With an increasing number of my clients coming from the extreme sport culture, I have been paying a lot more attention to the mental game and reality of life as an extreme sportsperson. And from countless hours watching and learning about these subculture sports – their endeavours taking them from the depths of the ocean to the harshest land conditions to the dizziest of heights – I have realised these fringe athletes really are no different from “other” elite athletes. In fact, despite being seen as more party dudes than seriously competitive professionals – there really isn’t any difference!
Having worked with bobsleigh and ice skaters over the years, and more recently for the Games, has given me unique insight into those who live their lives inside an ice-chest and strive for sporting equality alongside the more traditionally viewed sports.
With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in full swing I have been enjoying the introduction of some of these extreme sports into the Olympic family. As an ex-gymnast I am mesmerised, and technically intrigued, by aerial skiing (albeit my knees hurt just watching); the athleticism of the slope style; and the creativity of the half pipe.
As with any world event, it tends to magnify what we already know. There has been much media-driven controversy about the quality of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, predominantly focused on the local living conditions, social issues, politics of different disciplines and in some cases the dangerous performing conditions some athletes are finding themselves in.
Of course the physical and mental health and safety of the athletes should be paramount and the consistency of the equipment is vital when you are speaking in fractions of a second between first and third and where athletes are putting their bodies – and often lives – on the line for glory.
No one is contesting the need for stringent regulations for world class events to ensure an even and fair playing field. But from a performance consistency perspective, I feel these 2014 games have shone a light on the glaring areas that need to be more accessible for these outstanding winter wonders.
As a professional Mind Coach working on the mental framework of athletes, building a behavioural structure conducive to them producing a consistent performance, I have been bewildered by the number of consistent fails in consistency.
Top Ice skaters are succumbing to hoodoo pressures and fall on skills they really shouldn’t, speed skaters are making novice mistakes, aerial skiing and slope style athletes are not holding their nerves at that crucial time.
There is no doubt these are phenomenally talented and gifted athletes who do things us mere mortals could only visualise performing. However there is something at play that is hampering the rise and rise in extreme pursuits that could be addressed in order for it to burst through into the platform it needs to.
Is it as simple as accessibility? Or is it maybe they see themselves as “different” and not in need of more traditional athletes tools such as mental coaching? Having spent some serious time with the more traditional sports, there really is a culture where some of the performers clearly do see themselves as different and the thought of needing someone to help them balance their emotions and train the mental efficiency is seen as a weakness.
This saddens me as I, for one, love these out-there sports, the guts and glory athletes who do amazing things. I see them as just another discipline of professional sport, in need of the same physical and psychological advantages.
So come on you extreme sports athletes – don’t be shy. There is no shame in treating your mind the way you treat your body! Lets begin thinking big picture and gain the edge the smart way.