Posts Tagged ‘sochi 2014’

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

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