As the Beijing Olympics rapidly approach, understanding the preparation athletes must go through can be insightful for everyone. And, for the athlete, mental preparation can be just as important as physical training.

“This is especially true for those athletes who have never been to the Olympics before,” says Michael Sachs, Ph.D., a kinesiology professor at Temple’s College of Health Professions.

Sachs said. “There is tremendous opportunity for distraction; you’re in a new country, interacting with athletes from different disciplines and from countries all over the world. Some countries will go so far as to sequester their athletes so there’s no chance for distraction.”

Sachs notes that some of the smaller countries tend to place more emphasis on their athletes’ performance than larger countries might.

“It’s a question of pride. For someone from Sweden, to win the gold means a lifetime of fame — he’ll be a national hero. But if that same person doesn’t do as well, they could carry that with them for a long time.”

The United States will send a group of sports psychologists to counsel American athletes on any number of problems. Sachs says they could range from relationship issues to family problems to illness or injury.

“The main thing is to get the athletes back to being focused on the event,” he said. “All the other little things will still be there after, but for right now, this one event is all that matters.”

Source: Temple University