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Learning to harness the power of the mind
18 June 2016

Canoeing and Triathlon WA: Foundation Elective Workshop

18 June 2016, Department of Sport and Recreation

story by Andrew Ford, Water Polo WAIS scholarship holder 

On Saturday 18th June young talented athletes from Canoeing and Triathlon WA joined myself and lead facilitator Joe McCarthy to learn skills to better equip them for a future in and out of elite sport. From the beginning, a relaxed atmosphere for discussion was encouraged and allowed for a more engaging experience.


The first elective to be addressed was on mental skills. To gauge the athlete’s understanding of mental skills in their sport we asked them how much they thought that mental skills contributed to an elite performance. The triathletes agreed upon around 60% while the canoeing squad were more reserved at around 50%. It was great to see the importance they placed on these skills to outweigh the physical side of their sport. It was discussed that at the top level, not much will separate the physical ability of athletes, it is belief and resilience that can make the difference.


The main skill we encouraged the group to try was imagery. The technique is very versatile and can be used for stress management, consistency with performance and confidence. A great experience for the group was an imagery relaxation session which can be used to calm themselves before competition. While listening to the sounds of a river, the group imagined themselves effortlessly gliding along with the water and then in/on their craft. Personally I can vouch for how valuable this is in my training and competition and the group was keen to incorporate into their routines. They could relate that it is growing harder to ‘switch off’ as technology becomes a bigger part of their lives.


The Developing Champions program is keen to deliver skills to assist the athletes on the road or water, but also importantly outside of the sporting arena. Personal profile is an extremely large part of an athlete’s life in the public eye. All athletes at elite level are seen as role models and so are more closely watched than other members of the community. The group discussed how they would like to be described in the future – the traits they would be labelled with. The kids were quick to describe squad members with characteristics of determination and honesty. In the elective, a game of celebrity heads was followed by examples of how social media can help build a public profile and also harm reputations if mismanaged. Sometimes being an athlete is as much about making sensible decisions as striking a ball or winning a race.


The last unit for the session was on nutrition. The group learnt about different sources of energy and how to select a meal based on training or competition requirements. Being hydrated and fuelled with enough carbohydrates is crucial for achieving peak performance and is just as relevant in a regular training schedule. The difference between high and low GI was something the group took on board and will look to use in the future.
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