(NECN) - For every Olympic victory, there is an agnoy of defeat.
While some athletes perform the best under pressure, many more falter.
Medical Expert Dr. Mallika Marshall discusses the psychology behind the intense sports competition.
* The stress involved in the Olympics:
They only happen every four years and for many sports, like badminton and table tennis and even diving and swimming, this is the only time their sport gets international coverage. Also, a great deal of money can be at stake. Sponsorships can be made or lost base on how someone does in the Olympics.
* The rise vs. the fall:
As you can imagine, it varies from athlete to athlete but some studies have been done.
A psychiatrist from the University of Maryland monitored the brain wave activities of athletes during performance. He found the minds of expert athletes better able to tune out disruptions and external noise than beginners.
In 2004 a sports psychiatrist studied the brain activity of 250 athletes. He found winning athletes were better at tuning out negative thoughts and were able to focus their attention on the job at hand. Those who struggled could get easily distracted and focus on thinking instead of just doing.
* Resources for athletes:
These days, coaches and athletes are more accepting of the idea that sports psychology can play a role in improving performance. In fact, the number of full0time sport psychologists hired by the US Olympic Committee has increased from just one to six over the past 20 years.
* Prepping for an event to reduce stress:
· Recognize that feeling nervous before a game or event is normal.
· Prepare both mentally and physically.
· Know the conditions before arriving and get there early.
· Some athletes use positive visualization - taking a couple of moments to imagine the event going well.
· Take it one step at a time…Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson used to ask himself what matters now? The race that I'm about to run and nothing else in this moment.
· Focus on the task at hand rather than the outcome.
· Paying attention to the details when you're in the moment. Some gymnists are so worried about the completing the complicated moves that they lose focus on the simple elements and often mess up.
· For people, performing like you don't care about the outcome can help as well.
· And don't forget to breathe.
* Strategies for coping with the outcome:
Review what happened, focusing on what you did well. Acknowledge the mistakes, but don't dwell on them.
* When parents take it too seriously:
One researcher says some parents over-identify with their child's experience and define their own self-worth based on the success of their children. They may use the word "we" to describe their child's sports achievements like " We had a great game today." Some parents also allow themselves to dream of the money their kids can make through their athletics which is an unrealistic expectation. Very few athletes reach the Olympics or are able to play sports for a living.
* What can happen to kids whose parents push them too hard:
Experts believe that pushing children too quickly up the development ladder will actually slow their progress. It can leave dampen their motivation and hamper the skills they'll need to be successful later on in their sport.
, Dr. Mallika Marshall
, sports psychology
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