Learn to thrive un­der pres­sure


Athletics Weekly - - News -

TAL­ENT is never enough to suc­ceed in sport. What’s re­quired to make it to the top is a com­plex in­ter­play of phys­i­cal and emo­tional fac­tors. Even those who rise through the ranks are not guar­an­teed to stay there. So what makes an ath­lete thrive on the pres­sure and de­mands of elite per­for­mance?

In the first study to find how and what some ath­letes thrive on in sport, Dr Daniel Brown, a sports sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Portsmouth, and col­leagues at the Univer­sity of Bath, have iden­ti­fied fac­tors that con­trib­ute to an ath­lete be­ing – and feel­ing – out­stand­ing.

Pub­lish­ing his find­ings in the Jour­nal of Ap­plied Sport Psy­chol­ogy, Brown in­ter­viewed ath­letes, coaches and sports psy­chol­o­gists to de­ter­mine what fac­tors com­bined to en­sure a sus­tained high-level of per­for­mance and op­ti­mism. “Our re­sults could also help ex­plain why some in­di­vid­u­als very gifted at sport don’t thrive at elite level,” Brown says. Here’s what he found:

Po­tent mix

In­creas­ingly, we hear sto­ries of those who achieve high-level per­for­mance in sport, but at the ex­pense of their well-be­ing and emo­tional health.

“Do­ing your best as a sports­man or woman sounds sim­ple,” Brown says. “But we’ve found a com­plex mix of fac­tors which pro­mote thriv­ing and could help those work­ing at elite level.”

Among the most im­por­tant in­flu­ences were op­ti­mism, fo­cus, a clear idea of what needs to be im­proved and high lev­els of mo­ti­va­tion.

“We also found that some­one needs de­vel­op­ing holis­ti­cally (as a per­son as well as an ath­lete), that they can see an up­ward pro­gres­sion, and that they have a real sense of be­long­ing in their sport,”

Brown says.

Suc­cess breeds suc­cess

For many of the study par­tic­i­pants, pre­vi­ous suc­cesses in sport had a huge im­pact on their cur­rent achieve­ments and at­ti­tude. Brown said the more suc­cess some­one had, the more it en­hanced their self-be­lief “which, com­bined with goal set­ting, sup­ported thriv­ing”. One coach said win­ning was in­stru­men­tal as a spring­board for fu­ture suc­cess. “My ath­lete had their goal and they were high on be­ing driven for that goal, but they were also high on con­fi­dence from their pre­vi­ous lot of per­for­mances which just al­lowed them to re­ally thrive.”

Strong sup­port

A sup­port sys­tem was found to be key to long term im­prove­ment and ul­ti­mate suc­cess. “Sup­port from par­ents has been high­lighted as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor for ado­les­cent thriv­ing,” Brown says.

He adds that coaches, par­ents and men­tors who of­fer not just sup­port, but elicit self­be­lief, trust and com­mit­ment to the process of de­vel­op­ment also helped ath­letes make it all the way to the top of elite sport and, crit­i­cally, to en­joy it.

As one par­tic­i­pant put it: “Ev­ery­body that can have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on that ath­lete can help them thrive.”

Fo­cus and con­cen­tra­tion

One of the coaches in­ter­viewed said sin­gle-mind­ed­ness is vi­tal if an ath­lete is to suc­ceed. “How you con­cen­trate and what on is im­por­tant, and the qual­ity and depth of your con­cen­tra­tion. Peo­ple get dis­tracted very eas­ily by things and fail to be in the mo­ment,” they said.

“Life slips through their fin­gers be­cause they’re too busy on games con­soles or so­cial me­dia. To con­cen­trate on be­ing a cham­pion, your mind has to be de­vel­oped to such an ex­tent that you can re­ally stay very tuned in to what you’re do­ing.”

Dr Daniel Brown: first to in­ves­ti­gate the im­pact and char­ac­ter­is­tics of thriv­ing

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