Winning takes brains and braun

I have been mesmerized by the abundance of world class performances by American athletes at the Olympic Games in Rio during these last two weeks. I am particularly amazed at the focus shown by the gymnasts on the US team as they tumble, soar, and land incredible feats of strength and balance. We know how they built those biceps and quads, but do we understand how they developed those less visible muscles?

Those muscles of confidence, of belief, of mental strength that shout out “I am a champion!”

Just as athletes must adjust a little wobble on the balance beam or their follow through on a three hundred foot drive, athletes must also be willing to address those mental balance checks in order to achieve their athletic goals. A problem I address with my clients is overcoming the stigma of sports psychology.

We welcome an antibiotic for a sinus infection, right? And we feel immense relief from compression and a soothing ice pack on sore knees and ankles. Athletes are used to these remedies, but still maintain fear and misgivings when there is a need to analyze mental obstacles that impede their success.

My goal as a High Performance Coach is to put into place a plan that makes those mental muscles rock hard and impenetrable to fears and doubts that prevent athletes from maintaining emotional toughness and focus.

No one wants to admit weaknesses, especially athletes who are defined by their strength and their results. Nor do athletes want to be perceived as unable to perform in stressful, clutch situations. Just as building those physical muscles takes long hours in the gym, a well-planned personal strategy to overcome misconceptions and fears about sports psychology will reveal those well-defined mental muscles required for a stellar athletic performance.

Take a second to visualize these great athletes. Michael Jordan. Muhammed Ali. Billie Jean King. Joe Montana. Wayne Gretsky. Serena Williams.  And now Michael Phelps. And Simone Biles.

How would you describe their strength as athletes?

I bet you didn’t use words like fear or doubt. We know these names because they are athletes who chose to not limit themselves by the supposed stigma of asking for help to complete their entire athletic package –body and mind– healthy, strong, confident, and brimming with the desire to succeed.

They are defined by not only their physical goals, but also by their mental strength goals they set for themselves and they have the trophies and gold medals to prove it.

I’ll be sad to watch these Olympic Games come to a close. I’ll miss the swimmers, the gymnasts, the runners. But I’ll remain dazzled by the sheer strength and tenacity I see in these men and women, knowing I can have a role in helping outstanding athletes with their future success.

What have you heard about sport psychology?  Is it something you shy away from?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below!