Relaxing and Focusing
A lot of people thought I was praying, but actually I was trying to get focused. Maybe that’s what prayer is.
Diver Greg Louganis
Sometimes athletes get pumped up enough naturally and do not need mind games or heavy metal music. Sometimes they have to come down to meet their optimal arousal level or their optimal mindset prior to competition. Again, it all depends on the type of athlete or the type of sport or the type of situation.
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In general though, sport psychologists tend to talk their client athletes into staying relaxed and focused. I have never worked with a great athlete, be it a world champion or an Olympic gold medalist, who never got nervous before a big match or event. They all do. The big difference between these champions and most of us is that they have learned how to stay cool and focused when the pressure is on, said Shane Murphy, PhD, former chief sport psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
They do not panic when they get nervous, and they use specific strategies to keep their nerves under control. Despite the stress they are under, they know how to achieve at a very high level. I call the skill they use keeping cool. Gold medals are not won by chance and Olympic athletes are fully prepared for the pressure they’ll encounter at the Olympics. In fact, many of them use their anxiety in a constructive way to push themselves to even greater heights.
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