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  • When we look at Olympic sport,

  • sport at the highest level,

  • there are clearly some athletes who always seem to get it right.

  • For example, Usain Bolt:

  • Olympic 100m, 200m champion, twice over,

  • in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the London Olympics.

  • Michael Phelps: the most bemedaled Olympian of all time.

  • These are athletes who clearly get it right,

  • both psychologically and physiologically all of the time.

  • It is also interesting to note that they have contrasting approaches.

  • Usain Bolt, with all his comedy antics,

  • prior to his event, when he is on the start line.

  • We've all seen this. (Laughter)

  • Michael Phelps, however, a much different approach.

  • He sits down, he is listening to music,

  • he has much more cerebral, contemplative approach

  • towards his event.

  • But it's both very effective.

  • Sport psychology may play a part in their preparation for their events,

  • and maybe a reason why they're successful.

  • What happens when things go wrong?

  • Here's another example.

  • In the 2012 Olympics in London in the soccer final,

  • there were two finalists, Brazil and Mexico.

  • Brazil were the undoubted favorites.

  • They were expected to win.

  • They were the reigning Olympic champions.

  • They were extremely skilled,

  • on paper, they were the best team.

  • Mexico had made it to the final playing well,

  • but they were unfancied.

  • In the final, Mexico went at Brazil

  • in an incredible display of attacking football.

  • It was incredibly impressive to watch.

  • And if you watched the Brazilian players,

  • their heads dropped.

  • They seemed slightly defeated.

  • They could not understand

  • why they were not performing quite as well as they were.

  • Perhaps they were complacent.

  • Perhaps they'd expected too much.

  • Perhaps they were overconfident.

  • The Mexicans had nothing to lose,

  • they attacked with fervor

  • and they won the Olympic title,

  • they were the Olympic champions over the fancy favorites.

  • Perhaps sport psychology can explain why fancied champions

  • may be over-confident

  • and may fail when they're expected to win,

  • and perhaps why underdogs take on the best

  • and win despite all the odds.

  • Take another example.

  • James Magnussen:

  • a man with seemingly unshakable self-confidence.

  • He said he was going to win the 100m-sprint final in the pool

  • at the London Olympics.

  • He was extremely confident.

  • But in that race,

  • he was out-touched in the line by Nathan Adrian,

  • by 1/100 of a second.

  • And that was devastating for him,

  • you could see his body language after, he was destroyed.

  • Perhaps he was over-confident.

  • Perhaps though, his obvious confidence

  • in the events leading up to the actual final.

  • Perhaps his confidence belied an undelying self low confidence.

  • Perhaps he was not very confident inside

  • when he should have been supremely confident of his abilities

  • because he was the world leader in the event.

  • So perhaps psychology may have played a part,

  • but in particular, it may help

  • when overcoming such a devastating defeat for the next event.

  • Another very good example: Roy McAvoy.

  • In the 2011 Augusta masters, he was expected to win,

  • he was amongst the favorites certainly,

  • and he's an extremely talented golfer.

  • In fact, he is the one player that all the people on the tour,

  • all the golfers on the tour, the PGA tour,

  • fear the most.

  • And yet on the day,

  • when he was leading, on the final day of the event

  • he was leading by four shots.

  • He'd played superbly on the previous three days.

  • He experienced a catastrophic drop in his performance.

  • He shot a round of 80,

  • and this is something that professional golfers

  • can do in their sleep, certainly very easily,

  • because they frequently shoot rounds of 70 or below

  • and that's a good shot.

  • So 80 was a catastrophic failure,

  • and he ended up tying for fifteenth place.

  • So you'd think that that sort of devastating performance

  • may have impacted on his mind.

  • However, only eight weeks later, he won the U.S open,

  • and there was no sign of the lack of confidence

  • and the fact that the pressure had got to him,

  • that was displayed when he was in Augusta.

  • So it seemed that he picked up the pieces.

  • And what is it that made him do so?

  • Sport psychology may indeed have the answers.

  • So, elite athletes, coaches,

  • and the people who surround athletes,

  • know very well the importance of sport psychology,

  • and they're beginning to embrace it.

  • Sport psychologists are often included

  • in the teams that surround athletes nowadays.

  • What is sport psychology?

  • Well, it is the science, study and practice

  • of mental preparation for sport.

  • It involves identifying the techniques and strategies

  • that athletes can take and use,

  • so they perform on their most optimum.

  • It also helps athletes deal with come back, with setbacks

  • and help them to come back from devastating defeats.

  • Such as those by James Magnussen or Roy McAvoy.

  • So we just begin to unpack some of these strategies

  • that sport psychologists talk about.

  • So looking inside of the mind of a winner,

  • what factors are linked to success in sport?

  • Well, clearly an athlete has to be motivated.

  • Often goals that athletes set, describe or...

  • will demonstrate how much effort

  • and how much will they have to win in their event.

  • But sometimes motivation is not enough.

  • An athlete has to be confident,

  • and confidence seems to be ubiquitous amongst high-performing performers.

  • There's a number of strategies that athletes can use

  • to boost their confidence.

  • Another important factor is knowledge of the sport.

  • So basically, knowing your sport inside out,

  • but also knowing the opposition.

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

  • One of the phrases coined by Clive Woodward,

  • who was the England coach

  • at the time they won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

  • One of the phrases he coined, was,

  • "Total rugby, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to performance."

  • He was very famous for developing dossiers on the opposition.

  • Knowing their strengths, knowing their weaknesses

  • and where he could attack them and how he could tactically win them.

  • And that's clearly important in sports these days.

  • So, using psychology to understand the opposition

  • as well as yourself.

  • Athletes are also very good at using routines,

  • getting themselves in the right frame of mind.

  • We'll look at that in a few moments time.

  • Athletes are also good at handling pressure.

  • If you look at Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,

  • they are cases in point.

  • And anxiety management is clearly an important aspect

  • of an athlete's arsenal of strategies

  • to get them in the right frame of mind

  • so that they can perform at their best.

  • So let's look at some of these strategies in detail.

  • Motivation is clearly very important, and how do you get athlete motivated?

  • The most important things are the goals that they set.

  • The goals that they set will determine how much drive,

  • how much effort,

  • how much will they have to perform well.

  • But often a goal of winning is not enough.

  • Sometimes, oh, most times,

  • it is important that an athlete has a number of sub-goals

  • which are related to their performance.

  • So things like personal bests,

  • that drive them both in training and in competition.

  • It's important that these goals conform to certain features.

  • And scientists, psychologists and practitioners

  • always refer to this SMART- acronym.

  • And that's because, having goals that are realistic,

  • relevant, specific, measurable and so forth,

  • are really important when it comes to getting an athlete motivated.

  • As I said earlier, motivation is not enough.

  • It is important that an athlete is confident,

  • and there are number of ways

  • you can boost an athlete's self-confidence.

  • Experience.

  • Reminding an athlete of their experience

  • is extremely important.

  • Modeling. I don't mean catwalk-modeling here,

  • modeling is also an important aspect,

  • because that enables an athlete to have a model

  • or blueprint if you like of the optimum performance.

  • Imagery and self-talk are parts of that and we'll get on to those in a moment.

  • Feedback is clearly important as well.

  • Positive feedback from the athlete's coaches.

  • Imagery is a mental rehearsal

  • and it is a strategy that many athletes use.

  • And here are the kinds of things that an athlete

  • or a coach will go through, when they're rehearsing their performance.

  • It is almost like a video of their performance.

  • They will also use prompts,

  • but they also visualize any contingency that arise.

  • For example, any barriers or problems or difficulties

  • that arise during the course of their competition.

  • Here's an example of these kinds of strategies in action.

  • This is Blanka Vlašić:

  • she was a former world champion, high jumper,

  • and YWF athlete of the year.

  • And she was very famous for going through the same performance routine

  • prior to a competition.

  • She would close her eyes, visualize a successful jump.

  • She would clap her hands rhythmically,

  • and use the audience to get the audience on board

  • and that would both boost her motivation and her confidence,

  • and then she would practice some moves shortly before executing her jump.

  • Self-talk is another strategy that athletes use.

  • It's an extremely important strategy

  • because it enables athletes to go through in their mind

  • and use mantras to try to boost their motivation,

  • but also to try to manage the competition and the situation.

  • For example,

  • the situation where the pressure is on and they are highly anxious.

  • So, self-talk might have motivational components,

  • but it also might help athletes focus on important things

  • that are relevant to performance,

  • so-called cues, and also might have a calming effect.

  • Things like breathe and relax.

  • Anxiety management is an important aspect of sport performance.

  • Clearly at the Olympic Game

  • the World Championships at the highest level,

  • athletes are going to be under pressure

  • and they need to be able to cope with that pressure.

  • Sometimes being too anxious

  • can actually undermine an athlete performance.

  • It can be sub-optimal.

  • So relaxation techniques are extremely important in this regard,

  • and psychologists will work with athletes to try and help them to relax.

  • So it might involve things like breathing,

  • stretching, relaxing the muscles,

  • they'll also use things like music and meditation.

  • Michael Phelps is a good example,

  • he listens to music right up to the few minutes before is an event,

  • and that music will get him to the right frame of mind

  • for that event.

  • It will help him to relax but it will also motivate him.

  • Here's a good example of somebody using those techniques

  • to the greatest extent.

  • This is Yelena Isinbayeva:

  • double Olympic champion at the pole vault,

  • and also the world record holder.

  • This is her in the 2012 Olympics, she's clearly very relaxed,

  • she lies back, she covers herself in a close,

  • this has the effect of shutting out any distractions

  • but also it has the effect of relaxing her and relieving the pressure.

  • So in term of the mind of a winner from a sport psychology perspective,

  • an athlete has to be motivated, confident in their abilities,

  • manage pressure extremely well,

  • and use these well trained-drilled techniques

  • like imagery, self-talk and relaxation.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)