When the going gets tough in sport

By Caroline Heaney, Open University
Originally Published: Wednesday 29th June 2011

Imagine you’re the favourite to win an important event, maybe even the Olympic Games. You’ve trained hard and are at the top of your game, but two weeks before the event you sustain a serious sports injury. How would you feel?

Injury can be difficult for any sports performer but for those competing at a high level, often on a full-time basis, the impact of injury can be significant, leading to anger, frustration and anxiety. In an interview with The Times, 2009 World heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis compared the injury she sustained prior to the 2008 Olympic Games to a bereavement: “I know it sounds dramatic, but to devote your life to something and then have it snatched away is a bit like suffering a bereavement. You’ve lost something that’s part of you.”… Click here to read on

The psychological Olympian

By Caroline Heaney, Open University
Originally Published: Thursday, 26 January 2012

Self-confidence has a very important part to play in successful sports performance. People who have a high level of self-confidence or self-belief in their ability to perform well in a particular task are much more likely to do so than people who have low levels of self-belief. But where does this confidence come from? According to the psychologist Albert Bandura our level of self-confidence in a particular situation is influenced by factors such as our previous experiences, role models, feedback from others and our interpretation of any feelings of nervousness. Therefore in sport if an athlete has performed well in training and competition in the lead up to an event, has seen role models similar to themselves perform well, has received encouragement from important people around them (such as a coach) and is able to cope with the pressure of an impending important event they are likely to have high levels of self-confidence and perform well… Click here to read on

Phys Ed: How to Overcome Fear on the Slopes

By Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times
Originally Published: February 3, 2010

Peter Olenick, a 25-year-old freestyle skier and gold medalist in the Big Air skiing competition at last weekend’s 2010 Winter X Games, vividly recalls the first time he tried the Whiskey Flip, his self-invented marquee trick, a twisty, somersaulting double flip executed 20 feet or so above the halfpipe’s lip. “It was terrifying,” he says. “I didn’t even know if it could be done. But I’d been doing it over and over in my head, so I figured I could make it go right.” Some deep breaths, some mental finger-crossing and “I just kind of hucked it,” he says, landing cleanly, exhilarated. A second attempt was even “scarier. Now my body knew what was happening. But I did it. Fear kind of keeps all of us going.”

Fear may be the signature emotion of the Winter Olympics, prickling the skin hairs and sharpening the senses of all those athletes moving fast over slick, unforgiving surfaces. “Everybody feels fear out there, and I mean everybody,” says Ross Hindman, the founder and program director of the International Snowboard Training Centers in Colorado and California, which specialize in training midlevel and elite snowboarders. Fear affects those of us too who recreationally strap on skis, snowboards, skates or, more rarely, a skin suit in advance of a bobsled run. “The issue is how you deal with fear,” Mr. Hindman says… Click here to read on

The 400: Aching to Win
Botswana’s Amantle Montsho Seeks Glory in Punishing Race

By Mary Pilon, The New York Times
Originally Published: July 7, 2012

EUGENE, Ore. — Eight women lined up near the staggered starting line to run the 400 meters, known as the “long sprint” in track circles, an event whose distance is too punishing for many sprinters and whose pace is too swift for many middle-distance runners.

They stretched and shook their limbs behind the starting blocks, the relaxing shimmy before the 50-second explosion. Among them: Sanya Richards-Ross of the United States, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist; Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica, a top talent from a country that produces world-class runners the way Stanford produces computer programmers; and Amantle Montsho, the reigning world champion… Click here to read on