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Updated: 26 October 2020

How athletes should prepare off the field for the Olympics

5 min. read

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How athletes should prepare off the field for the Olympics

5 min. read

The alluring Olympic Games are on the horizon in Paris, starting at the end of July. It represents an amalgamation of cultures worldwide and the opportunity for athletes to earn the highest honour for their country. However, the event’s grandeur can easily prove strenuous and overwhelming to its competitors. Luckily, former Olympians and mental health experts have the experience and expertise to get athletes on the right track to represent their country in the best way possible. Cath Bishop, a former rower who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, wrote an article for the Guardian giving several tips for athletes preparing for the Olympics. Here is some of the advice she gave along with insight from other Olympians and professionals.

Source: Olympics.com: https://olympics.com/ioc/news/olympic-games-paris-2024-sports-calendar-and-first-ticket-pricing-details-released

Live in the moment

This piece of advice may sound basic, yet it is extremely important: to live in the moment. It is always so easy in life to get caught up on past mistakes or decisions or to frantically worry about how the future is going to look. Doing this will only cause anxiety and stress as well as prevent you from enjoying the people and possessions you currently have. This is great advice for everyone, as the National Institute of Health states that practicing mindfulness has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, world-class athletes should heed this advice as well. A massive event like the Olympics is sure to cause some butterflies in the stomach, but taking things one day at a time will help maximize enjoyment as well as performance. Some champion-level athletes have corroborated this practice, saying how important it is to enjoy the present. 24-time Grand Slam winner and bronze-medalling tennis player Novak Djokovic said “I can’t predict what the future brings. I can only focus my attention and energy to the present moment and do what I do best, and that is to, you know, try to prepare myself.”

Source: tennis.com: https://www.tennis.com/baseline/articles/olympic-flashback-novak-djokovic-wins-first-olympic-medal-in-beijing

Keep perspective

Bishop also recommended for athletes to keep every scrap of perspective they can, which goes hand-in-hand with living in the moment. This means to enjoy every little thing you have around you in life, whether it’s family, friends, pets, or activities. It can be as simple as taking your dogs for a walk or connecting with the environment. These are things that may not seem conducive to medalling in Paris, but they are important to stay grounded, appreciate what you have, and reduce stress and anxiety.

“The sun will come up, the world will keep turning and you’ll still be the wonderfully flawed human being you’ve always been, regardless of whether you throw further, run faster, or jump higher than anyone else on the planet,” Bishop said.

Source: the-coach-couch.com: https://www.the-coach-couch.com/how-to-put-things-in-perspective-2/

Control what you can control

Another important piece of advice to set yourself up mentally is focusing on controlling what you can control. Olympians are likely to be perfectionists, wanting to do whatever they can so that every little detail of an event goes perfectly. But the reality is there are many external factors that are simply uncontrollable.

Source: rtve.es: https://www.rtve.es/deportes/20231231/juegos-olimpicos-paris-2024-sedes-deportes/2470057.shtml

“During competition, you cannot control or predict what the weather is going to be like, how your opponents will perform, or how the fans or media will react,” Bishop said. “If you can deal with those areas of uncertainty, you certainly have the mental flexibility to deal with these new challenges.” 

Connect to others

Doing all of these mental health practices is sure to set you up for success, however, it’s important not to be alone in your journey. Some athletes may be so centered on their training that they cut people off in pursuit of their goals. This may seem like the right choice to stay focused, but it can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Humans are social creatures by nature, and everyone needs someone to help along in their life. A study by Harvard Medical School showed that people who feel lonely or isolated have “increased risks for chronic disease, cognitive decline, an inability to perform daily living tasks, and an early death.” Three-time Olympic gold-medalling skateboarder Shaun White reflected on how difficult it can be to reach out for help.

“Especially with sports, you would never want to show weakness, which nowadays, it takes so much courage to actually talk about it and be vulnerable in those things,” White said. “I never really thought of it that way.”

Source: KTLA.com: https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/shaun-white-captures-historic-3rd-gold-medal-the-100th-for-u-s-in-winter-olympics/

Tell your own story

A last piece of advice to help athletes prepare themselves is to allow themselves to tell their own story. Not everyone is going to be next Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Nadia Comacenci, or whichever legendary Olympian. Rather than trying to live up to someone else’s legacy, it’s best to create your own path and write your own story.

“Who do you want to be when the nerves kick in and the pressure ramps up? When luck falls with or against you when your teammates call on you to step up?” Bishop said, “The answer doesn’t need to be some all‑conquering hero, simply the best version of you drawing on your incredible strengths.”

Sport Endorse Olympians taking advantage of their platform

There are many athletes who have worked with Sport Endorse that are competing in this year’s Olympics and are using tips like these to mentally prepare themselves for the competition. Nhat Nguyen, an Irish badminton player born in Vietnam, had to rework his entire game to maximize his results and qualify for the Olympics. He said learning how to live in the moment was a big step in terms of coping with the stresses and obsession of his sport.

 “I definitely learned how to wind down, how to take my mind off badminton, so taking it step by step and trying to enjoy each moment at a time, that type of thing,” Nguyen said. “And that really helped me to grow as a person, not just really thinking about myself, even though sport is very selfish.”

Jordan Lee, an Irish Paralympian who specializes in men’s high jump, said he always had to keep belief in himself despite his disability and what anyone had to say about it.

“I’ve always been very self-motivated Growing up as a person with a very visible disability, there was often times that people would try to put me down and attempt to bully me but it’s something I never allowed to happen.”

Thomas Digby, an Olympic rower for Great Britain, recently went through a lot of grief when he lost his mother. He is now using his grief to impart some good, using his platform to tell his audience that it’s ok to ask for help when going through tough times.

“These things are not often spoken about,” Digby said. “And people don’t necessarily always give you the space, and (I’m trying) to normalize that a bit more, and publicizing my grief experience so others feel comfortable talking about (grief). They are not alone in these feelings that can be so, so difficult.”

All of these athletes had to overcome different struggles to get to the top of their craft. Now, they have overcome their obstacles to qualify for one of the biggest worldwide events while keeping a positive, healthy mindset.

Explore how athletes as brand ambassadors can transcend their roles, impacting communities through partnerships beyond sports. Learn about inspiring campaigns led by athletes like Lee Keegan, Hannah Tyrrell, and James Lowe, and how brands collaborate with them for social causes. Discover Sport Endorse, a platform facilitating seamless partnerships between athletes and brands, just in time for the upcoming Olympics.