As the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games approach, the Mental Performance Consultants (MPCs) at CSIO are in full swing helping our Olympians and Paralympians prepare themselves for the Games to come. A lot of the work being done at this juncture revolves around helping athletes shrink their focus, and concentrate on putting in their best effort at the Games.
Somewhat paradoxically, one of the things MPCs spend a lot of time working on with athletes in the ramp up to the Games is figuring out how to make sure the Games themselves don’t throw athletes off. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are unique in so many ways. Media attention, pageantry, national pride, bigger than usual crowds, and the inevitable expectations – both internal and external – are all factors that need to be acknowledged, with an eye to strategizing ways to mitigate their impacts.
People are often shocked to hear of athletes skipping the Opening Ceremony. “Isn’t that the whole point of why the athletes are there?” some may ask, not realizing the amount of time and stress that these events often impart on the athletes. Even for those who forgo the Opening Ceremony due to the fact that their event is too close to the ceremonies and would physically wear them out, there are also those who skip the Opening Ceremony simply because they are incredibly stressful events. Often times athletes need to start marshalling several hours before the ceremonies, not to mention the amount of time needed to return to the Athlete Village afterwards, often turning attending the Opening Ceremony into a 12-14 hour day.
This is just one of the ways in which – on a broader scale - our MPCs work with athletes in the ramp up to the Games. To help them figure out how to strike a balance between immersing themselves in what is often a once in a lifetime experience, while at the same time understanding that the whole point of being there is to be a competitor, not a tourist. Understanding what they want their routine to be, when are the times to work, and where are the opportunities to play are all important things to discuss and decide before the Games arrive, so that all that is left is to put the plan in to action.
With regards to their sport performance, a lot of this discussion revolves around not just what athletes want to do and their specific goals for the Games, but more importantly, the process by which they plan to achieve those goals. What do they need to focus on? How are they going to structure their routines in a way that maximizes their chances of success? How can they take all of the work that they have done in the past, and draw the necessary confidence from that to know that they are ready to perform?
Being able to perform is one thing, but can they perform when their standard routine is interrupted by the various distractions that come along with participating at an Olympic or Paralympic Games? Are they used to walking up to the ski hill with a camera literally in their face until the moment they begin their run? Are they prepared to answer questions about their performance the second they step off the ice?
In the same way that NFL teams practice piping in crowd noise to prepare for away games at notoriously loud stadiums, the MPCs at CSIO often work hard with athletes to identify the unique stressors or distractions that may be present at the Games, and come up with ways to introduce those at practice, or at the very least, prepare for them in advance.
Practicing is a common theme, and including factors such as these can go a long way to helping athletes prepare themselves for the unique experience that is an Olympic or Paralympic Games.
About Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of excellence by providing world-class programs, services, and leadership to high performance athletes and coaches to enhance their ability to achieve international podium performances. CSIO offers athletes a range of sport science and sport medicine services including nutrition, physiology, biomechanics, strength & conditioning, mental performance, sport therapy and life services. CSIO also delivers programming and services to National and Provincial Sport Organizations and coaches to work towards building a stronger sport system in Ontario and Canada.
CSIO services approximately 700 high performance athletes and 250 coaches, at its main facility at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, its satellite location at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, and in daily training environments across Ontario. CSIO is part of a larger network of 4 institutes and 3 multi-sport centres across the country known as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee. CSIO is further supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Sport Canada, Own the Podium, and the Coaching Association of Canada, along with the National and Provincial Sport Organizations within the sector. www.csiontario.ca
Written By: Rolf Wagschal, Mental Performance Consultant and Game Plan Advisor, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Laura Albright, Manager, Communications & Events
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Tel: 416.596.1240 Ext. 238