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Few days at the world greatest sport event

In a few days, the Paris 2024 Olympics will begin. Since the Atlanta 1996 Games, I have worked with athletes participating in the world greatest sporting event. Sometimes I have been with them, while other times, as it will be for this one, I have followed them from afar.

Working with people who strive to give their best and win an Olympic medal is a great responsibility and a great emotion. Competing in the Olympic Games is the realization of every athlete’s dream, built on long preparation that transforms their lives and gives them visibility almost unimaginable for most sports.

Working with them is a significant responsibility, as you are required to prepare them to be mentally ready when the time comes to compete. Being ready is not easy, and it is probably not easy to explain. It’s not just about having prepared in the best way, but it’s something that goes beyond the psychophysical condition achieved through months of training and competitions. Winning an Olympic medal means entering the history of world sport forever, and just this idea can take anyone’s breath away. Even athletes from sports less followed by the media and on social media, these days are interviewed and achieve much greater visibility than they are used to, for example, when competing in the world championships, which for everyone is the second most important sporting event.

At the Olympics, those who can best manage this type of stress, in addition to the competition stress, win. There are athletes and teams that fail precisely for this reason; they are not prepared for these situations, and the Olympic village itself can be a source of distraction that takes them away from focusing on themselves. Among professional athletes, many like tennis players and cyclists participate not so much because their careers might change in case of success, but they want to be there precisely for the value this event represents; they want to be remembered as part of this history.

In just a few days, everything will begin, with enthusiasm and fear. It will be a beautiful spectacle, and so, may the best win.

Managing the competitive stress of participating in the Olympics at Paris

Managing the competitive stress of participating in the Olympics is crucial for any team aiming to excel in this high-level competition. Here are some steps and strategies a team can adopt to manage stress effectively during the Paris Olympics:

Psychological Preparation

  1. Professional Psychological Support: Hire sports psychologists to work with the athletes, helping them develop stress management techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation.
  2. Mental Training Sessions: Integrate regular mental training sessions into the training routine, focusing on strategies to maintain concentration and calm under pressure.
  3. Pre-Competition Routines: Help athletes develop pre-competition routines that include relaxation techniques and activities that help them feel centered and prepared.

Physical and Logistical Support

  1. Adequate Recovery and Rest: Ensure athletes have enough time for recovery and rest between competitions, including proper sleep management and training schedules.
  2. Balanced Nutrition: Ensure athletes follow a balanced and adequate diet, supported by sports nutritionists, to maintain optimal energy levels and reduce physical stress.
  3. Injury Management: Have a medical team ready to intervene in case of injuries, providing immediate treatment and effective recovery plans.

Emotional and Social Support

  1. Positive Environment: Create a positive and supportive team environment where athletes feel appreciated and encouraged, thus reducing individual pressure.
  2. Open Communication: Foster open and honest communication between coaches and athletes, where concerns and issues can be discussed freely and addressed together.
  3. Involvement of Families: Allow, where possible, the support of families, who can offer significant emotional comfort to athletes.

Technical and Tactical Preparation

  1. Competition Simulations: Conduct simulations of competition conditions, including high-pressure scenarios, to accustom athletes to managing stress in competitive situations.
  2. Opponent Analysis: Study opponents and develop detailed tactical plans, reducing uncertainty and increasing athletes’ confidence in their abilities.
  3. Constant Feedback: Provide constructive and continuous feedback to athletes throughout the preparation process, helping them improve constantly and feel more secure.

Logistical Preparation

  1. Advance Planning: Organize every logistical aspect well in advance, including accommodations, transportation, and access to training facilities, to reduce organizational worries.
  2. Adapting to Time Zones: Arrive in Paris well ahead of time to adapt to the time zone and new environmental conditions.
  3. Minimizing Distractions: Minimize external distractions, such as interviews and promotional activities, allowing athletes to focus on their performance.

Conclusion

Managing the competitive stress of the Olympics requires a holistic approach that integrates psychological, physical, emotional, and logistical support. Through comprehensive and targeted preparation, a team can face the challenges of the Paris Olympics with greater serenity and confidence, maximizing their chances of success.

10 mental skills to win the Olympic Games

There are only a few days left until the start of the Paris 2024 Olympics. Let’s try to describe the mental characteristics demonstrated by athletes who have won a medal in previous editions.

1. Determination and Toughness

Olympians are extremely determined and do not give up in the face of difficulties. Their tenacity pushes them to continue training and improving, even when they encounter obstacles or moments of discouragement.

2. Concentration

The ability to stay focused on their goal and maintain concentration during training and competition is crucial. Olympic athletes manage to block out distractions and concentrate entirely on their performance.

3. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to quickly recover from setbacks or injuries. Successful athletes can overcome adversity, learn from their mistakes, and continue to improve.

4. Self-discipline

Athletes who win a gold medal exhibit a high level of self-discipline. This is reflected in their ability to strictly follow training programs, diets, and daily routines necessary to reach the peak of their performance.

5. Self-esteem and Self-confidence

Believing in their abilities is crucial for achieving success at such high levels. Olympic athletes have strong self-esteem and confidence in their skills, which helps them perform at their best under pressure.

6. Stress Management

The ability to manage stress and the pressure of international competitions is vital. Olympic athletes develop techniques to maintain calm and mental clarity even in the most stressful situations.

7. Intrinsic Motivation

Olympians are often driven by intrinsic motivation, a deep personal desire to excel and achieve their goals, rather than external motivations like awards or recognition.

8. Visualization Skills

Many athletes use mental visualization techniques to imagine their perfect performances. This practice helps them prepare mentally and improve their confidence in their abilities.

9. Growth Mindset

Successful athletes embrace a growth mindset, believing that their skills can be improved through hard work and continuous learning. This mindset drives them to seek new challenges and not fear failure.

10. Passion and Love for the Sport

A genuine passion and deep love for their sport are common characteristics among Olympic medalists. This passion motivates them to dedicate countless hours to practice and training.

These mental characteristics are fundamental for achieving excellence and success in the highly competitive context of the Olympics.

Participating in the Olympics is an extraordinary achievement

Participating in the Paris Olympics represents an extraordinary achievement for any athlete, male or female, for a number of fundamental reasons that go beyond the simple sporting context.

1. International Recognition

The Olympics are the most prestigious sports showcase in the world. Participating means gaining international recognition that transcends national borders, offering athletes the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and compete against the best in the world.

2. Historical and Symbolic Value

The Olympics are not just a sporting competition; they are a historical and cultural event celebrating unity and peace among nations. Participating in such an important event gives athletes a significant role in promoting the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect.

3. Motivation and Personal Growth

Preparing for the Olympics requires years of dedication, discipline, and sacrifice. Participating in the Olympic Games is a testament to resilience and determination and represents the pinnacle of an athletic career. This experience offers significant personal growth, helping athletes develop a strong work ethic and the ability to overcome adversity.

4. Sponsorship and Career Opportunities

The visibility gained from participating in the Olympics can open many doors in terms of sponsorship and post-competitive career opportunities. Many athletes secure contracts with prestigious brands and can pursue careers as coaches, sports commentators, or entrepreneurs in the sports sector.

5. Inspiration for New Generations

Olympic athletes are role models for younger generations. Participating in the Olympics allows athletes to inspire young people to pursue their dreams, regardless of the difficulties. This inspirational role is crucial for the development of sports and the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle.

6. Unique Life Experience

The Olympics offer a unique life experience where athletes can live in an atmosphere of camaraderie and healthy competition, meet people from different cultures, and be part of an event that transcends the boundaries of sports. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create unforgettable moments and memories that will last a lifetime.

7. Representing One’s Country

Participating in the Olympics means representing one’s country on the world stage. This is an immense honor and a great source of pride for any athlete. The responsibility of carrying the nation’s colors and competing for it is an experience that reinforces the sense of belonging and patriotism.

8. High-Level Competition Experience

The Olympics represent the highest level of sports competition. Participating allows athletes to measure themselves against the world’s best, refine their skills and strategies, and further grow as professionals. Competing against top-level opponents helps identify strengths and areas for improvement.

9. Positive Psychological Impact

Participating in an event like the Olympics can have a significant positive psychological impact. Athletes can develop greater self-esteem and confidence in their abilities by successfully facing such a major challenge. This strengthens their mental resilience, making them more prepared to face future challenges in life and their sports career.

10. Networking and Collaborations

The Olympics offer a unique platform for networking and building professional and personal relationships. Athletes can meet peers, coaches, and sports professionals from around the world, creating opportunities for future collaborations, cultural exchanges, and joint projects that can enrich their careers and personal development.

Sport and peace

Ready for the XXXIII° Olympic Games

It was lit in Greece, at the temple of Hera dating back to 2,600 years ago, near the stadium where the Olympics were born in 776 BC. There are just over 100 days left until July 26, when the XXXIII° Olympic Games will be inaugurated in Paris.

Currently, there are 193 qualified Italian athletes across 23 disciplines. The Olympics represent the dream of every athlete and the pinnacle of their sporting career. Winning an Olympic medal is like climbing Everest without oxygen. Among the world’s elite athletes, in Italy around 300 men and women, only about 10% will likely step onto the podium. Winning a medal is a truly rare event and corresponds to a lifetime of dedication.

Pechino 2022: accesa la fiamma olimpica | Euronews

As we know, personal talent alone is not enough; motivation and dedication are required, along with quality training, years of effort, many hours per week, excellent coaches and staff, injury prevention, recovery abilities, an appropriate lifestyle, and a positive non-sporting environment.

All of this doesn’t inoculate against fear and anxiety but puts us in a position to successfully face them. With just over three months until the start of the competitions, training and competitions continue, many still need to qualify, team sports are in the midst of league and international cup competitions, and in individual sports, athletes are competing to secure their spot for Paris. It’s an intense period, and in these days, the inner pilot guiding us in our daily work becomes increasingly important. The task is to effectively alternate between moments of expending energy, training and competitions, with those of recovering the energy spent (nutrition, sleep, relaxation, social life). These two phases alternate every day and are both important to be ready for the end goal.

It’s necessary to enter these two environments with ease and seek help from those around us to maintain this alternation. We give everything knowing we have time to recover, and we recover to be able to give everything.

How to live the pre-olympic year

Less than a year until the upcoming 2024 Olympics and Paralympics in Paris, and I wonder what this year will be like for athletes, teams, and staff. The Olympic Games maintain their timeless allure that goes beyond the commercialization of sports. Many aspire to go there at least once in their sports careers, and the stress associated with this participation is intense for everyone. Of the Italian athletes participating in the Olympics, only about 15% will return with a medal.

However, this year should not be lived solely through stress, sacrifices, and fears but also with the enthusiasm of those who feel committed to achieving a great goal without being crushed by it. We aim high to achieve a result, whatever it may be for each individual, but we enjoy our daily lives.

We have now become aware that there is no distinction between the individual and the athlete; they are not two separate entities residing in the same body. There are no two different people, one of whom must sacrifice to satisfy the other. Research conducted among elite athletes consistently shows that their performance depends on their motivation, dedication to this profession which is sports, their coaches and the staff working with them, and their family and friends – in other words, their primary social environment.

Their performance largely depends on the effective integration of these elements. There will always be exceptions to this approach, but this does not represent the rule. Therefore, it is desirable that the culture of integration, which recognizes the value of the overall well-being of athletes and their lives, continues to spread.

What the champions think

In the game, is it better to think? Or does thinking slow down the action? In my experience many athletes do not have definite answers to these questions and do not know what is best to do. I don’t want to go into how they learned as younger ones, whether they essentially followed what was asked of them by the coach or whether they also developed independent thoughts. Although it is obvious that everyone is formed mentally in their early years of playing.

However, I am interested in talking about how a young, now sportingly competent person thinks during a game whether it is of a team sport or involves situational sports such as tennis, table tennis, fencing, and combat sports. Oppositional sports in which the goal is to dominate opponents. To achieve this goal, in competition, do you think?

If I compare the mindset of the world’s top athletes I have worked with (in 7 Olympics I have worked with athletes who have won 12 Olympic medals in shooting, fencing, windsurfing and wrestling and at the Commonwealth Games 2 medals with India) and that of world-class athletes, both men and women, but who are not among the top 10 in the world in their specialty I believe that the main difference is essentially about how they use their minds in competition. Always keep in mind that even top athletes are not always winners, they often lose, however more frequently than others they find themselves fighting for a medal.

Some examples of thoughts from top athletes:

Giovanni Pellielo - “The last of the selection series was the heaviest, I made zero on the penultimate target in the first platform, I finished with twenty-three and it was the series in which I suffered the most because you had to make the result in difficult conditions and with a very high emotional load as I was still the man who had won two medals at the Olympics. Let’s say that on that occasion all the ghosts came to mind: it was difficult to close that result but I closed it. Then I thought about the final referring to the baggage of four years of experience and I relived everything I had done in the last year at the level of preparation especially psychological so as to face the final as I wanted and desired.”

Francesco D’Aniello - “Stress builds up if you think about the result. In the Olympic final I knew everyone was watching me but I was channeling my mind on what it took to break the plates. My concentration was channeled into thinking only about what I needed to do to break the plates. I knew that the Chinese had caught up with me, a zero had not been given to him, and this factor could destroy me. So I said to myself, ‘If I make a zero this will eat me,’ when I realized I could no longer make a zero I focused only on my technical gesture.”

Manavjit Singh Sandhu - “Competing head-to-head with two Olympic champions in one day and getting the better of both was really special. However, I believe that in shooting you simply try to hit your target and the score speaks for itself. Psychologically, it can be intimidating to shoot against legends, but I didn’t let that bother me.”

It clearly emerges, that in moments of competitive pressure, after a mistake, when emotions might result in a mental block, these athletes encourage themselves and focus on what they have to do. If they think about the result, it is only for a few moments, because the mind goes immediately to the performance, to what to do. Like Roberta Vinci when in the match she won against Serena Williams she repeated to herself, “Run and throw it that way.” This is the self-control of champions that we need to train in young athletes.

Sofia Goggia at 9 years old wrote: “I want to win the gold in downhill”

It’s never too early to dream. When Sofia Goggia was 9 years old, she wrote: “I want to win the gold in downhill.”

She did it filling the questionnaire on Goal Setting from my book “Mental training.”

She wanted to be mentally ready and at long term very ready. She asked her coach to work at maximum with her.

The Rio Olympics begin: It fulfills the athletes’ dream

The Rio Olympics are about to begin. The scourge of doping, which humiliates the sport, is strong and it does not seem to recede despite the disqualifications and the results of the report by Richard McLaren. Despite this, for most of the athletes, the Olympics are an extraordinary event (Italians will present 308). We know the cost and the risks  the Olympics impose to those who organized but the myth endures today as it once was. This is the world’s most important sport event, it happens once every four years, for most of the disciplines is necessary to be qualified and in some there is only one athlete per country. It is also a strong link with our past origins, where they join the search for beauty, performance, competitiveness, peace and hero. Who wins a medal at the Olympics goes right to the history of world sport, for this is the race of life. In fact, there are athletes who have not recovered from a defeat at the Olympics, others who have lived the next four years waiting for that day, in which they demonstrated to the world their true value. This is why many dope, because they want to maximize the probability of winning, until to pass the boundary of what is permissible and legal. Winning the Olympics is the fulfillment of a dream, which has had thought dozens of times before. We have not to believe to  the athletes when they say: “I did not really think about it, my goal was to do my best.” They thought all right, but they have been so good to dismiss this idea and to focus only on what it took to deliver an outstanding performance. In fact, the victory of a medal at the Olympics only comes from an outstanding performance, excellence in this case is not necessarily in the world record or in unrepeatable quality actions. It comes from having held off the internal pain of the idea of ​​defeat. The athletes in this condition, to deal with this idea, does not exaggerate in the desire to want to do well at all costs, stiffening the body and mind and deteriorating performance, but they do not throw into the fray without even thinking, showing to be impulsive. Instead, they accept the idea of ​​defeat and do exactly what they are prepared to do, in all those long hours of training, neither more nor less, that is, does what he is capable of. Reaching this state of mind is not easy and is the result of a mental work  on themselves. This is the challenge that awaits those who will compete in Rio.