Originally posted on May 16 2016
Updated January 4 2018
Paddy Doran Cycling Blog
2 hours with Sports Psychologist
I once spent two hours with a sports psychologist following a major international event where I was masseur for a team.
The visit was to try to understand the behaviour of a particular athlete. This athlete used to get really black moods, depressed and very angry if results didn’t go their way.
I had hoped that if we understood the reason for the behaviour we might have helped them cope better. Following the meeting I still didn’t really understand what was driving this athlete’s behaviour.
However in the next while I bought a book Successful Coaching by Rainier Martens. As I was reading a section on Motivation, success, winning and losing, I thought of the above athlete.
It explained how when an athlete looks on success as winning/ first over the line only, then there is a real danger of damage to their self-esteem. If they think if winning/ first over the line is the only success, then not winning must mean “I’m a loser”
The winners mind-set
No one wants to think that they are a loser. So this mentality usually produces an unhappy frustrated athlete. As a coach I have seen this quite a few times and it’s a difficult thing to correct. But it can be changed. Changing the mind-set doesn’t mean that an athlete will enjoy losing or become a loser.
In fact it’s usually the opposite. They become fearless competitors who understand that winning or losing is part of competition and they can then give 100% effort in competition. Quote “Success must be seen in terms of athletes exceeding their own goals rather than surpassing the performances of others” Successful Coaching
Related: How winners think
199 losers in the Tour De France?
Road cycling with 200 riders in a race means that if you follow the principle of only first across the line being success then there are 199 losers. So are their 199 losers in the Tour De France every year? I don’t think so!
There are other reasons why athletes might have difficulty with competition as well as the success equals first over the line mentality.
It may also be that they are trying to live up to some else’s actual or perceived expectations. This could be a parent or coach and athletes might struggle when they feel that they are not living up to the expectations.
An athlete’s whose self-esteem is threatened by how they view competition and results will often develop different strategies to avoid the threat Some of the things that they might do is
- Make excuses before and after competitions, even some seniors continue to do this. The classic for seniors is, I was on the beer last night! Wouldn’t you think they might at least have the courtesy to make the excuses after the event!
- Get very upset if results don’t go their way
- Perform very well during training and perform very badly during competitions
- Don’t give 100% effort in competition
- They might look for results by always looking for easier competitions
- Drop out of sport completely
Parents and coaches Could:
- Keep the focus on enjoyment of the sport.
- Focus on realistic personal goals and what’s under the athlete’s control. Improving personal times – skills -tactics – mental focus – lifestyle.
- Avoid constant comparisons with other athletes and their results. (can be very damaging)
- Encourage athletes to take responsibility for their own performance.
- Avoid the big post mortem immediately after the event.
- Do not punish or over reward good or bad results.
Sometimes it’s beyond the skills of a coach or parent to deal with the situation. In this case a qualified Sports Psychologist can best deal with it.
Definition of sport
From the Oxford dictionary Sport: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
Related: everyones a winner