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Mentoring and Mindfulness
19 May 2017

Stage 3 Intensive Servicing: Mentoring Workshop

19 May 2017, WAIS
Story by Maia Simmonds, World Championship and World Cup Australian Rowing Team representative

On Friday evening the WAIS High Performance Centre’s Training Room played host for the coming together of a group of people about to embark on an important relationship. The mentoring relationship is special one, it is about two people sharing knowledge, often one with more experience in a given area, but both taking away learning and positive support. As athletes there is so much to learn, so many facets of performance, nutrition, physical and mental capacity, strategy and this is compounded by education, work and relationships with family and friends. There is no classroom for this but there is an amazing community of individuals who have trod the road, track, field before you.


The Individual Mentoring stage of the program is an absolute joy to be a part of, in this program young, talented athletes from a few sports who have completed the four modules of the Developing Champions program are paired up with an experienced athlete from another sport. The mentees are chosen for their commitment, application and talent and the mentors are chosen because they have excelled in their capacity to deal with the challenges of elite sport and balanced successful lives alongside their sporting triumphs.

This year we have 11 athletes from Rugby, Trampoline, Gymnastics and Surfing who are being paired up with a Mentor who is a current or past WAIS athlete. None of the sports are the same, we have triathletes, swimmers, hockey players, kayakers, rowers, javelin throwers and cyclists all excited to help in the path of a younger athletes chasing their sporting dream.

Many of these athletes and mentors met on Friday night to begin their journey. Along with the meeting and an amazing spread of food (fueling is a vital element for success!) we were lucky enough to have Adrian Schonfeld, a WAIS sports psychologist, present to run a workshop to help the athlete’s take mental control over their competition performance. A challenge for almost every athlete is how to perform in high stress moments in the face of the flood of thoughts and emotions that go hand in hand with pushing your body to capacity in competition with the other incredible athletes.

Firstly Adrian taught the athletes about ‘noticing their state,’ once you are aware of your feelings and thoughts you are able to choose how you want to react to them, rather than being controlled by them. Adrian put the athletes in uncomfortable positions, getting them to stare deeply and fixedly into one another’s eyes and getting them to notice how the exercise made them feel.


After this the athletes were challenged to hold their breath for as long as they could (see picture below for the focused faces!). Many did not last long, although our surfers certainly had the upper hand on control! After discussing the thoughts and physical reactions that lead them to take the first breath the athletes had a second go. Everyone lasted considerably longer, in fact I thought one of our surfers, Jed, would keep going all night. This goes to show how much our mental approach affects what we are capable of doing.


When Adrian challenged the athletes to come up in front of the group, one at a time, to sing a song it was fantastic to watch everybody squirm. Adrian posed the question, ‘what is your body’s reaction?’ There is no physical reason that would prevent someone from getting up, taking the steps to take them to the front and open their mouth, yet our emotions and feelings are incredibly powerful persuaders.

Within sport it is an incredible tool to be able to step back and look curiously at your feelings and thoughts, notice them, acknowledge them, but instead of saying ‘I can’t do that’ to change the sentence to ‘I notice that I am having the thought that I can’t do that.’ There will always be doubts, fears and questions in elite competition, but instead of seeking the impossible, to eliminate them, the best athletes take stock of these thoughts and go ahead anyway.

Friday evening was an exciting opportunity to meet a group of incredible young passionate people come together and it will be amazing to see the new experiences and understandings that come out of these mentoring relationships.

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