Athletes relish the chance to learn psychological skills


More than 80 young athletes from Waitaki as well as parents, coaches and family received advice on what it takes to become a successful athlete at a seminar by Olympic psychologist Dr Simon Middlemass last Wednesday.

Dr Middlemass was invited to Oamaru by Sport Waitaki, following a need identified by local enthusiast Adair Craik in her work with Waitaki’s world champions.

Middlemass discussed with athletes that progressing from the bottom to the top of elite sport was not easy and largely required a good mind-set. There were many psychological skills required to make the advancement, including motivation, confidence and focus.

In a “dog eat dog” environment of elite sport, Middlemass said that the distinguishing factor between athletes was dedication and a will to succeed.

“If you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, then you will be successful,” he said.

In order to become successful, Middlemass said that athletes must be goal-orientated and able to recognise when they do well.

A stand-out message for athletes was the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Often we get these confused,” Middlemass said.

“You must be able to distinguish between them to be a good athlete. Know the difference between ‘I am a good athlete but that was a terrible swim and I am a terrible athlete.'”

This was an important factor when progressing through levels of sport, as athletes frequently move from being at the top of their grade to being at the bottom of the next level.

Organiser Kate Holland, of Sport Waitaki, said that she was impressed with the turnout from the community.

“It is great to see coaches and parents taking a keen interest in young athletes’ development,” she said.

“Often, mental skills are forgotten in sport, yet for many teenaged athletes, enjoyment and confidence are key factors in why they participate and continue in sport after school.”

Dr Middlemass’ final advice for parents was “just let them play sport and let them get good”.

It is hoped more seminars on the mental skills required for sport will follow next year.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Waitaki Basketball Academy’s Jacob Jackson, Dominic Shaw, and Nathan Smith with Dr Simon Middlmass.

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