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Dr Victor Thompson at triathlon world championships

Here I am (on the right) at 2005 Triathlon Age-Group World Championships, in Hawaii

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2012 Psychology>

2012 Psychology: Olympic Sports Psychology comment and tips for Olympians and non-Olympians

 

The 2012 Olympics this summer in London will be great to watch, but how much better will it be for competitors? Well, that depends on how prepared they are and how they handle, what is for most athletes taking part, the most important 3 weeks to perform in their life. Some will achieve their goal(s) for their season or career and walk away satisfied. Many will have a mixed experience. And, unfortunately, for others, they will walk away disappointed, perhaps taking years to absorb the experience.

Here are some of my initial tips for an athlete's success at the Olympics:

  1. Arrive psychologically ready having developed your psychological skills
  2. Keep your goal(s) in mind for the event. Ensure these are realistic (SMART)
  3. Know your Olympic Game(s) plan - how you will manage your sports time during the competition and training times
  4. Know how you will manage your downtime - take it easy, relax, chill, put your mind on other things
  5. Be confident - recall all your preparation, training sessions, markers that you are ready for this, trust your preparation
  6. Manage pre-competition nerves
  7. Review each performance in a balanced way, so you can spot opportunities to tweak your plan while you are still at the Games (but be careful not to over meddle)
  8. Focus on you and what you need to do to perform well (don't get too distracted by other athletes or the 'circus')

My Olympic challenge

During the 100 day countdown to the Olympics openning ceremony, I plan to write a daily Sports Psychology tip, comment or quote here on my Sports Psychology Blog which will also be added to this page. You can be reminded of this by following my tweets on @DrVictorThompso or the blog.

My experience of competition

I've competed in triathlon races since 1996 and I am used to the demands that competition can bring. While I have not been to the Olympics, I have raced approximately 100 times. My bigger races have included age-group:

  • World Triathlon Championships: Cancun 2002, Honolulu 2005.
  • European Triathlon Championships: Athlone 2010, Pontevedra 2011

I am currently training for the 2012 World Champs in Auckland.

My blog entries:

Manage your emotions to excel, or risk ‘doing a John Terry’: lashing out at some inanimate object (or human).

When we think of managing our emotions when performing, we usually think of managing nerves, anxiety or stress. While this is important, these aren’t the only emotions to manage so that we perform well. Top athletes – or any athletes trying to perform at their best need to learn to manage frustration or they risk expressing their anger or aggression in unhelpful ways. Last night’s Champions League football match between Chelsea and Barcelona showed a ‘great’ example of this, when Chelsea’s John Terry kneed the lower back of Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez. Terry was observed, sent off and will now miss the Champions League final.

Lashing out can be tempting when feeling frustrated at your performance, competitors, officials or something about the situation. However, lashing out in most sporting contexts will almost certainly get you in trouble and give you more to deal with than the original frustrating experience.

The great athletes learn to manage their emotions and how these are expressed in their field of play.

London Marathon runners @ the VLM: Time for post-marathon review?

Reviewing your performance is important. This can be comprehensive and complex – but that is likely to put most athletes off from doing it, as it becomes too cumbersome and a pain. Instead as yourself these brief questions now that the dust has settled after your event:

  1. What went well that you’d want to do again or learn from? There will be plenty, so make sure you extract this.
  2. What didn’t go so well, that you’d want to change? There will be some negatives or learning points. Look at these dispassionately.
  3. Okay, so how will you modify your training and events in the future to repeat the good and address the not-so-good?

Review – learn – move on – improve

How will athletes react to the news that lifetime drug bans might be overturned by the BOA before the Olympics?

BBC website announces today: ‘Former Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards is happy the British Olympic Association's lifetime ban for drug cheats looks set to be overturned.’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/17818958

Without going into how we as spectators think or feel about this issue, I’m interested in the impact that this issue might have on other competitors – those competing in the sports that the previously banned athletes compete in.

Athlete A:  With a strong sense of right and wrong, Athlete A gets further fired-up and motivated to show the drug cheats that they are better, that they can win clean, expecting their performance to do the talking. This news of allowing, or potentially allowing, the banned athletes back in, is motivating, helping them prepare and perform.

Athlete B:  With a belief that the sports officials, system or the world lets them down, Athlete B becomes angry at the developments. They may either get fired-up and motivated in a positive way, or frustrated, becoming distracted with a negative impact on their preparation.

Athlete C:  With a negative outlook on life, Athlete C believes that things will always go wrong, no matter what they do. The news that the banned drug cheats are being allowed back in leads them to predict that these athletes will either be on drugs still or that they will carry advantages from their last drug cycle into the Games.

I’d back Athlete A to do the best at the Games.

 

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Dr Victor Thompson

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