‘Exposure Therapy’ As Aussies Are Without Psychologist In Tokyo


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In a move to simplify its operations at major competitions, Swimming Australia has decided to leave its sports psychologist at home for the 2018 Pan Pacific c=Championships. Per a report in The Gold Coast Bulletin, swimmers will still have access to the psychologist remotely, but the idea is to create strength and adaptability in its athletes while in the midst of intense competition.

“The psychologist has a very important role,” Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren said, per The Gold Coast Bulletin. “But the strength and conditioning coach also has that but we don’t make them travel into competition because that part of work is done.

“We need to be prepared because the leadership (during a meet) goes through the coaches. We don’t want to change that approach.”

Verhaeren continued, “There’s no psychologist in the world, that halfway through a meet can turn a team around. It’s really the work of the coaches and the athletes to come prepared.”

Swimming Australia is still shaking off its underwhelming performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics where the nation of Australia suffered its worst Summer Olympic outing since claiming just 27 medals in Barcelona back in 1992. Specific to swimming, despite bringing 2015 double World Champions Mitch Larkin, Emily Seebohm and Bronte Campbell into Rio, along with newly-minted textile world record holder Cameron McEvoy, these favorites all fell short of placing on top of the Olympic podium in their respective individual events. At the time, Verhaeren at least partially attributed the non-medals to stage fright.

However, with the Pan Pacs just days away, Swimming Australia is building resilience in its athletes simply by exposure to the high-stress racket of competing.

Chief Strategist, High Performance Alex Baumann states, “When you get out there (in a major meet) you have to stand on your own two feet and deal with it.

“But it is trying to create that resilience, so they’re bulletproof when they get to that higher pressure environment.” (Gold Coast Bulletin)

Verhaeren reiterated, “If you’re in competition, there’s basically nothing a psychologist can do for you anymore.

“In preparation, there’s quite a bit. But what we’re promoting at the moment and off the back of Rio is a lot more intense guidance during the season – because it is like strength training, you do it all year round or you don’t do it at all.”

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