PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION FOR COMPETITION
Brent Rushall (1979), professor of physical education at Lakehead University, Ontario, Canada, studied the mental practices of a large number of Canadian elite sportspersons from a variety of sports. He found the majority of these athletes used quite similar psychological strategies for mental preparation before and during competition. This suggests that regardless of their sports, successful competitors employ similar mental approaches to competition, and these approaches are different, presumably, than those used by unsuccessful athletes. Exercises 7.1 provides a synthesis of Rushall’s findings.
We will now review the evidence that reveals Roger Bannister’s intuitive approaches along these same lines.
Bannister’s Mental Preparation
Concentration on a single goal during training. More so than most athletes, Bannister needed a supreme goal to justify the sacrifices he made. In particular, he had to justify the time spent away from his medical studies. Beaten into fourth place in the 1952 Olympic Games 1,500-m final because he was “not nearly tough enough” to run two heats and a final in 3 days, Bannister found his goal.
My running had become something of a crusade. It was as if I were preaching about a special attitude towards running that I felt was right. I could accept being beaten in the Olympicsthat had happened to many stronger
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Exercises 7.1 Mental Attributes and Approaches to Competition of Elite Canadian Athletes
1. The successful athlete has the ability to concentrate totally on the upcoming competition throughout the training period.
2. The successful athlete has the ability to put more into competition than into training.
3. The successful athlete has absolute confidence in his/her ability to perform up to expectation.
4. The successful athlete has the ability to judge very accurately how he/she will perform in competition.
5. The successful athlete has a detailed competitive strategy; the more detailed the strategy, the greater the athlete’s confidence.
6. The successful athlete’s competitive strategy includes what to do if things go wrong.
7. Before competition, the successful athlete performs as many mental rehearsals of the competition as is possible.
8. The successful athlete is not upset by any small distractions or problems that may arise before competition.
9. If troubled before competition, the successful athlete knows what to do to regain composure.
10. If the successful athlete becomes too excited before competition, he/she knows what to do to calm down.
11. If the successful athlete loses confidence before competition, he/she knows what to do to calm down.
12. The successful athlete is not affected by unfamiliar competitive arenas.
13. The successful athlete is able to handle any unusual circumstances or distractions that may occur at the site of competition.
14. The successful athlete does not worry about other competitors before a competition.
15. The successful athlete prefers to be alone immediately before competition and prefers to warm up alone.
16. The successful athlete does not need a coach to be present at the warm-up.
17. The warm-up of the successful athlete contains practices of things to be done during competition.
18. The successful athlete exhibits controlled levels of nervousness and tension at the start of the competition.
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