Procycling - - All In The Mind -

If sports psy­chol­ogy is well un­der­stood in a cy­cling con­text, its use is rel­a­tively rare. More of­ten than not it comes down to an in­di­vid­ual rider aim­ing to solve a per­sonal prob­lem, rather than us­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal tools to im­prove per­for­mance as you would the lat­est skin­suit or train­ing tech­nique. Ste­fan Küng, in an in­ter­view with Pro­cy­cling last year, told of how he vis­ited a sports psy­chol­o­gist to help deal with his habit of crash­ing in im­por­tant time tri­als. Thibaut Pinot sought the help of rac­ing driv­ers to im­prove his con­fi­dence while rac­ing at speed. Some rid­ers on Gi­ant-Alpecin who were in­jured in the ter­ri­ble train­ing camp crash in Jan­uary 2016, sought out help to deal with the men­tal scars left by such a trau­matic in­ci­dent. Some didn’t.

That said, it’s im­por­tant to re­alise that just be­cause rid­ers aren’t see­ing sports psy­chol­o­gists doesn’t mean that they aren’t re­ceiv­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port. The role of sup­port­ing rid­ers, per­haps by ut­ter­ing the right word at the right time or in­still­ing con­fi­dence, is of­ten per­formed by sports di­rec­tors, team man­agers and team-mates rather than trained pro­fes­sion­als. Of­ten there’s no need to call it any­thing other than good man­age­ment.

Some men­tal coaches have had suc­cess across the board – no­tably Dr Steve Peters and his work con­trol­ling the ‘in­ner chimps’ of Bri­tish cy­clists. Jonathan Vaugh­ters, who ex­per­i­mented with in­tro­duc­ing team psy­chol­o­gists on Slip­stream, no­ticed that rid­ers were gen­er­ally scep­ti­cal, es­pe­cially if the spe­cial­ist had lit­tle di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence of pro rac­ing.

“I’ve found it far more ef­fec­tive to ba­si­cally sug­gest to cer­tain rid­ers that they should go and see some­one to move for­ward, and let them take own­er­ship of it,” he ex­plains. “If they don’t own it, if they don’t want it, if they’re not pay­ing for it, then they’re not en­gaged in it.

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