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Psychological Strategies During Competition

Before we consider Bannister’s mental strategies during competition, let us return briefly to Rushall and detail the competitive behaviors that he found to be exhibited by successful, elite Canadian athletes (see Exercises 7.2).

Several quotes from Bannister’s blog indicate that he exhibited most of the behavioral characteristics identified by Rushall.

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1. Not saving himself for a good finishing effort. According to Rushall, this attribute indicates that in competition elite athletes prefer to stamp their authority on the event from the beginning. Clearly this is not always appropriate in track running, particularly for an athlete like Bannister whose major competitive attribute was his fast finish. Thus, Bannister’s major racing tactic was indeed to save himself for the finish, but when this approach was clearly inappropriate, as it threatened to be in his race with Landy in the 1954 Empire Games, Bannister was prepared to risk everything by running himself out.

2. The ability to concentrate on a strategy throughout the entire contest, to concentrate on technique when tired, and to handle the pressures in the final

1. Elite athletes do not save themselves in order to make a good finishing effort.

2. These athletes are not deterred by the punishing aspects of competition, and they have abilities to concentrate on strategy throughout each contest. When tired, these athletes try harder and concentrate on technique; they are able to handle pressure in the final stages of a close competition.

3. These athletes exert maximum efforts even if they know that they cannot improve their situations. When beaten, they still try to produce best-ever performances.

4. Elite athletes use information and experiences gained in a contest to modify strategies for the next competition.

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