The Olympic mindset

 In Coaches, Professional & Olympic Athletes
Chris Clemens, above, a U.S. Army veteran and Paralympic athlete, consoles a fellow competitor after running the 200-meter sprint at the Olympic Stadium in London Sept. 6, 2012, during the 2012 Paralympic Games. The Paralympics is a major international sporting event in which thousands of athletes, including wounded and injured U.S. Service members, participate in a variety of sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sean M. Worrell/Released)

Chris Clemens, above, a U.S. Army veteran and Paralympic athlete, consoles a fellow competitor after running the 200-meter sprint at the Olympic Stadium in London Sept. 6, 2012, during the 2012 Paralympic Games. The Paralympics is a major international sporting event in which thousands of athletes, including wounded and injured U.S. Service members, participate in a variety of sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sean M. Worrell/Released)

Olympic athletes struggle with mental performance. How do I know? I work with many of them. Just because they are Olympians does not mean they are immune to anxiety, fear, worries and doubts. As an Olympian if you don’t have a mental game plan, the good news is, it’s never too late for you to add one. The physical and mental go hand in hand. I’ll bet you’ve been doing OK physically up till this point without the mental, but my hunch is you could do better.

As an Olympian it’s even more important to have a mental game plan. You’ve gotten toward the top because you’ve worked hard but how do you ‘pull it out’ on the big day(s)? There are so many more factors involved in you being an Olympic athlete that you have to deal with besides just playing & competition: press, photo shoots, interviews, $, traveling, balance-finding time for your family/friends, etc. Your ability to deal with these things effects how you perform and how you perform effects everything else. Do you have a mental training plan for dealing with the array of challenges you are confronted with or do you just ignore them and hope it goes away?

Aside from that, you’ve made it to the OLYMPIC’S. Congratulations! You’ve put a lot of time into training. Rio is no big deal. But mentally there is a lot of pressure. How do you deal with that pressure? In my experience you feel really good if you win or really bad if you lose. And the definition of losing in today’s society is: if you haven’t won the gold (you’ve failed). If you don’t get the gold in the 100 free, what does that do to your 200 free? Your identity is significantly tied to winning or losing. Losing can lead to loss of self-esteem, confusion of identity, fear and an increase in training, which further increases lack of balance and burnout. What I am talking about are mental issues (that cannot be fixed with physical training) not physical issues.

You are the strongest of the strong. You are an Olympian but when I watch the Olympics I see your mental challenges: you are done a set and choke; you lose the 100 free, get angry and can’t come back during the 200 free; you are down by 4 points with 15 seconds to go and take a bad shot; with your competitor in site at mile 26 you collapse on the side of the road. I see athletes inability to be resilient enough to pull it out. It’s not a ‘weakness’ per say. You just haven’t had the opportunity to understand how to deal with it. Once you are aware it’s there, it’s time to do something about it. Don’t you want to get even stronger than you already are?

You may be saying to yourself, this is silly, I am an Olympian, why would I need to work with a shrink? That’s not the concept. The concept is you work with a coach who helps you peak physically. You work with a sports psychologist who helps you peak mentally. When the two are aligned, the results are amazing! 

If you have questions about whether or not having a mental plan is right for you, email me to set up a free 30 minute phone strategy session: drmichelle@drmichellecleere.com  

Dr. Michelle

Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org 

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search