[ASC-media] Media release: the psychology of winning

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Sat Aug 21 08:30:05 EST 2004


August 21, 2004


Our Olympic hopefuls aren't just competing against the world's best athletes in Athens - they also face a tough internal struggle to get the best out of themselves that may ultimately decide whether they win or lose.

Sport psychologists at the Western Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) argue that taking a holistic look at an athlete's psychology is the most successful strategy when trying to improve performance. 

The WA view is challenging the more traditional North American role of sport psychology, which is to concentrate on the aspects of an athlete's behaviour that directly relate to his or her performance.

"Here at WAIS, we deal with the whole person, not just the athlete," says Evan Stewart, sport psychologist with WAIS.

"These people can have problems and issues outside of their sport, like any other person in the community. We work through these issues, along with issues directly related to performance."

As the Olympic Games fire up, Australian athletics is deeply divided over whether the emphasis in sport psychology should be on sport or psychology. This was highlighted in recent resignations of some leading sport psychologists seen as a move away from the holistic philosophy in favour of a more performance-focussed approach.

Research into effective sport psychology "has usually been very specific, looking at one component of performance such as goal achievement," according to Mr Stewart. 

"There is a growing literature on what it takes to succeed in high level performance and this is a focus of all sport psychology in Australia. There is increasing evidence of a need for athletes to have balance in their lives to perform at their peak."

Individual sports institutes largely decide whether their sport psychology focuses on performance enhancement or takes a wider view. 

With Australians placing enormous pressure on their sporting heroes, WAIS believes that dealing with any problems an athlete has outside their sport may be equally important in honing their ability to compete.

"We believe holistic sport psychology benefits firstly the performance of the athlete, and secondly the athlete as an individual," says Mr Stewart.

"We don't want to produce burnt-out wrecks."

The approach to sport psychology at WAIS is just one of more than 30 stories about cutting edge Australian sports science that feature in National Science Week's list of top scientific research. To interview any of the scientists on the list: http://www.scienceweek.info.au/media

To find out more about sport psychology at WAIS:
Mr Evan Stewart, 08 9387 8166, 0417 017 520
estewart at wais.org.au

For information on National Science week, contact:
Telephone: 02 6205 0281
Mobile: 0407 781 891
Facsimile: 02 6207 0072
Email:	scienceweek at orac.net.au

For events in National Science Week 2004, please visit:

National Science Week is supported by the Commonwealth Government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR).


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