Posts Tagged ‘Olympic Winter Games’

Olympic Winter Games: Where Has All The Consistency Gone?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

 

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.

 

Image credits: reuters.com, mirror.co.uk, canada.com, theguardian.co.uk

Using Imagery for Olympic Games Success

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

 

Training for the Olympic Games involves developing both physical and mental skills such as imagery. Creating vivid images that stimulate senses of sight, sound, touch and taste is an important and powerful mental skill for athletes who experience challenges during training and competition.

Imagery can involve mental pictures or a film in action featuring an event or activity without performing physical movement. The activity takes place in one’s mind but with the full engagement of other senses.

How imagery works

In this type of simulation, the athlete visualises himself as performing a skill or participating in a competition such as the Olympics. Every movement and every detail of the mental image is experienced through all senses without any physical activity. Through constant practice, the mental image or film creates muscle memory in the nervous and muscular systems as if the athlete had actually exerted real physical effort. The memory created enables the athlete to execute the visualised activity during actual competitions and performances.

Athlete’s visualisation perspective

Internal: In this perspective, the athlete observes the image through his, or her, own eyes as if he, or she, actually performed the activity.
Tip: While practising imagery, you must feel the movements and use all other senses to obtain a complete experience in the present.

Benefits of imagery

Athletes who possess good visualisation skills can:

  • Improve athletic performance
  • Provide continuous practice of physical skills during periods when it is not possible for the athlete to train because of illness, fatigue, and other constraints
  • Boost self-confidence as a result of regular mental practice
  • Increase energy levels through visualisation of energetic activity and effortless performance
  • Induce calm and relaxation by visualising a peaceful and tranquil place when feeling stressed or nervous
  • Minimise sleep difficulty by visualising a place of relaxation.

Tips for using imagery in sports

  • Practise visualisation regularly. Repetition drives the image into your memory.
  • Relax before imagery.
  • Use all senses during imagery. Engage all your senses as you visualise an event, performance or occasion.
  • Turn to imagery for training and competition whenever it is not possible to physically train due to poor weather, injury and other problems commonly affecting Winter Olympics’ athletes.
  • Visualise yourself as a successful athlete who is in control of performance.

Imagery is best used as part of training and preparation for the Olympics. Not all athletes are able to utilise this visualisation technique properly and may need the professional guidance of a sports psychologist or mind coach. Beyond the Olympic Games, imagery can also be used in non-sports related situations such as a tool for relaxation and stress reduction, goal setting and achievement.

Winter Olympics Athletes to Utilise Sports Mental Training to Stay on Track

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

 

The winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia, this year, beginning on February 7 and ending on February 23.

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014As 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.

 

Role of a Mind Coach in Olympic Athletic Performance

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

 

Competing in the Olympics is a common goal of many athletes. Long and rigorous physical and mental training precede the competition, building excitement and anxiety as this massive 4-yearly event approaches.

It’s now accepted that it is not enough to train the body physically for the challenges of the competition. Various psychological skills are also developed for the athlete to cope with the tremendous pressure and unique environment surrounding the Olympic events.

The Australian Olympic athletes to the 2012 London Olympic Games know this well. Their strategy for winning involved training for physical ability and maintaining an athletic mindset with the help of a mind coach.

Why athletes need to develop mental skills for competition

Psychological factors that are present during competition contribute to the athlete’s performance. These include the athlete’s capacity to:

Track Medals

  • Focus during competition
  • Understand their own emotional responses to stressors
  • Identify moments when change is required
  • Identify skills to adapt under pressure
  • Adapt to the environment
  • Regulate cognitions, emotion and behaviour
  • Use competition skills to perform
  • Recover psychologically and maintain emotional well-being

Importance of psychological recovery

Win or lose, an athlete in a competition experiences a wide range of stressors and distractions that can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Sleep difficulties, illness, minor injuries, transport delays, performance anxiety and disruptions during training are just some of the challenges during competition. Without adequate recovery, an athlete may not be able to achieve or maintain peak performance in subsequent events.

An Olympic athlete must be able to maintain high confidence levels, competition focus and regulated emotions. Recovery to restore confidence, focus and emotions is therefore crucial. In this phase, the athlete needs the support of a sports mind coach who can guide him in taking important steps such as:

  • Dealing with thoughts about the competition performance in order to distance the athlete from the experience
  • Choosing and following recovery strategies which are designed to address responses to competition stressors
  • Orienting the athlete to the present

Psychological debriefing

Debriefing is part of recovery and many sports psychologists use this process to help the athlete understand, process and manage the competition experience. An athlete must be debriefed consistently after an event, whether they win or lose in competition.

This process promotes closure of an event in the mind of the athlete so that recovery can take place. Added benefits of mind coaching during recovery include stress reduction, relaxation, emotional management and better sleep.

Other Olympic mental preparation that a mind coach can provide include:

  • Individual consultation
  • Mental health assessment
  • Team consultation
  • Training and competition support