The winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia, this year, beginning on February 7 and ending on February 23.
As one can imagine, the participating athletes have been preparing for years, physically and mentally. Much of the world is watching the Olympics, and the athletes can no doubt already feel that pressure.
Even though Olympic athletes have been preparing for months, they can still experience self-doubt when it gets close to competition time. They can find themselves engaging in self-doubt minutes before an Olympic event or after an injury that occurred during training.
Athletes that compete in the Olympics consult sports psychologists, or mental coaches, to mentally prepare for the big games. A mental coach is much like an athletic coach, except the emphasis is on developing the mental toughness, self-confidence, and motivation required to succeed.
Strategies that help athletes in the Olympic Games
One athlete that competed in the 1998 winter Olympics stated that her mental strategy was to pretend that the Olympics were like any other day, and on the flip side, to treat every day like the Olympic games.
How is this possible if there isn’t a loud, cheering crowd or cameras following the athlete’s every move?
- When training, pretend there is a crowd watching what is going on. Imagine the cheers and yelling mentally.
- When practising a skill, imagine that how you perform the skill that very day is the difference between a bronze and a gold medal.
Australian athletes preparing for the summer and winter Olympics are provided a clinical psychologist. The athletes are taught relaxation and stress-management techniques, such as counselling, and sleeping and breathing techniques. Others listen to music and practice positive visualisations, such as remembering past successes. Athletes have even used hypnosis to obtain optimal visualisation results.
Katya Crema, an Australian skier, has stated that mental preparation for the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games is just as important as her physical preparation. Crema believes that the Olympics are a mental game as well, so it is essential that she believes in herself and that she is as good as the athletes against which she is competing.
Australian athletes will be working with sports psychologists at this year’s winter Olympics. Not only will they be learning stress management techniques, they will also be learning to focus on the process of the sport in which they are competing and not the outcome. Additionally, they will be utilising techniques that will help them adapt to change and be more flexible in unexpected circumstances, like having a roommate that has a completely different training schedule.