07.30.2021

The Mental Aspect of Olympic Competition

American gymnast Suni Lee celebrated her gold medal in women’s gymnastics in Tokyo today. Lee’s teammate Simone Biles cheered her on from the sidelines after withdrawing from competition earlier this week to protect her mental health. Dr. Colleen Hacker is a mental skills coach for Olympic athletes and an authority on the psychology of peak performance.

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AND WITHOUT A QUESTION THE PHYSICAL EXCELLENCE IS INEXTRICABLY LINKED TO PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH.

WE DON'T COME AT PERFORMANCE AS COMPARTMENTALIZED HUMAN BEINGS.

WE DON'T PERFORM IN THE OLYMPIC GAMES WITH JUST OUR BODIES.

WE ARE INTEGRATED, IT IS OUR ENTIRE SELVES, AND I WILL SAY, QUITE FRANKLY, AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES OR ANY MAJOR COMPETITION, EVERYTHING IS A PERFORMANCE ISSUE.

EVERY ASPECT THAT AFFECTS OUR LIVES AS HUMAN BEINGS COMES WITH US TO THE PERFORMANCE DOMAIN.

SO TALK ABOUT THE ROLE THAT YOU PLAY, THE CRITICAL ROLE.

YOU HAVE WORKED WITH SOCCER TEAMS, ICE HOCKEY, AND U.S.

WOMEN'S SWIMMING AS WELL.

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THESE ATHLETES, AND HOW DO YOU COACH THEM ALONG WITH THEIR TRAINERS, THEIR PHYSICAL TRAINERS?

HOW DO YOU COACH THEM TO MAINTAIN THEIR MENTAL HEALTH?

RIGHT.

WELL, THERE IS ALWAYS A TEAM BEHIND THE TEAM.

THERE'S ALWAYS A TEAM BEHIND EACH INDIVIDUAL ATHLETE.

I'VE BEEN FORTUNATE TO SERVE ON SIX OLYMPIC GAMES COACHING STAFFS, AND AS YOU MENTIONED IN A VARIETY OF SPORTS, AND THEN WORKED WITH A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF INDIVIDUAL OLYMPIANS.

WHAT I BRING TO THE EQUATION, I'M A CERTIFIED MENTAL PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT, AND I'M LISTED IN THE UNITED STATES OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY REGISTRY AND MY FOCUS IS ON THE PERFORMANCE ENHANCING.

SO I WORK WITH ATHLETES AROUND ISSUES LIKE DEALING WITH THE PRESSURE, DEALING WITH THE DISTRACTIONS THAT ARE COMMON AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES, IMAGERY, FOR EXAMPLE.

WE KNOW FROM RESEARCH THAT 97% TO 98% OF OLYMPIC ATHLETES USE IMAGERY ON A CONSISTENT BASIS.

WE WORK ON THEIR SELF-TALK, ON THEIR BREATHING TECHNIQUES, MINDFULNESS.

AND SO A WHOLE HOST OF VARIABLES ALONG THE PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT.

ALONGSIDE, FOLKS LIKE ME, ARE CLINICAL SPORTS PSYCHOLOGISTS THAT WORK WITH ATHLETES.

SO THESE ARE THE THINGS, CLINICAL ANXIETY THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT NOW, TRAUMA, EATING DISORDERS, SUICIDE IDEATION, TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID, SUBSTANCE ABUSE.

SO THESE TWO GROUPS OF PROFESSIONALS WORK HAND IN HAND, THE PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT SIDE AND THE MENTAL HEALTH SIDE.

I'M ON ONE SIDE OF THE EQUATION, AND I'M FORTUNATE TO WORK WITH MANY OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD AT THEIR PARTICULAR CRAFT.

About This Episode EXPAND

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya; Alexey Kovalev; Colleen Hacker; Michelle Fiscus; Jason Martin

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