>>This is the first in the London Calling series of Olympic-themed posts in the run-up to the start of London 2012. <<
Serryth Colbert, himself a Commonwealth gold medalist rower, and colleagues found that members of the Great Britain Olympic Rowing Team were 12% more "mentally tough" than a group of surgeons surveyed.
This "mental toughness" describes the psychological attributes to perform at the highest level and was measured by a number of broad themes. These included "having an insatiable desire and internalised motives to succeed" and "thriving on the pressure of competition". A total of six themes were measured by a survey of the rowers and the surgeons.
The results of the survey, published in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery show that the average scoring for positive responses when asked about 'comeback mentality' - the ability to overcome previous failure ranged from 53% for rowers to 40% for surgeons.
When queried about the the ability to thrive under the heat of competition, 74% of rowers responded positively compared to just 58% of surgeons.
|Olympic flame at Kew Gardens (Image: LOCOG)|
The whole area of sports psychology will have a huge impact on athletes at this years games. Writing for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, Dr. Daniel Gould, who has conducted a series of research projects for the US Olympic Commission (USOC), has said that a whole range of "behind-the-scenes" factors can influence performance.
"These can range from athletes from less popular sports meeting some of the most visible athletes in the world in the Olympic village dining hall to traffic problems that disrupt an athlete’s normal training time" said Gould.
"Other distractions include having a roommate that snores or having an event scheduled towards the end of the Games but living in a village where most athletes are finished competing and are in celebration mode".
|Training at the Olympic rowing venue (Image: LOCOG)|
“Deciding whether to attend Opening Ceremonies can be very a difficult decision for Olympic athletes if they are going to perform within 24 to 48 hours of those ceremonies. Our research revealed that it could be a wonderful, exhilarating experience and worked to motivate some athletes. Others, however, found all the standing around zapped their energy and resulted in lack luster performance. It should be discussed with the athletes, taking care to examine the potential positive versus negative consequences,” said Gould.
As one of the Olympic rowers noted: "Mental toughness is not being affected by anything but what’s going on in the race. It’s being able to block out what’s not important".
Colbert et al., 2012. Performing to a world class standard under pressure—Can we learn lessons from the Olympians? British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 50(4): 291-297. Link.