Today most athletes want to work on the mental strength and rarely it is a short-term commitment. Being aware of the desire to improve performance in sport and life, they are open to explore the possibilities drawn from synchronizing body and mind training.
Sometimes, the psychologist is invited to join a meeting with athletes just before the last game of the season, when it’s a ‘all or nothing’ game. A job like this could be compared to entering a burning building with a fire extinguisher in hand. Yes it ease the situation but temporarily. I personally believe that much better is fire prevention by systematic mind training.
A regular training of mind allows to address the cause and focus on strengthening the capacity by tailor made techniques and strategies. I’m happy to see that acknowledgement of the role of psychology in sport is increasing.
Preparations in the tropics
Beyond the mountains and forests, surrounded by National Park in Thailand on the island of Phuket is situated sports hotel Thanyapura. Featuring amazing sports complex which is used by tennis players, triathletes, swimmers, national teams and individual athletes. Worth to mention that Jenson Button, Formula 1 driver regularly trains his body and mind in the Thai tropics. It sounds like a fairy tale, and as usual, it binds together the incredible story …
Among the fabulous scenery comes to light courage, ambition and self-belief of people who in life did not have many chances. FINA Swimmers who were preparing for the Olympics in Rio 2016 worked with the Polish Psychologist, Beata Justkowiak (whose name is still a non-spoken cluster of a dozen letters 😉
#It’s not Team, it’s Family
25 people for a one year were intensively preparing for the Olympics in Rio in 2016. They lived, trained, collected points together. They all come from countries in which training at such a high level would not be possible. Thanks to their federations and FINA they participated in a training program lasting almost a year.
Away from home, away from family and friends. With a new coach, new 25 people had to create a team. You would not believe what they told me during our first mind training workshop – “It’s not Team, it’s Family”
Are they your friends? Maybe you know them personally. They are one of us, living here in Asia and doing their best to make dreams come true. Meet talented athletes who were performing in Rio Olympics 2016, Kimiko Raheem, from Sri Lanka, Eloi Imanirugaha, from Rwanda, Vinity Hemthon, from Cambodia, Shajan Aminath, from The Maldives, Sirish Gurung from Nepal, Sajan Prakash and Shivani Kataria, both from India, and Mohammad Rahman Sagor, from Bangladesh.
“After a year of training and after our FINA swimmers have broken national records more than 150 times, we finally get to see eight of them representing their countries and Thanyapura at the Rio Olympics. We couldn’t be any prouder unless, of course, which is what we hope, we get to break a few more national records and put one or two of them in semi-final which would be a great success of the history of South East Asia,” Miguel Lopez Alvarado noted, who together with David Escolar Ballesteros worked closely alongside the FINA team.
Without a doubt every coach and player knows that all Olympians are in their discipline of outstanding athletes, but on any given day, only one can be the winner. In the face of pressure they differ in ability to make good decisions and controlling emotions.
In the modern training of the world’s top athletes the staff of nutritionists, physiotherapists, doctors, trainers, psychologists, but also instructors of yoga and meditation are working together to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness.
Not infrequently these are weeks, months and years of working together to help the players in mastering the ability to control mental resources, taming of fear and work on the use of intense feelings, their motor skills and imagination. Targeting objectives, improving the control of attention and concentration, realising stress and emotions, managing internal dialogue as well as familiarizing with the mental aspect of the recovery process after injuries are the basic themes of my work with FINA swimmers. Every day, all year round they gave their best to fulfill the dream of representing their countries at the Olympics in Rio 2016.
I was recently asked if I work internationally and with different cultures. Today, looking at the last months and years full of working with people from countries such as the Maldives, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Rwanda, East Timor, Bangladesh, Syria and New Zealand, I answer without hesitation – ‘I work internationally proving that the mind training has no limits and boundaries’
What do swimmers taught a psychologist?
Young and determined players balanced perfectly ambition and reality. They showed what it means to be a professional athlete regardless of age, the bank account statements and the origins.
They strengthened my openness and admiration. Regularity and consistency with which they trained, despite all the stressors and setbacks was a prove of their mental power. I was amazed by their desire to know more and to generate better answers to the difficult questions. Recent months have been an amazing experience and I would like to thank them all for it by including their valuable words here in this article.
Meet great swimmers and Olympic athletes:
‘Never compare yourself with others. That is one thing that would bring you down for sure. Just trust yourself and decisions you make. Always be yourself and never change because of anyone.’
‘My advice for you is firstly, See whether this is the choice of sport you like. Secondary and this is the main advice, Set your goal and set it high but realistic. Third and final, Visualise your goal whenever you can and build up to it gradually taking downs as lessons, and ups as victorious celebrations. Remember to always celebrate your victories’
Cheran De Silva, Sri Lanka
‘When you are extremely tired and don’t want to get out of bed to train, think about your opponent who might be thinking the same abiut skipping a workout. Push yourself and don’t be the same as others. Be the one who doesn’t give up no matter what. Because all the hard work you put in every single day is what helps you reach your goals and when you don’t achieve your goal sometimes try not to have any regrets. Be sure that you have done the maximum possible.’
Sajina Aishath, Maldives
‘The first advice, believe in yourself no matter what. There will be things happening just to let you down, all you need to do is to be strong, focused and motivated.
Being focused and disciplined and also being attentive only helped me a lot to achieve from nowhere to somewhere at this heights now.’
Sajan Prakash, India
‘I have been swimming since I was 7 years old and my love for this sport is never ending. You can never stop learning from it no matter what all have I achieved from it.’
‘I believe being professional athlete in any sport requires passion and dedication. You have to either love the sport you do and the feelings it give you when you participate. Swimming can be sometimes boring and I find that having close teammates acting like family to continually support and push you to greater heights is invaluable. Find swimmers and teammates who not only accept who you are but want you to do your best.’
Kornkarnjana Sapianchai, Thailand
‘Swimming is not an easy sport. You have your good days and you have many bad. You have days where you feel exhausted and want to give up, but you have to stay at it, no matter what. Bad days will pass. Dedication is extremely important in swimming. Even if you want to give up, don’t. Surround yourself with people that push you and bring out the best in you. Swimmers are some of the toughest athletes in the world, and there’s a reason for it’
Kimiko Raheem, Sri Lanka
‘There are many ways to succeed, only you have to find which way if perfect for you. Victory must come one day.’
Mohammed Mahbizuro Rahman, Bangladesh
‚When you feel like you can’t swim any faster, I told you breath any longer, bike any harder, you must keep going, greatness is only mili seconds away, but you have to give 100%/ Maintain 100% for the entire race.’
‚There are days, months or maybe even years where you may feel like you are not good enough. You will doubt yourself, my advice for you – don’t. You are much more powerful than you think. Understand that, love every moment, the hard training, the good moments and the bad ones are persevere. You will be unstoppable.’
‘In 2008 when I saw the best swimmer in Maldives back then holding the flag at the opening ceremony of olympics games gave me goosebumps. I told my dad that I want to be there. What he said to me has been in my mind till today. He said “if you are willing to work hard and give your best you can be there soon” Back then I was just a beginner in swimming. But today, I have been to the olympic games in 2012 and now I am preparing myself to represent Maldives in Rio. Targeting Rio program was a very different program. It helped us build a family. A family that we will never forget. Training wise, we learnt so many new things; new techniques, new drills, how to push ourselves, how to compete while in training as if we are competing in a competition everyday. Our psychologist helped us a lot on how to keep ourselves motivated, release stress, how to prepare mentally for our competition. I have never got a help from a psychologist before so it was totally new for me but a great experience where I learnt more about myself and how to mentally prepare myself. I would like to tell everyone to follow what my dad said to me. Those words got me here today, I’m hoping it will help one of you as well’
Saju Shahid, Maladives
Act, do not give up because almost everything is possible,
and certainly much depends on you.
Develop the energy you want to live with.
Give your best.
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