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Psychologists to help athletes focus on their Olympic performance

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

APS College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists chair Dr Gene Moyle

Sport and exercise psychologists will play a vital role in shaping the mind-set of Australian athletes as they compete for gold at London’s Olympic Games.

A team of sport and exercise psychologists will work as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to help athletes perform at their peak.

Australian Psychological Society College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists chair Dr Gene Moyle said psychologists will help athletes manage their stress and cope with the pressure of competing on the world stage.

“I think sport and exercise psychologists are essential and I think any elite athlete will say the mental side of what they do is a crucial component,” she said.

Dr Moyle, who works with athletes for the Winter Olympic

Games, said one of the greatest hurdles facing athletes was maintaining their focus in the face of “gold medal rush fever”.

“I think the biggest challenge in going to the Olympics is keeping people focused on the process and not the outcome,” she said.

“They might change something because they think it might make that difference and get them a medal.

“Often it’s about refocusing for them, in the middle of the biggest spectacle on earth; they know what they need to do.

“They just need to really focus on doing what they usually do.”

A former professional ballerina, Dr Moyle has been working as a sport and exercise psychologist for the past 13 years and was the squad psychologist for two Australian Olympic Winter squads, including assisting the sliding sports athletes at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in 2010.

Based in Brisbane, Dr Moyle operates a private practice where she works with athletes, dancers and other performing artists.

Dr Moyle said there were many factors that could impact on an athlete’s ability to perform well at the games, ranging from the expectations of the nation and the pressure of the four-year Olympic cycle to the threat of terrorism and also the ability to rest and sleep in the athletes’ village.

“You can be sharing rooms with people you don’t know, their training schedule could be completely different to yours…you have got people that snore or don’t snore, it can even come down to the blinds on the windows and whether they are heavy enough,” she said.

“I think the best thing for an athlete is to be able to adapt to change and be flexible because anything could happen.”

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