Tag: Olympics

The Infinite Wait for Perfect Conditions

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

With the Paralympics just days away, there have been multiple stories regarding the living conditions in the Olympic village. News of trash fires and flooded rooms darkened the first impressions of Rio heading into the Olympics. Conditions were so bad that the USA Basketball teams are stayed on a luxury cruise ship. Obviously, conditions are less than ideal for these athletes. Should this affect their play?

Seldom is the case that conditions will be perfect for you during competition. For outdoor events, playing conditions are subject to the weather, with the wind, rain, and even snow becoming a factor. Away teams travel on cramped buses or sit for hours on a long plane ride, while the home team sleeps comfortably in their regular beds the night before. For every athletic event out there, there are just as many things that can go wrong. It is easy to get discouraged under difficult circumstances or blame a poor performance on the conditions. However, there is always something you can do about it. You can always control how you react to it.

John Wooden famously stated, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” You will never be able to control how your sport plays out, but you are always in control of your actions. If it’s pouring rain during your competition, a constructive way to respond is to accept the rain for what it is and determine how you can play your best even though you are soaking wet. While others are complaining about the wet conditions, you can focus on the game and what you need to do to win.

Another common distraction is when things go awry leading up to competition. Similar to the disturbing events leading up to Rio, things can go wrong before you get to the contest site. Your transportation may break down. Heavy traffic might delay your arrival. You, yourself, might be someone who typically misplaces your gear. These scenarios may increase your anxiety or distract you from you pre-performance routine. However, if you can accept the present conditions and make best with what you have, you can maintain a high level of play under difficult circumstances.

Perfect conditions rarely happen in athletics. You cannot control what happens around you. If you wait to act until the situations are perfect, then it is likely you will be waiting forever. However, if you accept the adversity that surrounds you and react accordingly, you will be much better off. Megan Kalmoe, a member of the US Olympic Rowing Team, understands this. In a recent blog post of hers, Megan eloquently stated that she “would row through [expletive] for you, America.” We all know the water conditions are poor, but how does dwelling on that help our athletes succeed? As Megan says, it does not help. The competitors who can focus on their performance, rather than let themselves be distracted by poor conditions, are the ones who will give themselves the best shot of winning medals in Rio.

What you choose to focus on is in your control. If you focus on the adverse conditions and wait until If you decide to focus on your behavior, instead of the adverse conditions that surround you, your chances of a better performance will increase.

 

 

When Dreams Don’t Come True

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

The Olympics is less than a month away. Athletes will travel from all over this earth to compete in the name of their country. Some, like Michael Phelps, are veterans at this point in their careers. Others, like Simone Biles, are making the trip for the first time. All of these athletes are using these last few weeks to fine tune the work they’ve done over the past four years. A trip to Rio is about to make all the sacrifices they made worth it, but they are not the only ones who made sacrifices.

There are many athletes, like volleyball player Cassidy Lichtman, who are not going to Rio. They will not compete on behalf of their country. Their sacrifices will not result in their dreams. As their fellow citizens are flooded with joy, they are dealing with sadness and loss. When we work as hard as these people do to reach our dreams, the realization that we won’t make it will undoubtedly result in heartbreak. Yet, as Cassidy talks about in her own words, not making the Olympics doesn’t change who these athletes are. The sacrifices they made may not have resulted in the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean such efforts were pointless. Olympic athletes understand that their pride isn’t based on whether they made the Olympics or not, but that they even tried in the first place.

These athletes all had a choice to make before they started their path to the Olympics. They all knew more people would be staying home than going to Rio. They chose to pursue their dreams in the face of uncertainty. Such courage tells us more about these people than the fact that they did not make the games. Yes, their dreams did not come true. Yes, they have to deal with heartbreak, maybe even the most they’ve ever had. But they are not “failures” nor will they remain heartbroken. They had the strength to pursue their dreams and that strength remains, regardless of the outcome.

When it comes to your own athletic endeavors, whether they be on the Olympic stage or something closer to home, take a page out of Cassidy’s book. Give everything you have. Train as hard and as smart as you possibly can. The sacrifices you make will never be worthless. The journey towards your dreams will be filled with challenges. The courage to face these challenges will give you strength. This strength will build as you continue along the journey. At the end of the journey, whether you reach your goals or not, this strength will remain. Just like Cassidy will move on and find another dream to pursue, so will you with the strength you’ve gained from your own journey.

Premier Sport Psychology can work with athletes to help them when they don’t reach their dreams. Maybe your dream was to play Varsity your freshman year, but now you’re on J.V. Premier will help you develop a plan to make the most out of your situation and create new goals going forward. Perhaps you’re at the end of your career and you gave everything for your dream. Premier will help you transition from one lifestyle to another, creating a new identity along the way. Whatever your dream was, Premier believes that you are not defined by whether you reach your dreams or not. Your decision to even pursue them in the first place does.

 

 

 

Interview with Megan Kalmoe: Two-Time United States Olympic Rower

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Megan Kalmoe competes at the elite level in rowing and does everything she can in order to prepare for her racing opportunities. Athletes like Megan have to ask themselves questions about how well they are fueling their bodies or if they are working harder than their competitors each and every day. But, once Megan Kalmoe is on the starting line, there are no more questions. During a recent interview, I asked Megan about getting in her zone during races. She said that it’s difficult to articulate because going fast is something that doesn’t require much thinking; it just happens. For her, what happens after the start is simple: she just goes. She trusts in her physiology and in all of the intense training that has allowed her lungs and body to function so efficiently during races. However, the preparation that enables her success amongst the best athletes in the world does not only require tremendous physical training. Megan Kalmoe also uses mental preparation in order to be entirely equipped on the starting line.

Megan uses her brain as a muscle and makes sure that she is mentally strong in order to coordinate her arms and legs during races. This combination contributes to her speed and dominance. Her brain is especially involved in her race preparation in different ways during visualization and imagery. When Megan is racing with one other person, her pair partner, they walk through the race out loud together and discuss their plan of action. They decide on which key words they will use (such as “commit”, or “together”) and they know that these specific cues will allow them to focus on the same thing. With this, they accomplish fluency and power together in order to pass competitors or get even further ahead. They also involve multiple senses while practicing imagery. Being able to actually see the course going by, and walking through the same race several times allows them to be mentally prepared and confident that their plan and focus cues will fuel them to success.

In the recent World Cup Championships, Megan Kalmoe raced in a larger boat – the eight – allowing her to experience a different type of visualization with more of her teammates. Her coxswain talked the eight rowers through the entire length of the race, simulating the intensity and feelings that the boat would experience on the water in France. Megan and her teammates trusted in each other’s ability to take the lead together, and ultimately prevailed during this race. Their race execution and victory over the other countries shows the strength of their physical fitness and psychological mindset. Kalmoe and her teammates raced in the pair event only a few hours before, where she also medaled. Her focus allowed her to be successful in both of these races because she was able to transition between the two events and stay in the present moment. She maintained concentration on the things that she was able to control and stayed motivated and confident; she gave everything she had in both of her races.

I am thankful that I had the chance to talk to Megan about these races and what it takes not only to be an Olympian, but a world-class rower. Megan Kalmoe’s incredible physical strength is admirable, and her confidence, motivation, and drive are techniques that I want to use in my own races at the collegiate level. Sport Psychology has been beneficial to me as an athlete by allowing me to strengthen the mental skills that are involved with techniques such as maintaining focus and visualization. Strengthening these mental skills is useful to Olympians like Megan Kalmoe, and can be used at any sport or performance level to give athletes a mental edge and competitive advantage.

Sara Scarbro, University of Minnesota Rower