How Athletes Train Their Minds for the Olympics 


During the ladies’s downhill race on Wednesday, Bode Miller, who has been an NBC shade commentator for the alpine ski occasions at this Olympics, provided some perception on the psychological toll of his former career.

“Everyone says that the pitcher’s mound is the loneliest place in sports. I would say the Olympic start gate is the loneliest place,” Miller mentioned. “You have hundreds of millions of people focused on you. There’s no one who can help you. You’re alone at that point. You’re fully exposed.”

Such is the psychological weight of competing within the Games that even stone-cold killers like Mikaela Shiffrin aren’t unaffected. The 22-year-old two-time gold medalist confessed to throwing up out of nervousness earlier than the primary run of her slalom race final Friday. Granted, with the exception maybe of Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, Shiffrin has had extra strain on her than every other athlete in Pyeongchang.

How does she deal? We requested a number of sports activities psychologists for his or her tips about performing in such a high-stress atmosphere.

Remember: The Past Is Dead and the Future Is Uncertain

“Pressure in itself often doesn’t exist within the second, if that is sensible. If you’re considering, ‘What if I crash? What if I don’t do nicely? What if I make a mistake?’—all these what-ifs deliver your thoughts into the long run, into hypothetical conditions that haven’t occurred but. Or, as was the case with Aksel Svindal who crashed in the downhill in Beaver Creek after which came back the next year, you will be like, ‘Oh, this is where I crashed.’ Then your thoughts is up to now. In each circumstances, the strain is coming from someplace that’s not right here within the second. I work with my athletes to be current, to take a deep breath and floor themselves and simplify their focus in order that they don’t discover themselves overanalyzing. They cue their physique in the simplest of how to do what they know find out how to do as a substitute of standing in their very own method.”

—Stephanie Zavilla, director of sports activities efficiency at Winter Park Competition Center

Curse at Self-Doubt

“Physiologically, our bodies like to respond to Olympic moments as if we are in danger. This is much like how your body responds when you watch a scary movie. You might calm yourself down by telling yourself, ‘It’s just a movie.’ Well, athletes also remind themselves that they aren’t in danger by altering their outlook about the pressure, focusing attention on the strengths they have implemented to achieve high-level performance and talking, or even cursing, at the self-doubt. The athletes who tend to run into performance problems are the ones who don’t hold themselves accountable to any sort of positive action, and instead go through the motions of a performance, with their body out there competing but their mind disconnected—as if they are watching themselves compete and hanging back to see what the result might be.”

Caroline Silby, sports activities psychologist for the U.S. Figure Skating Team on the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games

Accept What You Can’t Control

“Athletes generally get themselves into bother by considering they will’t be concerned or expertise that thought, no matter that thought is. They would possibly know the issues that they need to be saying to themselves, and but it’s not at all times that simple…When an athlete has simply had both a superb or a much less spectacular efficiency, it’s simple to get caught on what simply occurred. And but, after we are capable of categorize what simply occurred as an uncontrollable and focus on the duty at hand, which is rather more controllable, then it’s simpler to carry out.”

Tim Herzog, licensed scientific skilled counselor

Think Like a Samurai (But Remember You’re Not a Samurai)

“A really big transformation I try to help athletes make is to realize that the sport they’re playing is not who they are—it’s what they do. Sometimes that helps them deal with a very deep level of pressure, because they have this monumental fear of failure. But, to me, mental training is also about making peace with and even working through all of your ultimate fears. If you’re consciously trying to avoid failure, you’ve already lost, because you’re not going all in. So you have to make peace with the possibility of failure. Some of the concepts I talk to athletes about are like samurai training. Samurais were doing sports psychology and mental training way before this even existed. With the samurai, unlike an Olympian, their life was on the line. A samurai has a bad day and they’re not coming home. They had to make peace with their ultimate fear, which was losing their life. If they made peace with that, they could let their sword do what it was trained to do.”

Graham Betchart, co-founder of Play Present and co-creator of Lucid, a psychological coaching app

Enjoy the Experience

“I think the pressure to make the Olympic team can be just as significant, and in some cases more significant, than actually being at the Olympics themselves. There really is something special about saying, ‘I was an Olympian.’ Most kids who are training for the Olympics, their goal is to make the team. Their goal is not to win a medal. If you go back to the opening ceremonies and remember all those athletes who came in—most of them are just glad to be there. The media doesn’t want to tell that story because it’s not interesting in the moment. After you make the team, you could actually argue that, for a lot of kids, there’s a release. It’s like, ‘I did it, I made the team.’ Medaling, then, that’s all just gravy.”

Stan Beecham, sport psychology advisor and writer of Elite Minds

(Editor references)

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