins Olympic Gold.

Start of five year association, team development and individual mental training at Essex County Cricket Club. Coach Keith Fletcher, players include Paul Pritchard (capt.), Nasser Hussain and Ronnie Irani.

Jaguar Motor Cars call us in to help build robust matrix Vehicle Programme Teams responsible for vehicle design. We continue to work with all of the Vehicle Teams over the next 8 years as they redesign existing models and expand from 2 to 4 vehicle lines.

Bill Belichick, Head Coach of The Cleveland Browns, USA NFL team, brings us over to work at all levels of the organisation – the Club Management Team, the coaching staff and the players. The Browns get through to the playoffs for the first time in years.

Dow Corning invites us to develop an integrated team development and change management planning programme for their European Communications and Strategic Change team. We work subsequently with the Human Resources department as they deploy the strategy throughout the organisation.

For Balfour Beatty/Amec, we design and deliver Project Partnership Training for cross-functional and cross-company work groups in the difficult Jubilee Line joint venture. As communication improves, they work more effectively and implement significant process improvements. (Jubilee Line still opens late!)

Our innovative EQUIP (quality) programme is the first Ford Europe programme to be transferred to world headquarters in the USA and is deployed to 20,000 engineers world-wide.

1997- 2000: Leadership, Musicianship, Olympics and Research

Leadership comes to the foreground in our work as we complete major research project on the implementation of Transformational Leadership in 20 financial institutions. The findings identify the major blocks to Transformational Leadership, how they can be overcome and the kinds of interventions required to spearhead cultural change. Simultaneously we begin to work with a number of music institutions on how they can support performance excellence. This leads to the publication of further research studies on performance enhancement amongst musicians. Again the value of cross-domain transfer of expertise is proven to be paramount in understanding the nature of expert performance. A busy time for us all!

Our team development programmes are used by the Metropolitan Police, Department of Technology, to enhance culture change and team performance as the Met moves towards a business practices approach. We continue to support the emergence, development and regeneration of their teams over the next four years.

How Teamwork Works (John Syer and Christopher Connolly,1996, Simon & Schuster). The most ambitious book yet. It details a systems, feedback and development cycle approach to team development.

At the Atlanta Olympics again with the British Cycling Team.

We begin work with the Jaguar’s X200 vehicle team and continue over the next 3 years leading to the launch of Jaguar’s third vehicle line, the new S type saloon in 1998. Jaguar’s production output doubles overnight.

We work with Daimler-Benz on team development project entitled ‘Team building with multiculturally diverse and geographically dispersed team members.’

We support GlaxoWellcome’s first 360 degree feedback and coaching process for their Senior Executives. Coaching in both England and US focuses on the implementation of leadership competencies for fast track managers.

We give a series of lectures at the Royal Academy of Music on mental training and musical performance.

Work with DART, (a MoD contract to refit the Devonport Shipyards), marks the start of our work with the civil engineering alliance of Brown & Root, Rolls Royce, Weir Group, and Babtie. We work with all major project teams, the Alliance Board and Executive Team over the next few years.

At The Environment Agency, we develop and deliver a behaviour based training – ‘Managing for a Better Environment’, – based on their competency framework and deployed in each of the eight Environment Agency regions.

We design and run the first accredited Humanistic Programme for Sports Psychology using a Gestalt Approach to team development.

We design a team launch programme for the Early Development Candidate Teams at Pfizer. Cohesive, matrix project teams are built from diverse disciplines to ‘fast-track’ high potential compounds. We also develop and deliver a competency based leadership skills programme for Pfizer. The programme includes a 360 degree instrument for feedback and coaching to support development.

We pioneer Transformational Leadership in the UK with the executive Leadership team at Brown & Root Energy Services. Pre and post-evaluation shows entire management team makes a significant increase in transformational behaviours. Training is cascaded through senior management.

We give lectures at the British Society for Performing Arts Medicine on stress reduction and mental training for musicians.

We help to kick off the Jaguar X 400 team as it drives to further reduce vehicle development time to 3 years and launch a 4th model line.

Design and delivery of a Transformational Leadership Programme for the Senior Executive Team of Family Assurance, including 360 degree feedback and coaching. This is cascaded to all managers throughout the organisation over the next two years.

We are invited by The Royal College of Music to take part in a 3 year Leverhulme Trust funded research project. The programme will demonstrate that mental training, neurofeedback and aerobic exercise enhances the performance of elite musicians.

The Environment Agency’s technical and information systems supplier, CIS, ask us to develop and deliver a Transformational Leadership programme. The successful programme is supported by an in-depth training programme of internal coaches to embed and support a transformational leadership culture in an IT context.

We deliver a controlled research study with Barclays Bank’s senior practice leaders and managers at integrating Transformational Leadership training, 360 feedback, coaching and best practice sessions. The outcome, independently measured by Birkbeck College, shows not only significant increase in transformational behaviours as a result of our training: it also shows that these managers make a significant positive impact on their corporate climate.

We support the BP e-Business team launch. This spearheads their work in pioneering the use of e-technology applications in the oil industry. Continuing our work with e-business and e-teams.

At Jaguar Cars we support regular planning and strategy meetings with Senior Product Development teams, over two years. During this time the Company grows from a 2 to 4 car line and quadruples its output.

Sporting Body Sporting Mind second edition published, 15 years after its first appearance.

At Jonkoping State Hospital, Sweden, we start an on-going team development and leadership programme for the Heads of Department.

We build an integrated cross-functional and multinational team for the Technology Executive Management Team at Kvaerner.


2000 Sporting Bodymind Becomes SyCon

Sporting Bodymind re-launches as SyCon. This reflects our development in the world of business over the previous two decades. Not only does our experience in elite sport continue to enhance business performance: our experience of business now informs and distinguishes our work with elite sport.

2001- 2007 Leadership. Team Performance and Culture

Post merger at BP/Amoco, Appreciative Inquiry is used with the Finance department to build a successful collaboration, and an integration of culture and best work practices.

Glenn Hoddle invites us to join him on his return to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in 2001.

Barclays Bank uses our EQi self report measure to assess Emotional Intelligence and enhance coaching.

107 insider ideas to make you a winner (John Syer and Christopher Connolly, 2001, Blackfriar Publications) is published as a guide to individual mental training.

We create a Transformational Leadership development programme for Friends Provident, using our 360 instrument to deliver feedback and coaching.

We design an internal Transformational Leadership Sponsorship training programme for Family Assurance, to embed sustainable behaviours and support within the organisation.

The Netherlands Men’s Field Hockey team hires us for an intensive two week mental training programme on penalty strokes. The team goes on to win Gold Medal at the Sydney Olympics, winning both the semi-final and final on penalty strokes.

We start the delivery of a combined Transformational Leadership and team development program for key executives at Yorkhill NHS Trust.

We designed and delivered a management development programme for a range of public sector staff within the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Hackney. This involved introducing a performance management system for all service heads, incorporating processes for objective and goal setting, feedback reviews, monitoring and evaluation, and appraisal.

We begin coaching Senior Executives at UBS Warburg.

Following Gordon Strachan’s move to Southampton Football Club, we are invited to work with them for the 3 consecutive seasons until his departure. Southampton Football Club reaches the FA Cup Final in 2003 for the second time in their history.

We design and deliver a transformational leadership, teamwork and culture change programme with O2 before, during and subsequent to its de-merger from BT. This included work with the new O2 Board developing them into an integrated high performance leadership team.

We design a Building Balance module for Tesco which integrates mental training, diet, exercise and lifestyle elements. It is delivered as part of their Stores Leadership Programme to over 800 in-store leaders UK-wide.

Design and deliver team development programme for Sport England.

We are invited to design and deliver programmes in Transformational Leadership, Personal Productivity and Project Team work for TRW Technical and Conekt.

We work with Hampshire County Cricket Club.

2008 Transition Expertise Research Begins

The increasing relevance of the transfer of knowledge across different expert domains, the changeability of the world economic context, and the growing irregularity and movement in people’s careers leads us to undertake a 4 year research project on Transition Expertise: What characterises elite performers who successfully make repeated transitions throughout their career. What are the attributes of an organisation that enables successful talent progression to meet the needs of a constantly changing business environment and increasingly complex senior executive career paths.


We work with AMEC on the building the leadership teams of their newly integrated Power and Process divisions, integrating them into a high performing leadership team.

We work with AstraZeneca on building trans-Atlantic virtual teams.

We design and deliver a Leadership Development programme for Surrey Police to help their officers transition to senior leadership positions.

We work with Skanska, Costain and the Highways Agency to build an integrated leadership team to deliver a major civil engineering project. The programme extends over the start-up and delivery phases of the project and helps resolve cultural differences and competing priorities in multi-company projects.

We work with the Medtronic operations leadership team to identify how they can work effectively across the Atlantic.

UBS IB invites us to work with their Operational Risk Leadership team to support the planning and development of their strategy. Our role is not to develop the risk strategy itself but rather to support the team as they face the global financial crises and complexity of corporate risk management and regulation.

Ford ask us to help develop an integrated SEED approach to identify and prevent failures in development and launch programmes.

We develop the Transition Expertise Profile which identifies the five key personality and cognitive attributes which characterise the ability of individuals to make repeated, successful transitions to senior leadership positions in their field. The profile is the first of its kind and provides insight into why people succeed or fail in their career transitions.

We work increasingly with Transitions: Project teams that must change from company to multi-company identity; leadership teams that must integrate from different divisions to manage a new division; individuals making transitions to leadership positions.

2013 We Launch Transition Expertise from Sycon - The Sporting Bodymind Group

The Research

What We Do

SyCon has given Ford powerful techniques which enable people to become more aware of the effect they have on others and so work together more effectively as teams. These skills are presented in a clear, straightforward, non-threatening manner and are of significant benefit to both the individual and the Company.
Dr. Ed HenshallQuality Co-ordinatorFord of Europe
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