Health & Fitness

Sports Psychology Coach Identifies Most Common Factor Holding Athletes Back

Sports Psychology Coach Identifies Most Common Factor Holding Athletes Back

The most common element which is holding many athletes back, according to Roisín McGettigan, is what she would term as "unhelpful thinking".

McGettigan represented Ireland in the 3000m steeplechase at the Beijing Olympics and won bronze in the 1500m at the 2009 European Indoor Athletics Championships.

She has since become a sports psychology coach, working mainly in the US.

"A lot of the time, people are just getting stressed out about competitions," said McGettigan at the launch of the Olympic Federation of Ireland's Dare To Believe programme.

I had to learn those things myself: how to reframe competition from being this threatening place to more of a challenging place.

The changes that makes in your physiology - we know that exists now - it's not that your thoughts and your body are separate.

Your thoughts can change your blood levels, cortisol, oxygen - all these things that we train every day as athletes to physically prepare, our thoughts can come in and sabotage a lot of that work.

It takes them out of the moment, being fully present in what they are trying to do, it can lower their energy levels and stress them out.

McGettigan has witnessed the benefits which a change in mindset can have on competitors across a range of sports from athletics, gymnastics, ice hockey, basketball and swimming.

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"I work with a variety of sports people like gymnasts who are doing amazing a stuff in practice and then they go into competition and they are not able to translate it. They are physically prepared, so it has to be mental [issues holding them back] in competition.

"It's about reframing competition which frees them up to perform at their potential; helping them access what's in them.

"Most athletes, if they could perform at their potential every day, that's a good day for an athlete. The worst for athletes is when you underperform. That's a killer.

"I know everyone - the media especially - want medals but if an athlete can do their best, they are happy, win or lose. That's nearly more satisfying for athletes. It's not as fun to win an easy competition as it is to lose but perform great."

Róisín McGettigan, Programme Developer, pictured at the launch of Dare to Believe, a school activation programme championed and supported by the Athletes’ Commission. Olympism, Paralympism and the benefits of sport will be promoted in schools nationwide by some of Ireland’s best known and most accomplished athletes in a fun and interactive manner. The initial pilot phase is targeting the fifth and sixth class students in primary schools. #DareToBelieve Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

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