Marathon Coaching NZ

Controlling the Controllables

I recently had the privilege of meeting Professor Gary Hermansson – Sports Psychologist for the NZ Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams since 1998 (that is 10 games). I attended a couple of presentations he conducted and spent a bit of time talking with him before and after his presentations. I learned a lot and will incorporate some of the strategies he discussed with specific athletes.

The majority of our training goes into preparing us physically for our sporting (or other) challenge. We train our fitness, endurance, strength, conditioning, skills and tactics, but what do we do around other areas of sports or performance enhancement?

What Gary calls Feelings or the Emotional Soup play a large role in determining the actions on the race course. If you are confident, calm, composed, optimistic, relaxed and have a level of excited anxiousness about you, you are likely to deliver a good performance. However if you are uncertain, tense, unsettled, pessimistic, anxious with dread and fearful you will likely perform poorly.

Ironman Coaching NZI have a client who will remain nameless, who hasn’t been performing well in either their training or in some of their events. They show all the signs of being uncertain, tense, irritable and emotional (lots of tears about minor things that shouldn’t unsettled them but have). They are fearful of failure.

They have qualified, i.e. they have been selected to attend a major event based on their performance but have expended immeasurable amounts of nervous and emotional energy of weeks deliberating the fact that they aren’t capable of performing at the event for x, y and z reasons. I hope this person reads this and recognises themselves and that they return to their positive old ways .

If you believe you won’t perform then guess what? You probably won’t perform and then you will justify the fact that you weren’t capable to start with.

If you have been selected or qualify for an event, don’t take on a negative mindset. Focus on the positive and ask yourself, “what is stopping me from doing this?” If it is your negative mindset that is stopping you, throw in the towel.

Tri Training NZYour thoughts control you.

If you conduct yourself with positive, self-believing and self-affirming thoughts, then guess what?  You will be confident and calm, composed and optimistic, relaxed with an air of excited anxiousness to get this challenge done.

If on the other hand you take a negative, self-doubting and self-judging approach, you will have feelings of uncertainty, you will be tense and unsettled, pessimistic, fearful and full of anxious dread, and you will perform poorly.

These are the controllables.  You can control how you think and feel, so lets take the positive road to a great performance. You can’t control the conditions, the opponents, crowd, media, officials or selectors, so lets focus on what you control and that is your performance on the day.

Take the positive approach and get on and get the job done.

Gary has written a book on sports psychology for athletes called ‘Going Mental in Sport‘ that helps prepare you to overcome your challenges.

If you want to contact him directly for a mental preparation session contact him through his website:

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