Where were you ten years ago? If I knew then what I learned this afternoon, I'd still be playing in the NHL."
Former NHL Player
The Development Of Mental Skills In Canadian Athletes:
As a sports psychologist, my focus is on the mental side of sport. The importance of the mental side is recognized by the fact that most elite athletes attribute much of their success to having mastered the mental side of their sport. In addition, it’s generally acknowledged that the difference between athletes who medal in the Olympic Games from those who don't is not found in their technical skills as these are said to be equivalent. Rather, it’s in their ability to deal with the pressure of the Games.
Studies in the United States report that most elite athletes wish they had learned various mental skills and strategies that aid performance a lot earlier in their careers. This has also been my experience in working with athletes including those as young as 14,15 and 16 years of age. When I received an invitation to participate in a multi-disciplinary symposium being planned in relation to the London Summer Games, I decided I would use the opportunity to do two things: (a) enhance awareness of the mental side of sport, and ( b) seek to aid the development of Canadian athletes by encouraging mental skills training early in their careers. What follows is a brief description of a national survey that I undertook for purposes of the symposium and to help achieve these ends.
General Description of the Survey
The survey focused on two issues:
When are athletes first introduced to mental skills training?
To what extent are formal training opportunities in various mental skills and strategies available to athletes and coaches?