The aim of Performance Psychology is predominantly to help athletes prepare psychologically for the demands of competition and training.
A positive mindset during training allows elite athletes to focus on making the small improvements that will give them a higher probability of winning when it comes to competition. A positive mindset during competition can often make that vital 1% difference between claiming a gold medal and missing out on the podium entirely. Performance Psychology helps individuals and teams identify a winning mindset to develop, enhance and maintain optimal performance.
The psychology team work as a collective group of experts providing proactive psychological support accross all levels of the high peformance system. The values that underpin the English Institute of Sport (EIS) Performance Psychology team are:
- Rather than waiting for problems to occur, performance psychology is about developing a system that ensures that athletes develop mental toughness.
- Coach Driven
- Close working relationships with the coach are critical for performance psychology to be effective
- The more immersed the psychologist becomes within the programme, the more effective they can be at enhancing performance. This allows the psychologist to work at many levels proactively (athlete, coach, team, cultural, organisational).
- Performance Focused
- The psychological ‘wellness’ of the athletes and coaches is of paramount importance, with the overarching goal being to improve results through proactive performance enhancing psychology
Why is there a Performance Psychology team at the EIS?
EIS Performance Psychology is at the forefront of psychological support in sport, driving cutting edge research and collaborations with a range of institutions and expertise, and utilising leading technology and innovative techniques to offer sports the best strategies and approaches to enhance performance.
With around 20 expert performance psychologists, the EIS has one of the world’s leading psychological support systems for high performing athletes. Our practitioners work closely with athletes, coaches and teams across a numerous sports to help them build mental toughness and persevere it during a high-stakes situation, when their livelihoods depend on it. The aims of the EIS performance Psychology service are to ensure that:
- Athletes receive proactive mental toughness development plans
- The training environment is conducive to preparing athletes for performance through the implementation of pressure training, conditioning and reality testing
- Agreed processs are adhered to at competition
- Coaches have a full understanding of the athletes they are working with
- Team dynamics are effective and the principles of high perfoming teams are in place
- Psychological wellness of all staff is supported
- Bespoke solutions are provided to ongoing performance problems
- The learning cycle is taking place at all levels of the organisation
Whilst the performance psychology team works proactively with both athletes and coaches, this is underpinned by a reactive psychological framework. Some athletes might need strategies to help them overcome anxiety or traumatic experiences that affect their confidence. Other athletes might need help communicating with teammates or accepting a coach’s critiques. The EIS Performance Psychology Team provides them with the appropriate tools to help them overcome these issues. Where issues of personal well being become evident, the EIS have a referal network in place to ensure that clinical issues can be addressed by an expert in the field.
How does Performance Psychology have a performance impact?
Athletes themselves have fully endorsed the support provided to them by the EIS performance psychology team:
- World Diving Champion Tom Daley said:
“Being an athlete isn’t just about being strong, powerful and precise. Most competitions are won by the person who can keep their thoughts and mind under control. Sports psychology for me is one of the most important parts of my training. It’s what can take you from being good to being excellent. It can give you the edge over your competitors. If you can handle the pressure cooker environment of an Olympic final psychologically, you have the power to go all the way and win! The support I’ve received from the EIS in sports psychology has made me into the diver I am today”.
- Olympic Sailing Medallist Bryony Shaw said:
“As a windsurfer my priorities in preparing for Rio are so varied and wide ranging that performance psychology helps me see the bigger picture and maintain confidence that I am on track. In order to keep a calm consistency, my performance psychologist and I have worked on developing a high level of adaptability and acceptance while encouraging a clarity in my decision making around the racetrack. She helps me to best utilise the support within the British Sailing Team so I can feel empowered towards my goal of being a ‘mature champion’ in Rio.”
- World Powerlifting Champion Ali Jawad said:
“Having psychology embedded through the EIS has definitely added to my psych strategies. It’s much better to have a psych who works as part of an interdisciplinary team versus isolated drop ins/ silo working. This allows them to help me achieve goals in all areas.”
- Commonwealth Diving Champion Chris Mears said:
“The EIS psychology team has helped me develop a routine that allows me to feel more confident and perform more consistently in competitions. I started working on cue words for each of my dives back in 2011, and it is just one example of how psychology has drastically helped me improve my performances.”
- World Diving Series Champion Jack Laugher said:
“Psychology has enabled me to fully process both good and bad experiences to help me learn key lessons from performances. I use these experiences through my work with the EIS psychology team to minimise mistakes and help better prepare for upcoming competitions.”